As a family owned and operated small batch distillery, we hand make single malt whisky by utilising the very best of artisan ingredients, small batch processes, hand selected barrels and a totally manual system.
Malt is where the magic begins
The maltster’s job is to source the finest Australian whole grain barley and then set about converting the available starches into malt enzymes, which in turn changes the cellular structure and breaks down the proteins ready for brewing.
The ancient process of malting, involves steeping (or soaking) the barley, setting it out to germinate and then kiln drying ready for brewing.
From the very beginning, we recognised that starting with the perfect malt is the only way to make the perfect whisky. Fortunately our research and then trials led us to the Powell family, a father and son team who are as focused on the details as we are. Their approach to grain selection, barley variety, steeping lengths, germination levels, kilning temperatures, etc., creates the perfect malt for our whiskies.
Consistency, consistency, consistency.
The brewer’s function is to convert malt starches into fermentable sugars and then ferment those sugars into alcoholic whisky wash. With the appropriate malt bill, the malt is milled or crushed into grist.
The grist is transferred to the mash tun and mixed with hot water, where the natural enzymes convert the starches into sugars. The mash liquid is then separated from the malt husks, a process called lautering and this sweet liquid or wort is cooled on its way to the fermenters.
In a controlled environment, yeast is pitched directly into the sugary wort and actively sets about converting the sugars into alcohol. After five days, the brewer has a rich, biscuity, malty whisky wash at around 7.5% abv.
Attention to detail.
The distiller’s job is to make the whisky.
Stripping Run. On the first or stripping run, the distiller charges in the still with fresh whisky wash and runs the still to strip the majority of the alcohol and a large portion of the aromas, flavours, oils and congeners from the whisky wash. The end product is now called low wine at around 30% abv.
Spirit Run. Once the batch is stripped, the distiller prepares for the spirit run, where the batch low wines and generally the fores-and-feints of the previous run are charged into the still. Once heated and the spirit starts running, the fores or heads are extracted (methanol), the hearts are collected in the spirit tank (good whisky) and the feints or tails are extracted.
The resultant heart of the spirit, or new make whisky, is a clear spirit at ~73% alcohol and contains a massive infusion of concentrated yeast esters and malt flavours and oils. The cuts of the whisky are one of the distiller’s closely held secrets.
Barrelling. The distiller then dilutes the new make whisky and transfers it into an oak barrel to mature into single malt whisky.
Ancient oak and barrels.
The cooper’s job is to make the many oak barrels used in the distillery. Whether it’s French oak (ex-fortified wine barrels) or American oak (ex-spirit or wine barrels), the cooper plays a critical role in the creation of the barrels for the maturation of the new make whisky.
Our barrels must have had a previous use by either a wine or a spirit, ensuring that the early volatile oak compounds have been diluted, prior to filling with the high strength new make.
The sourcing, quality and consistency of the barrels is incredibly important and hence we have been working with the same cooper, Andrew Young, since the very beginning. Once Andrew has sourced a barrel, the barrel is stripped and normally cut down to size. The inside of the partially re-assembled barrel is then toasted to caramelise the residual ‘initial seasoning’ and then heavily charred to create a heavy carbon filter and to open the cellular structure of the oak. Finally the barrel is re-assembled and is ready for filling.
Design and build.
Much is discussed around the malt whisky industry regarding the barley and malt, yeast, barrels, maturation and processing, but not a lot is said about the workhorses that are the stills and systems. In our case, an immense amount of research and design went into the development of the still and the full distilling system. Some of the very individual elements are as follows:
The still. Our still is a 4,000L electrically fired pot still, with a 4.7m rise and a very open neck. Together with the downward facing lyne arm, this creates less reflux (refinement) of the spirit, thus allowing a larger proportion of the oils, flavours and aromas to make it into the final spirit.
The system. As a batch process, the production of single malt whisky has predictable inputs verse outputs. As such we planned to optimise efficiency within each batch. This means that the still capacity is perfectly matched to the condenser, to the power supply and to the receiving tanks, thus ensuring that each batch optimises size, energy and water. With four receiving vessels, the tank configuration also allows us to separate components and thus change the recipe between batches.
The copper and stainless. With so many design and build requirements, we engaged Burns Fabrication of Griffith, NSW to build the system to our exact specifications. The true craftsmanship of the copper and stainless is now on display for many generations to come.
THE ART OF SCIENCE
Single malt whisky is forged somewhere in the juncture between science and art.
Getting the whisky into the barrels is a very specific science, but a science without constants. The whisky coming out of the barrels on the other hand, emerges with its own personality and character, forged and influenced by nature and art.
With so many artisan inputs into the process, incredible variance is present in the matured whisky. These seasonal and handmade variations alter each process, batch and barrel. By embracing the art-of-science, the production team nurture each of the variations and distinctions to bring the whole puzzle together.
Coupled with ongoing product development, we are constantly testing, profiling and producing whiskies of the absolute highest quality.