“The Australian whisky industry is going through a complete rebirth,” says Graham Essex, bartender at Gaijin restaurant in Chicago. It’s a regeneration that’s been unfolding for the better part of two decades.
Starting in the early 2000s, the country’s producers have increasingly taken advantage of local malts, peat bogs and the continent’s varied climates to raise quality and create a distinct Aussie style. Though consumed primarily within Australia, global popularity ramped up in 2014 when Tasmanian whisky Sullivans Cove French Oak was named World’s Best Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards.
Today, recognition continues to rise. “From Archie Rose Distillery winning World’s Best Rye 2020 to Starward Distillery producing consistently high-quality whisky… Australian whisky is going to become much more well known for quality in the coming years,” says Essex.
Here are four standouts to look for. Though not always easy to find, they offer tremendous rewards.
Limeburners Sherry Cask Australian Single Malt
This is made in one of the most geographically isolated regions of the world, Albany, Western Australia, more than 250 miles southeast of Perth. Primarily matured in used Bourbon barrels, it’s finished in Australian Sherry-style wine casks. The combination creates a spirit that drips with dried fruit, dulce de leche and sweet spice.
Overeem Cask Strength Port Cask Matured Single Malt Whisky
Bottled at 120 proof, everything about this whisky is the result of obsessive attention to detail. Even the Port barrels are customized, reworked into quarter casks to increase contact between spirit and wood. The finished product speaks volumes of dates, stone fruit, chocolate and cookie dough.
Starward Nova Single Malt Australian Whisky
Crafted from ingredients grown within a day’s drive from Melbourne and aged in red wine barrels from the Barossa and Yarra valleys, this vanilla-kissed whisky is driven by cherry and red berry flavors.
Sullivans Cove Double Cask Tasmanian Single Malt Whisky
This is produced from malted Tasmanian barley that’s been distilled twice in “Myrtle,” the pot still used for all Sullivans Cove spirits. It’s then aged in American and French oak casks, which results in a honeyed dram with apples, pears and subtle spiciness.