It’s that exciting time of the year when we can now count the sleeps until Sydney Whisky Fair begins on one hand.
Whiskies have started to arrive, distillers are boarding planes, soon Sydney will be crawling with whisky lovers from all around the country for our favourite whisky festival of the year. In 2019, the Fair’s 10th Anniversary, we’ve our biggest and most diverse selection of whiskies yet. With new releases from Scotland and other parts of the world, we’ve also got our biggest ever collection of home-grown whiskies.
Across 39 tables at Australia Hall, right above The Oak Barrel, we trust you’ll discover something new, taste something amazing and make new friends throughout.
One reality of having such a diverse array of whisky is that, you will not be able to try everything. It’s basically impossible and we certainly don’t suggest you attempt it. In fact, we strongly suggest you take five or ten minutes to flick through the program (a digital version is below this article) and plan your session. Look for the new, look for things you haven’t heard of before.
In order to help with this task, Event Manager Scott Fitzsimons has gone through each of the presenters and highlighted a dram from each that we’re excited about – and think you should be to.
Thanks again for supporting the Sydney Whisky Fair, which is well and truly sold out again this year. A reminder that even though we’re at Australia Hall this year, entry will be through The Oak Barrel as usual.
In alphabetical order, here’s a selection of drams that should be on your hit-list.
We can almost call them veterans now and India’s Amrut always have something new on their table. Lots of big flavours here, but none bigger than the 60% Amrut Ex-Rye Single Cask, an Australian bottling. Just 120 bottles kicking around, so tastes of this will be rare.
There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said about Archie Rose’s first whisky release. Batch 2 of the Archie Rose Rye Malt is going to be express driven to The Oak Barrel to ensure it makes Session 1 in time, lucky they’re only just down the road.
One of our favourite ‘world whisky’ distilleries, but also one that flies under the radar. The line-up of drams from Warengheim’s Armorik get stronger each year and in 2019 they arrive with something they’ve been working on for a long time – Armorik 10 Ans. A decade in the barrel, get to this one early in the session.
We celebrate the contributions of this Victorian distillery in 2019 as they gear up to celebrate their 20th anniversary. One of the first supporters of Whisky Fair, David and Andrew Baker may be quiet achievers, but those achievements are glorious. A rare Sydney visit, taste why their single cask Bakery Hill Sovereign Smoke has been turning so many heads.
Peter Bignell: one of Australian whisky’s true characters and greatest ambassadors. Yes, there’s going to be lots of excellent aged whisky on this table but when there’s a special bottling of a 60% unaged, peated spirit called Belgrove Bogan Burn-Out we know where we’ll be starting. This is peak Bignell.
BERRY BROS & RUDD
Last year it was hard to choose between the excellent value regional-inspired Scotch whiskies from BBR, but if reputation is to go by make sure you dig into the Berry Bros & Rudd Classic Speyside. Another one to do early in the session so the nuance and softness isn’t clouded by palate fatigue.
It’s hard to go past the excellent and newly-landed 21-year-old and the palate-grabbing peated cask strength, but the BenRiach 2005 Single Cask Peated Port might just be loud enough to yell over the top of everything else. Excellent value too.
While obvious bias has us leaning towards the Whisky Fair OAKBARRELBLACKGATE2019 release as a must-try at Black Gate’s table, make sure you try Black Gate BG067. These heavily peated single malts from New South Wales’ Central West have our eyes wide with optimism for the future.
One of whisky’s most diverse bottlers, we’re excited to have Boutique-y at Whisky Fair properly for the first time. Anything with the name ‘Inchgower’ written on it always has our interest, so we’ll be gravitating towards a very well-priced Boutique-y Whisky Co Inchgower 17-Year-Old.
It’s a consistent line-up from Corowa, as we’ve come to expect, so start at the start and let them take you through. Make note of the Corowa Mad Dog, matured in ex-muscat casks, it’s quintessentially them.
One of Australia’s best-loved new distillers, Crafty’s making the journey over the mountains from Capertee. A lot of the focus will be on the just-launched Laga Cat, but make sure you try Craft Works The Capertee – usually only available through the distillery door when its open… or the pub.
We’ve held back some of the very last stocks of the Fleurieu Fountain Of Youth, a cask strength, sherry cask which has won pretty much every award it’s been entered into this year. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
New Irish whiskey into Australia is always a good idea and the Dublin Liberties new arrivals are excellent fun. Make sure you dip into the Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey, a collaboration with one of the world’s best bars that’s as enjoyable and approachable as we could’ve hoped for.
An excellently versatile spirit, you can get a lot of different things out of a Glenglassaugh dram. If you’re not familiar with the DNA, or if its been a while, take the time to sit with the Glenglassaugh Revival. It flies under-the-radar too often.
They debuted last year thanks to some express-air-mailed bottles and now we’ve actually got some proper quantities of GlenAllachie! The latest batch of the GlenAllachie 10-Year-Old Cask Strength is a corker.
It wouldn’t feel like Whisky Fair without ‘farclas and it’s hard to step by their veritable Glenfarclas 21-Year-Old. Elegance in a glass.
The Campbeltown distillery that’s oft-overlooked but enjoying a growing renaissance at the moment, their cask strength Glen Scotia Victoriana expression sums up everything we’re loving about the distillery’s latest phase.
A fresh name for Whisky Fair this year, a lot of these expressions will be new to Sydney-based whisky lovers. If there’s something you can’t miss, it’s the Hobart Sauvignon Blanc Botrytis Finish which is being released for the Fair. Just 91 bottles in the very limited release, it’s suitably new world and an excellent example of the experimentation the Australian climate grants us.
INDIE WHISKY CO
As probably Australia’s best whisky bar you can be sure that anything the team behind Melbourne’s Whisky & Alement import themselves is going to be of a very high quality. Such as a single cask Hidden Spirits Mortlach 17-Year-Old. The name alone should get you excited enough.
Returning with their latest expressions, one of which is a little bit different. Iniquity Batch 17 was created by fans during a blending night in Adelaide earlier this year. Just released, taste a truly democratic dram.
There’ll be whiskies from both their Old Pulteney and Knockdhu (AnCnoc) distilleries and we’re quite excited about welcoming the new-look former into Fair. The Old Pulteney Huddart has been matured in ex-peated whisky casks, which has yielded excellent results for them in the past.
If you love sherry casks the Joadja stand is a must-visit. This young New South Wales distillery make their first proper Fair visit with sherry cask bombs. For something great straight out of the bottle, sample Joadja Batch 7 Pedro Ximenez Cask at 48%.
A cult-loved distillery whose fans are as dedicated as they come, we pushed to make sure the new-look line-up from Jura was here in 2019. Some interesting wood treatments, we reckon the Jura 12-Year-Old might be a bit of a crowd favourite.
Drink Laphroaig Lore and be happy, it’s not rocket science. When you get around to dipping into the peated stuff have one or two of the other expressions before Lore, it’ll tone down the intensity and highlight the complexity.
One of the most consistent Tassie distilleries and now they even have regular bottles to supply us! For something a little bit special, we’ve got a very small amount of the Lark Wolf Of The Willows 2019 beer barrel aged expression to throw around…
One of the toughest tables to pick if you only had time for one, their apera, tawny and bourbon casks all showcase very different elements of this Tassie spirit. If you pushed us, the Launceston Bourbon 46% is excellent and we certainly wouldn’t say no to another dram of that.
A selection of excellent independent bottlings from distilleries all over Scotland, but there’s something here we don’t see very often: Wardhead 1997 21-Year-Old bottled by Liquor Library, Whisnick and Hevetica Bar. Don’t leave Fair without trying this.
Scottish spirit uniquely matured in Burgundy caves, there’s nothing quote like these whiskies and the Michel Couvreur Overaged is an excellent example of the style. Speaking of age, this table might slip some old Armagnac into the event. If you like old spirit, this is where you need to visit.
If you haven’t tried the Redbreast Lustau sherry cask finish that you definitely need to do that, but we’re loving the innovation in the Irish industry and so the Method & Madness Pot Still (finished in chestnut barrels) wins our must-try tip here.
A new era for the Tassie highland distillery, but the DNA of their spirit is consistent. We’ve always felt that Nant works excellently in ex-bourbon casks and that’s’ no different here, reintroduce yourself with the Nant Bourbon 43% expression.
It’s big, it’s rich, it’s juicy – Overeem Port Cask Cask Strength at 60% is always hard to go past. Be wary though, trying this sets a very high bar for everything else you’ll experience after.
The very first release of the Riverbourne Enigma is breaking cover at Fair this year, a fire-breathing peated port expression that takes no prisoners. Almost certain to sell out, we’re not sure when you’ll be able to try batch one again if you don’t get to it here.
SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY
Our pick for the Society stage is the experience, step out of the Fair for a few minutes and let them guide you through a mini-masterclass of Society drams. If we have to pick… SMWS 76.144 ‘I Caught The Darkness’.
A couple of Australian exclusive casks at this table, plus the appearance of the independent bottler’s own distillery. If you like your whiskies big and don’t mind a bit of sweetness, Edradour SFTC Sauternes Cask at a very nice 61.1%.
This is another new Tasmanian distillery and another distillery from that state whose spirit works very, very well with ex-bourbon casks. However, we’re going to lean towards Spring Bay Rheban Port Cask at 58% – a powerful, but gentle, expression.
Starward is about as much fun you can have with whisky. We’re going to start our Fair with Starward Two -Fold and we’re going to end our Fair with Starward Two-Fold.
TASMANIAN INDEPENDENT BOTTLERS
There’s more TIB bottlings from the mainland than from Tasmania this year (controversial!) and these Fleurieu casks are absolutely humming. For something a bit different though, and something we think we should be looking at more often, try Tasmanian Independent Bottlers The Craft 1 – a blend of mainland distilleries. We love the idea of exploring what flavours we can create in Australian whisky outside of boundaries like ‘single malt’.
Timboon Shagger’s Reserve Mk II. A hit from last year that sold out at the Fair, Shagger returns from this Victoria distillery. A rough-and-tumble, roll around in the hay dram, it’s at odds with Timboon’s usual soft, stately style.
An American single malt that is born from the craft brewing scene, our burgeoning whisky scene carries a lot of similarities to theirs. Try Westward Single Malt and ask questions about yeast.
A diverse selection makes it hard to pick just one here and we’re very sorry to our guilty love Fettercairn, but the Canadian Shelter Point Cask Strength at 58.7% has come into the country in such limited quantities that you’d be mad not to try it here.
See the full program for the 2019 Sydney Whisky Fair below (subject to changes).