On a leafy estate in the middle of the Derwent Valley, a passionate alchemist quietly transforms Tasmanian barley into smooth, liquid gold. Scotland, let it be known: Tasmania has another whisky heavyweight on the up and up. Charge your glass… it’s time to toast to the future of Tasmanian whisky.
The Tasmanian whisky industry is igniting. Tasmanian distilleries are drinking in the awards, and whisky drinkers, collectors and producers across the world are taking notice. In 2014, Tasmania’s Sullivans Cove’s French Oak Cask single malt took away the trophy for ‘best single malt’ at the World Whiskies Awards.
The extent of this award means much more than a boozy awards night and a handful of hungover whisky master-craftsmen. A significant global shift is occurring, and Tasmania, once really only known for apples and wine, is making amber waves on the global whisky stage. At time of writing, there are nine whisky distilleries on the island… and the producer at the top of the watch list is Redlands Estate.
On the up and up: Tasmania’s ‘must watch’ whisky producer
Redlands Estate Distillery is the southern hemisphere’s only paddock-to-bottle whisky distillery, meaning the barley and water required to produce whisky are on the same premises as the distillery and cellar. Located in the grassy Derwent Valley, the history of Redlands Estate dates back to 1819, when this piece of land on the banks of the Plenty River was transformed into a hub of agricultural activity.Redlands Estate became the first truly irrigated farm in the country and produced crops such as hops, hemp and nicotiana.
In 2008, Tasmanian entrepreneurs Peter and Elizabeth Hope bought the run down estate. They passionately restored the buildings and the vast English pleasure gardens, turning the estate into one of the many gems in the surrounding Derwent Valley.
Whisky production aside, Redlands is a dream come true for colonial history lovers. Take a garden tour, enjoy bread fresh from one of the oldest continually working bread ovens in the country or stay a night in a historic period cottage.
A Day In The Life Of Redland’s Head Distiller
The man responsible for turning locally grown barley into liquid gold is master distiller Dean Jackson. A former cabinet maker, this quiet Australian developed his passion for whiskey in Scotland. Although his tenure at Redlands Estate began as a cellar door assistant and tour guide, Jackson’s passion and skill for producing whisky and spirits was quickly noticed by Tasmanian whisky’s top brass.
Learning from Tasmanian whisky visionary and skilled distiller Bill Lark, Jackson now oversees the entire distilling process at Redlands. He’s also in charge of bottling and labelling and helps with cellar door sales and tastings. Moreover, he conducts fun and informative tours of the distillery, where the paddock-to-bottle process is explained in detail.
Jackson speaks with an infectious energy for whisky and is clearly having a love affair with his craft. “With passion you can create a product that is rich not just in aroma and flavour but also in experience.”, says a smiling Jackson.
“This is not just any old whisky. The main ingredients are sourced right here at the estate. The pure, crystal-clear water comes from the mountains via the Plenty River and the canals those convicts built more than a century and a half ago,” he says.
“Unlike most distilleries, who get their barley from elsewhere, our barley is grown on site to produce one of only a tiny handful of paddock-to-bottle whiskies in the world. The strain, Franklin brewers barley, is normally used for brewing but lends whisky a unique flavour”.
Redlands Estate harvested its first barley crop in 2013 only, so whisky enthusiasts and past visitors alike are waiting with bated breath for a taste of the end product. The first Redlands Estate Distillery single malt whisky will be ready for release in July 2015.
Meanwhile, though, you won’t be left with a dry mouth when you visit the estate. The distillery produces a barley schnapps and, this being Tasmania, a schnapps and a liqueur made from apples and a Pinot Noir brandy.
The best way to get to Redlands Estate and its distillery is by car. It’s only about 45 km from Hobart and the scenic drive through the Derwent Valley takes about 35 minutes. From Hobart, take the Brooker Highway to Granton. Then turn west onto the Lyell Highway, Route A10. At New Norfolk, get onto Glenora Road, Route B62. The entrance to Redlands Estate is the next left after the Salmon Ponds.
To learn more about Redlands Estate and the distillery, visit their website at www.redlandsestate.com.au or call (+61) 3 6261 5728. Better yet, visit the estate itself and see first-hand how barley becomes liquid gold.
Facts About Redlands Estate Distillery
- Redlands features in ABC Landline documentary, here.
- The main product made at Redlands Estate Distillery is single malt spirit.
- Redlands use Tasmanian Pinot Noir Casks to age their whisky, for a period of two to six years.
- The cellar door sells Apple Schnapps and Apple Liqueur (made on site from Willie Smiths Organic Apple Cider), as well as a Tasmanian Pinot Noir XO Brandy. The cellar also sells products from local wine producers alongside locally made jams and preserves.
- The products and services used for making their products are either grown and sourced on site, or from local businesses. For example: Willie Smiths for cider, Knapp Lewer for plant/distillery material as well as the use of local transport services.
- Redlands’ cooper is Adam Bone from Tasmanian Cask Co. Bone crafts barrels for all similar industries in Tasmania
- The product made at Redlands Estate Distillery differs from other similar products in that the entire process for its creation is done entirely on site making it one of only two dedicated single malt distilleries in the world that can be classified as paddock to bottle.
- Redlands offers tours of the distillery where visitors can learn about the paddock to bottle process. Tours take about 30min to 45min.
- At time of publication, the distillery had only been operating for 2 years so no Redlands products have been entered for judging.
- Visitors to the estate are provided with a map with references to different parts of the historic grounds and buildings, allowing visitors to take the journey into the past of what was a predominant estate of Tasmania.
- Redlands proudly works with other Tasmanian distillers to better the industry and help educate and share their passion with the many people who visit their doors.
- Redlands also offers visitors the chance to make their own barrel of whiskey. Once completed the barrels are aged in the Redlands bond store and once this is completed, the barrel is theirs.
How is Redlands Estate whisky made?
Once the barley is harvested, it is soaked, then spread out on the malting floor and allowed to germinate. For about a week, Dean has to turn the germinating barley by hand three times a day. When it’s ready, it is kiln-dried to produce malted barley. The malted barley is then ground into a flour called grist and hot water is added to create a porridge-like mash. The mash is now brewed so that a sugary liquid known as wort can be extracted. This is a crucial part of the process, since the temperature of the mash will eventually affect the flavour of the whisky. If Jackson gets it wrong, he will end up with what he calls ‘bad spirits’.
The wort goes into a wash back, which is basically a huge container, and yeast is added. This allows the sugar in the liquid to ferment into alcohol and the resulting liquid is something called wash.
The fermented wash can be turned into beer but to get whisky instead, it needs to be distilled. It is placed into a copper still and goes through two distillations. The so-called distillation heart, which contains 63 to 72% alcohol, then goes into barrels. These barrels are sourced from wineries in Australia and reconditioned by cooper Adam Bone of Tasmanian Cask Company. The whisky has to age in the barrels for at least two years before it can legally be called single malt whisky.