It’s quite cold here at the moment. I know, it’s England in the winter time, the cold is expected, and while there are colder places in the UK (we’ve only seen snow come as slush) it’s still cold for an Aussie. To keep warm I’ve been doing two things, sitting in front of a fire as much as possible and drinking whisky.
It’s something I never got to do in Australia (the sitting in front of a fire part, I drank plenty of whisky) and something I quite enjoy, and sitting there with the smell of smoke rising through the house I managed to dig into my supplies and find a small sample of something that brought together whisky, smoke, and a touch of home. This World Whisky Wednesday is the Bakery Hill Peated Malt.
Everyone knows (or should know) that good whisky can be made outside of Scotland. Ireland, Japan, England, America, Canada and further abroad make brilliant whisky that somehow can’t find a place in peoples minds. It’s why I started the blog, to let people know about these amazing whiskies.
Australia is one of those countries that struggles to find a foothold against the more established countries, whether it’s down to the cost, the odd sizing of some bottles or the fact that Australia doesn’t scream ‘whisky producing country’ to folk, but with Bakery Hill starting in 1999 they wanted to prove that point, you don’t have to go to Scotland for good quality whisky, and you can find it in your own backyard.
And they’ve done just that, in the past 20 years they’ve solidified their place as a respected producer, but they’ve fallen prey to their own success in a way. Due to the demand for their whisky in Australia over the years the rest of the world has seen less and less Bakery Hill whisky. In fact, the world has seen less and less Australian whisky as the local market takes first place, with most bottles that go overseas unfortunately being picked up collectors and gathering dust on a shelf.
It’s a weird scenario really, you start a distillery to prove to the world that you make good whisky and the world has to be disappointed to discover that they can’t discover your whisky short of flying down under, something that is nigh on impossible in these current times, even for Australians.
But here I go again loosing track of the point. Let’s talk Bakery Hill.
So established in 1999 by David Baker, the distillery is the oldest on the Australian mainland. Curiously at this time most folk would only believe in Scotch whisky, but let’s not get back to ranting. Bakery Hill first started its distillation in 2000, launching in autumn 2003 at the Australian Malt Whisky Convention to the happy surprise of many there. Not only did Tassie have whisky, but now the mainland did too.
The range expanded into the Classic, Double wood (ex-bourbon and French oak) and the Peated, with cask strength variants as well as many limited expressions, though what’s interesting is their heavy use of ex-bourbon barrels. While this is the norm most of the world over, Australian distilleries have heavily used barrels from the existing Australian wine market. It makes sense, use what you can, though Bakery Hill aren’t too keen on doing so, perhaps to showcase their spirit in better clarity against Scotch or perhaps making a statement against the other Australian distilleries who would rely on the wine casks. To each their own, variety makes it all interesting.
So what’s our drop today? Well the Peated Single Malt takes a very long stride in its production, the malt being peated in Scotland. That’s a far cry to go for some smoke, but it does help to showcase the difference in production techniques. Everything else is done in house, since 2008 Bakery Hill have had their own milling and brewing equipment and have been keen to use it, and then finally the spirit is matured in ex-Jack Daniels barrels for eight years, bottled up and shipped out. So what do we think of the whisky?
The nose is a smoky wood forest, the beginnings of a fire blowing in from the east. Somewhat wet charcoal in there however, the whisky is thick with the moisture of the forest floor. It’s a quiet peat, it has a thickness to it that always seems to be on the outset but never really arrives. Shortly after we stumble onto where that smoke is coming from, an old mine shaft thick with coal dust and minerals. It gets oaky as the heavy beams press around us, before we find the remains of someone’s lunch, mince pie, apple, banana, pineapple, and orange rind coupled with just enough vanilla.
Here we go, it starts to get real on the palate. It’s oily and peated, fatty nduja smoked over peat next to the seaside and then flash fried on an open flame grill. It’s picked up some of the iron flakes, tangy and holding more than a bit of bite. It starts to get earthy, the minerals build once again and for a second you might be sipping on some rich soil. It gives way to caramel, vanilla, burnt toast with a bit of honey and lemon. The spice is muted by the seaside appeal but comes through with just a touch of cinnamon.
Our finish is oily and brings in the fruits, pleasantly prickling towards the end with the citrus returning. It’s nice and long too, that coal and mineral hint coming back with pears and a hint of grapes in there too, easy and refreshing.
A good whisky is a good whisky no matter where it comes from, and Bakery Hill seem to have succeed in their mission of establishing that. I’m not a fan of the price, who would be, but picking up a bottle of this is a good way to go to get an understanding of what the wide world of whisky could offer. Let’s talk about that for a second.
Would I buy this again? If I were in Australia, yes. A bottle there sets you back 165 AUD, roughly £90 at the time of writing, but picking up a bottle in the UK will be at least £110 provided you can find one. That is unfortunately too much money for Somewhiskybloke who hasn’t worked in months, but were I back in Aus and working I’d make sure to grab one.
And that’s the main thing that seems to be holding Australian whisky back at the moment. Yes, the bottle sizes aren’t always what you want, this comes in a 500ml bottle, yes the allocations are small but you expect that from small distilleries, but asking someone to pay what is often around or more than £100 for a bottle of something different is quite difficult. If we could get rid of these additional costs, you might see Australian whisky cropping up more around the UK, and that’s the future I want to see.
All that said, you should grab this whisky. It really is something special.
If you would like to learn more about Bakery Hill, click here to discover their story and see their products.
This review is not sponsored or endorsed by any distillery or whisky, Bakery Hill or otherwise, and is entirely the words of the author Somewhiskybloke.
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