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Water of Life – Launceston Distillery

Our coverage of the Tasmanian whiskey landscape have mainly been focussed on Hobart and its surroundings, which could be perceived as one of the epicentres when it comes to quality drops on terra australis.

However, the island off the South of Australia’s mainland has more to offer than what is being channelled in its most prominent town. Case in point: Launceston Distillery.

Based not far from the vineyards of Tasssie’s North coast known for its world class Pinot Noir, Launcestion Distillery transformed a former airport hangar into a facility that would house their wash and spirit stills, which were refined by Bailly of Knapp Lewer Engineering.

Being all about provenance with the use of oak casks that previously held fortified wine, Launceston’s whisky variants are based on a foundation of Tasmanian malted barley and water sourced from the South Esk river and with the head distiller Chris Condon having honed his craft at both a reputable brewery as well as having been involved in the founding of Nant Distillery, one could not hope for a more competent man to be at the helm of operations.

My first exposure to Launceston Distillery’s emissions was via its Tawny Cask expression and what tickled the nose was a light melange of sugary aromas, rotted in raisiny terrain, which seamlessly transition to the palate, where things got more complex as the flavour range expanded via both sweet cereal as well as spicy nuances with cinnamon, anise and liquorice taking on prominent roles. The finish bookends the journey with a return to raisins set against a backdrop of earthy oak flavours.

The Bourbon Cask expression hits the nose with fruity, vanilla-esque sultana accents. On the top of the mouth, the viscous and oily mouthfeel lends itself well to transport an integration of malty highlights with warming spices and caramel, before the medium length finish leaves one with dried fruits mixing in with cinnamon and the faintest hint of woody smoke.

Given the aforementioned drams, my expectations were set high when I approached Launceston’s peated expression. With peated barley sourced from Scotland and then brewed, fermented and distilled at their hangar, the result was matured in smaller sized American Oak bourbon casks for thirty months, before whisky from a French Oak tawny cask was added.

On the nose, the peated expression materialized via sweet and honeyed fruit aromas, which on the palate is being extended as wonderful peat smoke dances with malty barley, marzipan and spicy highlights.

Sweet honey and vanilla nuances reach into the elongated finish, which is bookended by a peaty earthiness. I would recommend to let the peated expression breathe a bit as it will allow for the peaty mustiness to unfold its magic. An example par excellence for the meticulousness that head distiller Chris Condon channels his alchemy in.

Given the fact that Launceston Distillery is relatively new, I cannot wait to see which direction they will take their future releases.


image from company website

May 3, 2021

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