Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A Treasure Hunt Begins!

Whisky: Glenrothes 1995 Vintage





Glenrothes 1995 Vintage





Young Sauternes



A few weeks ago my wife and I went shopping at the local asian grocer. Well my wife went shopping at the local asian grocer, I hung out with her for about 10 minutes and then decided to go to the bottle shop next door to see what I could see.

I like to go hunting through random bottle shops, trying to find rare or obscure bottles. I've picked up a few hard to find bottles pretty cheap due to the fact that the staff and owners didn't realize what they had.

It's a bit of a treasure hunt for me.

Even more I go through the local bottle shops to see what beers of mine they have and what they're charging for them.

See I'm an importer, which means I bring in specific breweries beers into Australia and then wholesale them to other bottle shops.

I check because I always want to make sure I'm the cheapest guy around due to the fact that since
I'm a wholesaler I'm only allowed to sell my alcohol in bulk, 9 liters at a time.

Due to that fact I want to make sure that my public customers get the cheapest possible rate that I can.

Hence I scan the other bottle shops that buy from me.

So as I'm wondering through this bottle shop all I'm seeing beer wise is Corona, etc.

Nothing highend beerwise which is what I deal in.

Then I scan the whiskies.


Normal range that you can find at any other bottle shop.

Then I see it.

The gift pack.

Of Glenrothes.

For like $60 AUS.

I have the clerk bring the box down to me and open it up.  Inside there's a 1995 Vintage, a 1998
Vintage and a Select Reserve in 100ml bottles on top of 3 glencairn shot glasses.

Not too shabby.

Especially since I've had the Select Reserve from 2006 and have enjoyed it.

I pick up the gift set, join my wife and then we head for home.

Fast forward a month and I've just come home from work and I'm feeling the urge to try a new whisky.

I look at my lovely wife and we decide to crack the 1995 Vintage open to see what we can see.

Now it's in a 100ml sample bottle and it was distilled in 1995 and bottled in 2011, making it 15 to 16 years old.

Call it 15 years to be safe.

The aroma is fruity with lots of citrus, some spices and hints of honey and butterscotch.

But sadly the citrus seems to be dominating the nose and everything else is catch is as catch can.

When my wife and I take a drink we get lots of oak, lots of citrus, and some hints of butterscotch.

It's actually really unpleasant.

Enough so that my wife won't take another drink.

Enough so that I've struggled with this dram, this whisky, both times that I've had it over the last two days.

The finish is quite bitter with the oak shouting all the way down the palate and the butterscotch
just sneaking along behind.

It's rather a pity since that butterscotch aspect is really quite lovely, but is sadly overshadowed by the oak and citrus.

I'm wondering if I just got a bad bottle to be honest since it seems to have scored some fairly
decent reviews from other reviewers, but for my wife and myself this is just not a pleasant whisky.

Even worse is that this isn't a cheap whisky. You will have to look around to find it, but you'll probably spend around $100 to $120 AUS per bottle.

Personally if you can find it find the Select Reserve from 2006 and just spend $75 odd AUS and enjoy that instead. Hopefully the other samples are much better.

Nose:           19/25
Taste:          18/25
Finish:          17/25
Balance:        16/25

Overall          70/100

Sunday, 26 August 2012

An Eagle Rises
















Whisky: Eagle Rare Single Barrel Bourbon



Eagle Rare



Eagle Rare 10 Year old Single Barrel

American Bourbon









I recently decided to pick up a bottle of Buffalo Trace's Eagle Rare 10 Year Old Single Barrel. As many people know I'm a big bourbon man. I've always got at least one bottle, usually two and oftentimes three or four.

I'd been over at my sister store, hanging out, talking beer and whisky, when I noticed that they'd brought in some new whiskies, specifically bourbons from Buffalo Trace.

Pardon me while I drool over a George T. Stagg, Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye and William L. Weller Wheat.

For the record I'm picking up bottles of all of these in the near future.

Even more amusing I wound up having all of those whiskies the same night that I bought this bottle.

Mmmmm Thomas H Handy Sazerac and William L. Weller.....

Sorry about that folks.

Anyway I was very excited especially since my wife had just a few days before killed one of my open bottles of bourbon for a rib marinade.

God that was delicious.

Bourbon ribs....


Bloody hell!

Anyway back the Eagle Rare. So my wife had killed one of my bourbons, which meant that I needed a new bottle.

Having never had the Eagle Rare and always being happy to try a new I decided to pick up the bottle that they had.

It didn't hurt that it had a very pretty glass bottle with an eagle on it.

So hear I now sit with a glencairn full of this lovely, the bottle has been open for about two weeks now, Friends is in the background (yeah I know, not the world's greatest show, but I don't need to pay ANY sort of attention to it and can instead focus on my lovely bourbon)

Some lovely aromas are coming off this glass right now.

Hints of cherries, coconut, spices and cocoa are coming of this glass and making me drool.

Very very enticing!

Finally I take a drink.


Oak, spices, cocoa, and a bit of vanilla hit my palate, spreading throughout my mouth and slowly sliding down my throat.

Bit of a oaky finish with spices and a hint of cocoa at the finale ends the sip.

45% ABV is MUCH better then the majority of 40% I've had lately, but still feels a wee bit weak, not as intense as I'd like.

Not bad, but not as awesome as I was hoping.

That being said it's a much better bourbon then the Four Roses Single Barrel that I recently had, which sadly was sitting at 50% and was $30 AUS+ then the Eagle Rare.

The Eagle Rare Single Barrel can be difficult to find in Australia as I've only seen it in two different bottle shops, one of them online. However as entry level bourbons go, especially at that price which is $10 to $20 cheaper then Knob Creek, is an AWESOME whisky to drink.

It should run you around $75 to $90 AUS and if you can find it, buy it.

That simple.

Nose:           23/25
Taste:         22/25
Finish:         22/25
Balance:      22/25

Overall:      89/100

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The House Is On Fire!




Whisky: Laphroaig 10 year old






Laphroaig 10 Year old








Pale Straw



So the other day my brother and sister in law came over to the house to join us all at dinner. Us all being my wife, my parent in laws, and myself. We each brought out a bottle to share.
My bottle was Shackleton's Replica which everyone enjoyed, my brother in laws was Lagavulin 16 yr old, which was also enjoyed by everyone, and my father in laws bottle.

Laphroaig 10 yr old.

Now this is one I've never tried before, but I'd heard good things about this one and having had Ardbeg and Lagavulin before I was very keen to give it a shot!

So everyone grabs a glass and pours their own dram so I happily help myself to a dram of Laphroaig.

I offer the glass to my wife and she noses it a little bit then recoils immediately.

"I don't like that!! Too smokey!!"

So I take a nose on my glencairn.


The smells of bonfire smoke and peat beat me in the face, with undertones of iodine, burnt bandaids, and seaweed. Very very primal smells for me. It makes me think that this must be what whisky smelled like a thousand or so years ago in Europe.

I offer my wife the glass to take a sip, which she does and then immediately informs me...

"Don't like that, at all. My throat is on fire!"

She then takes a huge glass of water and drinks it.

I then cautiously take a sip.


In my mouth there is pretty much what I was smelling....Lots of peat, lots of smoke, iodine, and seaweed. This whisky definitely sets me back in time that thousand years ago. I see the Crusades, I see villages on the seaside burning as horsemen ride over a grassy hill.

The finish is fairly short with lots of spice, black peppers kicking me in the throat with smoke and peat following it.

This was definitely the least favorite whisky of the night.

Is it a bad whisky? Nope!

I just have to be in a special mood to want to drink any.

Maybe a pillaging mood!

Mmmmm pillaging.

I will have to pick up SOME sort of bottle from Laphroaig eventually, but I'm not sure if this will be the bottle for me.  I'm thinking maybe the Quartercask or the Triple wood as they're both higher ABV's which I tend to enjoy more.

It runs for around $80 AUS at Dan Murphy's. Which isn't half bad, but I think I'd rather grab a bottle of Lagavulin 16 yr old or Ardbeg.

Nose:           21/25
Taste:          21/25
Finish:          18/25
Balance:       20/25

Overall:      80/100

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Birthday Honey!

Glenmorangie The Original Scotch Whisky

Whisky: Glenmorangie 10 year old





Glenmorangie 10 Year old











My brother in law recently celebrated his birthday and when him and my sister in law came to the house they brought with them a bottle of Glenmorangie 10 yr old that HIS brother had bought for him for his birthday.

I also decided to crack open my bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel in honor of this occasion, especially since my brother in law was sharing his bottle of Glenmorangie.

A good time was had by all!

Now I've had quite a few tastes of Glenmorangie this year, but never the 10 yr old.
But having had the Astar, the Nectar D'or, and the Quinta Ruban I figured I'd enjoy myself.

So my brother in law cracks open this bottle which is filled with this sunlight golden liquid.

Looks yummy!
My brother in law pours the whisky into the glencairns and the first thing our noses get is sweetness, specifically sweetness from honey.

It's a lovely non offensive nose of honey, fruits like pears and apples, vanilla, and caramel.

This is definitely a nose that won't scare a newcomer to whisky away, unlike an Ardbeg or Lagavulin :D

We decide to take a drink at about the same time and the first thing we both comment on is the strength.

It feels very thin, almost water downed.

Flavors that come through though are the honey, the fruits again, oak, vanilla and caramel.

Again completely inoffensive.

The finish is fairly short and sweet with the honey and oak singing the leads in the chorus.

This is a very nice entry level single malt, but I have to be honest neither my brother in law or myself felt it was very complex or even brilliant.

This is an easily accessible single malt that I'd be happy to introduce whisky novices to, but I don't think I'd ever keep it in my collection unless I received it as a gift, at which I would be a happy man to have a good whisky in said collection.

Nice thing for whisky novices and people looking to get their start in the world of single malts is that this whisky is fairly easy to find and won't break the bank to buy.  Should only run you somewhere around the lines of $60 AUS.

However I'd personally spend around $20 bucks more and pick up the higher strength Nectar D'or and Astar.

Nose:        21/25
Taste:      21/25
Finish:       21/25
Balance:    21/25

Overall:    84/100

Sunday, 19 August 2012

 My First Rose




Whisky: Four Roses Single Barrel 38.3Q



Four Roses



Four Roses Single Barrel

American Bourbon





Young Sauternes



Several months ago I'd made an epic journey to the International Beer Shop here in Perth to pick up a bottle of Stranahans Colorado Single Malt Whisky.

If you're curious as to why this journey was epic you can look at my previous review and see how that journey played out.

While there I saw that they had quite a few whiskies that I wanted, but one that stood out.
Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon.

This is a whiskey that I've never tried before (Four Roses, not bourbon, I have bourbon lots) and
I'd heard nothing, but good things about it.

I was especially keen seeing as it had just picked up a major award in the 2012 Whisky Bible.

Whisky Bible Awards 2012: No Age Statement Single Barrel Bourbon of the Year award to be exact.

Now the problem with single barrel whiskies is that there is NEVER a guarantee that you'll be getting a bottle from the award winning barrel unless you have all those details and can put your hand on a bottle from that batch.

Now the cool and bad thing about single barrels is you can get some whiskies that are no less then phenomenal.  I have several bottles that are from barrels like that. Bad thing about it is that those barrels tend to produce just a few hundred bottles and that once it's gone, it's gone, never to be repeated.

I had a VERY strong suspicion that this is NOT the bottle that won the award, but I didn't care. I was eager to try this distillery!

Now this bottle is from Warehouse #135, barrel number 38-3Q.

So away to home I went with my new bottles, but I'd already decided before hand that both of these bottles would be off limits or special occasion bottles for at least several months.

About a month ago my brother and sister in law bought my wife and myself a brand new 50 inch plasma screen TV.

I've always wanted a big screen TV, but this was beyond awesome!

That night we cracked the Stranahans.

The following weekend my brother and sister in law came over, bringing with them a bottle of Glenmorangie 10 yr old that he'd gotten for his birthday.

I decided that we should also crack open the Four Roses.

We brought out the glencairns and brought down the bottle of Four Roses and as soon as we cracked the seal we could smell honey.

Pouring a lovely amber color this whiskey honey came off it in waves.

Upon closer nosing we started getting coconut, cherries, spices and oak.

It's quite a sweet nose that makes you start to salivate as soon as you smell it.

However when we decide to take a drink it's quite syrupy.

No bad flavors. Quite yummy, with the coconut and honey coming through strongest and the cherries
and spices following through.  The oak has a definite presence, but it is quite lovely and gives the whisky a nice backbone. At the end of the palate is just a hint of cocoa.

There's a nice long finish with the spices and oak singing out and once more those hints of cocoa make themselves known.

Quite a nice whisky, however it's a little bit too syrupy for my liking.

Running at around $100 to $125 bucks it's not a bad bourbon, especially at the highest ABV, but I'm not quite sure that I'd buy another bottle of it, unless I could guarantee I was getting the award winner.

It's not impossible to find, but I haven't seen it in any bottle shops over here so you will have to look around.

At half the price of a George T Stagg, Thomas H Handy Sazerac or William L. Weller, I do believe I'd rather save my money and buy one of the big boys.

Nose:        22/25
Taste:       20/25
Finish:        21/25
Balance:     20/25

Overall:      83/100

Saturday, 18 August 2012

An Epic Journey For A Taste Of Home!






Whisky: Stranahan's Colorado Single Malt Batch 47



Stranahan's Colorado



Stranahan's Colorado

American Single Malt





Full Gold



A few months ago I started a new job.   I stopped being an animal trainer and behaviorist and started becoming a liquor store manager.

Kind of a radical job change eh?

The biggest reason I changed job titles was due to stress over some recent experiences that I'd encountered in the animal industry since I'd come to Australia and it had got to the point where it felt like I couldn't come home without needing three or four beers or whiskies to just see me through to the next day.

Now that might sound like I'm an alcoholic, or something along those lines.

You'd be wrong.

But it had got to the point where seeing animals that I cared for, stressed over their well being and loved not receiving medical attention for serious injuries, being pushed past any reasonable expectation of what any animal can give.

Of people valuing the money they made off animals more then their responsibilities to care for the animals under their care.

So I needed a job change and badly.

And I'd take just about anything as long as it paid.

Luckily I got a good job.

My brother in law received an email newsletter from the International Beer Shop saying that their sister store needed a new Store Manager.

It'd been over ten years since I'd ran a store, but I figured what the hell? why not?!

I applied.

I felt like I stuffed up both the resume and interview, but I do tend to be quite critical of myself, lying awake at night going over what I should have done, what I should have said.

Thankfully for me the owners believed that was full of garbage and that I was perfect for the job.

I got it!


Put in my notice to the current job, waited out the two weeks, kissed my animal friends good bye and started over.

During the first few days it became obvious that I was a whisky geek to everyone in the business.  It having already been obvious to all the senior staff at the interview that I was a whisky geek.

My new job didn't sell whisky due to the license they operated under, but our sister shop, The International Beer Shop, did.

When they found out, the shop manager over there suggested that I come on over so that we could talk beer and whisky and maybe we could give one another ideas about the other persons ideal drink of choice.

Cruising their website my second week on the job I discovered that they had a whisky that I'd ALWAYS wanted to try.

Stranahans Colorado Single Malt.

Running at a steep $165 AUS.

But I did get a discount...

I contacted the store manager, asking him if he wouldn't mind putting the bottle aside for me.

He said not a problem.

He also informed me that it was the last bottle in Australia and odds were better then great that no more would be coming into the country.

I spent a very restless night, but come morning it was time to catch a bus and train to go meet the guys and get my whisky.

Why was I catching the bus and train you might ask?


My wife had the car for her job that day.

But I wasn't too stressed, my trusty phone has a map that I've used many times in the past to get me where I was going and I'd been to the IBS once before a couple years prior with my brother in law to pick up some beer.  It shouldn't be a problem to get there.

So I catch the bus to the train station, hop the train and get off at my stop.

I pull out my handy dandy phone and pull up the map.

It says I'm just a mile away.

No problem! I walk that far for fun!

Go left.

I go left.

Go right.

I go right.

Go straight.

I go straight.

Recheck map.

I'm two miles away now.

What the bloody hell.

I've followed the directions!?

I recheck the directions.

They've changed.

Ok let's follow these ones.

Go left.

I go left.

Go straight.

Ok straight I go!

Left again.

Here I go.

Now I'm five miles away!?

What the hell!?

Screw hell!


I again and again follow the directions, and each time it changes.

Sometimes I'm closer.

Sometimes I'm further away.

I stop and ask for directions again and again, but no one knows where the shop is.

I finally cross the train tracks again after massive frustration, trying to restart my journey.

This time it tells me to go right instead of left.

But don't worry, I'm only a mile away.


Seriously WTF?!

I follow the directions right, cross several major roads and continue following the directions.

This time it takes me left to go closer, and then tells me I've gone several miles further away.

Then it tells me to go right and now I'm four miles away.

The hell with this!

I pick the main drag as my phone starts to die and start walking straight.

I know the street address, I was there a couple years ago, I have a vague idea of the scenery and hopefully someone will have some directions.

Every time I try to use the phone it takes me further and further away.

Straight O Go!

After I've gone several miles on foot I come upon a post office.  Hopefully they'll know where the street I'm looking for is!

I go in and I must look frazzled as can be.

I ask him if he knows how to get to the main street that the shop is located on.

He says indeed he does and that I'm only a few blocks away. ten to fifteen more minutes walk and I'm there!


So I set out again with a renewed drive to get to the shop and get my whisky.

A little over twelve minutes go by as I walk down the street and I finally see a neighborhood that
looks semi familiar, then I see the shop!

I've made it!

I head into the shop and take a look around.


Lots of beer!!

This is what greets me as I walk in.

I'm not quite sure why I'm so surprised.  They do have the largest selection of beer in Australia,
carrying something over 900 different beers and cider.

And more importantly whisky.

On the wall behind the managers desk sits roughly two dozen bottles of whisky.

I introduce myself to them and we start talking beer and whisky.  Which is better and why.

They're convinced that beer is better.

I inform them sadly that they're wrong, that whisky is better.

After 40 or so minutes of talking shop I grab my whiskies, the Stranahans and Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon, wince at the damage, after my discount just a tad shy of $250 AUS and head home.

I walk back to the train and head for home.

This is the last bottle of Stranahans in Australia.  This is a whisky to be savored and respected.
I set aside both the Four Rose and the Stranahans for a special occasion.

A few weeks ago that occasion occurred. My brother and sister in law bought me and my wife a 50 inch plasma screen HD 3d TV with net capabilities.

A dream come true! Something that I've ALWAYS wanted.

When I come home from work that night to see this MASSIVE TV sitting in my living room and see who's responsible I KNOW that a special bottle needs to be opened this night.

I give my brother in law the option of any of several unopened bottles to choose from and he decides on the Stranahans.

Very cool looking bottle.  Really long neck with a metalish top that covers the neck.

It's batch 47 and on the comments section of the label it states "Listening to Jon Stewart."

I let my brother in law crack the bottle and then pour drams for all of us.

Now in the Whisky Bible 2012 it received a 90.5 and it's described as "a real complex, mildly schizophrenic bottling which just entertains all the way. Superb!"

I do believe that's a really good description of this whisky.

As we nose the glencairns almost in unison my wife and brother in law state "Smells like apple pie"

I get that, but cut grass also.

Vanilla, cinnamon, apples, citrus, bananas, barley, cut grass, caramel and more.

Bloody hell.

We spend about five minutes calling out different items that we're picking up.

We all get vanilla and apple pies, I seem to be the only getting cut grass though.

REALLY cool, intense nose!

When we take a drink there's a slight intensity of vanilla, bananas, some of those apples and vanilla, and weirdly enough a hint of peat?   I didn't think this was a peated whisky, but we're getting just a little touch of peat to the flavor.

Very very yummy!

The finish is LONG with banana, spices, and oak.

Man I've wanted to try this whisky for a LONG time and this is one of those times where the anticipation wound up meeting expectations.


Definitely a special occasion whisky and one that I'd love to drink again and again.

Sadly this is the first and only time I've ever seen this whisky.  Period.

However I will be contacting the distillery and attempting to get some sort of shipments as they release their batches because this is an AWESOME whisky that doesn't taste like it's the two years listed on the label.

If you're lucky enough to see a bottle of this, BUY IT!

If nothing else I'll take it off your hands.

Nose:         23/25
Taste:        23/25
Finish:        22/25
Balance:     22/25

Overall:      90/100

Monday, 13 August 2012


An Interview with the owner and Head Distiller of Limeburners, Cameron Syme

Which aspects of your production methods or other factors would you say has the greatest impact on the end quality of your whisky, i.e. the one or two things that you do that makes Limeburners whisky what it is?

Cameron comments - that's a tough question - we make every batch by hand, and our attention to detail at every stage of the process (from grain selection, yeast selection, mashing, fermentation timing, distillation, and maturation) is what turns out Limeburners and makes it what it is. it's not really possible to just choose two.  Our mission is to make the best whisky in the world (that's the goal - nothing like aiming high) so we have a continuous improvement methodology where we are always looking at the various steps to see where we can improve. I guess perhaps if I had to say the one or two things, then I'd choose 1) the fact that our entire team share the passion and commitment to make premium quality whisky, and 2) we make small volumes by hand according to traditional distillation methods - not one computer is involved in our production process.
What made you decide to distill single malt whisky and what made you choose Albany? 

Cs - I love my single malt, to me it's the pinnacle of all drinks. My family came from Scotland, and they were involved in distilling whisky there.  I thought Australia makes great wine and beer and send that around the world, and compete at the premium level, why don't we make a whisky - we have all of the key ingredients here - great grain, clean water, clean environment...  That was where it all started.   Why Albany - after 18 months of site selection process looking everywhere from Perth south, it was clear that on a number of key criteria, Albany was the best place in WA to make single malt whisky.

Was there anything specific in the region that led you to build your distillery there?  
Cs- yes, plenty of good quality water from limestone aquifers, some of the worlds best barley grown in the region, renewable energy from the Albany wind farm, a cool climate ideal for maturing whisky, and peat bogs.

Limeburners along with many Australian whiskies have no age statements on the bottles.  I believe that you said the average age of most of the whiskies that you produced was between 3 and 5 years old.  I agree with your comment that oftentimes there is too much emphasis given to the number of years old that a whisky is, do you think the lack of an age statement hurts Australian whiskies or hurts them?  

CS- Age statements are an interesting thing. We have proven that whisky does not need to be 'old' to be good. Whisky can improve with age, but every cask will get to a point when it will be too old as well (each cask is different, and old casks need to be monitored to make sure they don't get too woody, otherwise the quality diminishes). I would not release a whisky younger than 3 years, as the youthfulness shows through and the spirit is not as rounded or finessed.  Let's also not forget that Laphroaig quarter cask has no age statement - I haven't heard anyone criticize that. Peated notes in whisky will diminish with age, so that would tend towards younger peated whiskies appealing to peatophiles. Generally people are critical of Australian whiskies as we are not considered a traditional whisky producing nation.  In reality a number of Australian whiskies have won medals on the international stage against much older whiskies.  I think those results speak for themselves.

Age does play a role, but there has been too much of a focus in age (our 3 year old has prevailed in more than one blind tasting over 18 year old whiskies).  I think consumers have been trained to think that a whisky must be 8, or 12, or 18 years old to be good,  that's simply not true for Australian whiskies.  Australian whiskies are great at 3, 5 and 8 years.  Whisky matures faster in Australia and the United States than it does in Scotland.  You can bet that by the time our Australian distilleries' whiskies are 12+ years old we we will be appreciated as the best in the world.  

Are there any barriers in the Australian whisky industry that you think are specifically "Australian" or do you think problems in the industry tend to be fairly common across the different countries?

CS- there are the usual barriers of costs of production.  I Australia we face additional burden as to start with some Australian consumers have been overly critical of Australian whisky.  We have had some people criticize a whisky that won a silver medal best in class in London.  Their comments changed when they knew what it was they were trying.  That said we've also had positive support from many people who love our whisky and people have quickly converted to being strong supporters of Australian distilleries.  

Possibly the biggest impediment is the taxation regime in Australia.  This is at one of the highest rates in the OECD, and means the economics of producing here are much tougher than our international competitors. Wineries and breweries in Australia all get excise (tax) breaks - distilleries get no such break.  This is a major issue.
The price of many Australian whiskies starts at $100 and can easily shoot up to $200+.  I've experienced quite a range in quality in many distilleries (not Limeburners for the record) that go from the whisky being just ok to being brilliant I need to buy this bottle now.  Do you think this lack of consistency and high price point drives many of the Aussie whisky drinkers away from Australian whiskies to bourbons or Scottish Single Malts?

CS - first, thanks for your comments that all Limeburners whiskies have been good.  Our commitment to quality is we will not release a whisky if we are not 100% satisfied with the quality. We have won awards in major international spirit shows for each of the last 5 years, including the prestigious London IWSC, where among other awards we've picked up 2 silver in 2011 (one best in class) and 3 silver in 2012.  We do not pick 'show ponies' and submit them. We take whatever is our current release of whisky and send it in - the fact were winning awards for every whisky we've submitted means that any of our whiskies would be capable of holding it's own on the international stage.

All of the Australian producers I know are committed to producing a quality product.  I would be disappointed if anyone is releasing poor quality whisky as reputation is hard earned and easy lost.  The costs here reflect the small scale of production, the high capital and operating costs and the tax burden (currently at about $75 a liter of alcohol).  I also like to think we need to compare 'apples with apples' and not 'apples with oranges'.  Many of our international colleagues are producing very, very large volumes (Jack Daniels for example produce 2000 barrels a day, Limeburners produce 2 to 3 barrels a week. Scotland produces over 1 billion bottles of whisky a year).  If you purchase a Scottish single distillery, single cask, single malt whisky (which is the equivalent of what most Australian producers are releasing) there is not a great disparity in price.  In economic terms, alcohol is a price elastic good, and people will find cheaper substitutes if they are not motivated by quality. I think that is the main driver towards people consuming cheaper spirits.  At Limeburners, and similarly with Lark, Sullivans Cove and Bakery Hill, we could sell more than we currently have available to sell, as we are all recognized as being committed to producing quality whiskies,

What does the "M" designation refer to in the bottle title?

CS - hmm, there's not rocket science to this one, the M designates M for "malt".  It's so we know what's in each cask in our bond store.  Our brandy barrels all carry the symbol "B" and our sour mash (bourbon) carry the symbol "SM".  

I've tried quite a few of your whiskies, the ones that specifically come to mind are the M31 which was a brandy finished barrel, the M66 which was the Riesling finished barrel and the M80 which was Muscat finished if I recall correctly?  I find the varieties of finishes very cool and am curious if you guys have anything else really cool in the works for Limeburners whisky?  I know we covered a little bit last night, but any chance of going into anymore depth?

CS - Nate you certainly have good taste - M80 was awarded a silver medal at the IWSC in London this week. Barrel selection (referred to as "Wood policy") is very important.  Yes we do have more things in the works, including importing bourbon barrels directly from distilleries in the US.  The whiskies you are seeing from our distillery now are the result of 8 years of research and development of our wood policy.  For the last 3 years we've been working closely with coopers in South Australia and at Seppelsfield, and we have access to some amazing casks with known pedigrees.  M80 for example was finished in cask that was a bourbon barrel in the US in the 1930s, and which was then sent to South Australia to mature fortified for the next 70 odd years - that's amazing provenance.  Yes we do have some other lovely casks in our barrel store which are weaving their magic.  We think we've got the wood policy fairly well sorted - of course we won't rest on our laurels and are continually working with coopers getting them to source the very best barrels they can find

I've read that you use filtered rain water to cut your whisky down to bottling strength, this is quite unusual compared to distilleries in Scotland or even Tasmania where local spring water sources are used - what led to your decision to use rain water and do you think the character of your whisky would have been different had you been able to use "local" fresh water sources instead where the softness or hardness or other qualities of the water may have had an impact?  I believe we covered this in the hard water vs the soft water, but anything else that you could add would be awesome!

CS - we need soft water for product dilution.  Our research with the WA Ag department resulted in us using rain water as this is the purest softest water we can source... And it falls out of the sky into the distillery. One other thing to note is that Despite what marketing departments might have us believe, many Scottish distilleries use tap water. Only a few use 'spring' water.

What would you say to someone who were to question the "Australian-ness" of Limeburners whisky, given the seemingly intentional modelling on Scottish whisky production methods, say down to the stills which were designed to be similar to some great Scotch distillers?

We didn't want to reproduce Scottish whacky here, we wanted to make Australian whisky,  however the flavor profiles produced by the stills is important, that's why we looked to the Scottish single malts we like the most. We make whisky in a traditional manner - there are a number of things that we do that are no longer done by the Scottish industry ( for example our long fermentation periods), and there are some developments we do that are distinctly different - for example a cold peat smoking process.  Most importantly the wine industry use the expression 'terrior' (pronounced ter-wah) which relates to the influence of the place where the grapes are grown and the influence on the wine. Each vineyard is different,  the same can be said of whisky,  there is no doubt to me that we are making uniquely Australian whisky, not a Scottish replica.  
Following on from the previous question, are you able to name the distilleries in Scotland that might've influenced the still design at Limeburners?

cs - Let's talk about that over a whisky some time (you wouldn't ask a woman her age or dress size...) 
Some malt whisky fans in Australia have a difficult time getting a hold of Limeburners whisky given its inherently limited small batch release nature and seemingly limited distribution channels into retail outlets - do you think there is greater demand for your whisky than you can currently accommodate?  Again we covered this in the 30,000 bottles a month for I believe Sweden.

Yes there is great demand.  We've focused on making a quality product first,  now we have that we're looking at distribution,  we now use Liquid Library in WA, and are working in the eastern states.  People can always order from our website and the whisky will be delivered to their door... What's hard about that?  

Following on from the previous question, do you think the price point of your whisky, as with whisky from other Aussie distillers, presents a barrier to some from experiencing your whisky - or do you see a niche for your whisky that isn't about trying to compete with imported and even local malt whisky counter-parts?

Yes I'm sure it may be a barrier to some. We're not trying to compete - we  can now say with some confidence that we are producing one of the world's best whiskies. 
Do you ever see a time when you might produce limited amounts of 3-5cl sample bottles of Limeburners in order for people to experience your whiskies?   

Yes - we're working in this and hope to have a set of 3 x 100ml bottles available within a year.  This way people will be able to Experience 3 different expressions.
We discussed the difficulty of getting Limeburners in the Eastern States.  I recall you saying that whisky drinkers in Queensland would likely be able to get their hands within the next 12 months or so.  Are there any specific outlets where they can go to get Limeburners?  How about folks in Sydney or Melbourne? 

Sydney and Melbourne have a number of places.  They're all listed on our website.  If people want that can order from us and Australia post will deliver it to you door... 

Whew!  CS - phew is right.  Hope my responses are what you're looking for.  Cheers Cameron.

I'd like to thank not just Cameron Syme for allowing me to take up his valuable time in this interview, but also my whisky friend from Queensland, Systemdown, who helped come up with quite a few of the questions.

Thanks you two!

Slainte Mhath!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

State of Origin: The Double Cask!

Sullivan's Cove Double Cask Whisky


Whisky: Sullivan's Cove Double Cask



Sullivan's Cove



Sullivan's Cove Double Cask






Full Gold



This is the last review in the series for the State of Origins Australian whisky tastings that I'll be writing unless I'm able to pick up a bottle of Limeburners M58 which was my favorite whisky in the tasting line up.

My wife, brother and sister in law had tasted quite a few different whiskies at the State of Origin, sadly many of them had left us disappointed.

We'd tried Bakery Hill Classic Malt, Southern Coast Distillers Batch 5, Lark Single Barrel and now Sullivan's Cove Double Cask.

As we sit there nosing the whisky I'm still talking to Cameron, the owner and head distiller at Limeburners.

After this review I'll be posting the interview with him.  I hope to be able to snag the M58 which he brought as a special treat.   We wound up trying two of his whiskies this night. The M80 which was the current release (which I've already reviewed) and then he surprised everyone with the M58 which was his newest peated whisky (which runs $250 or so a bottle)

But back to Sullivan's Cove.

As we nose the Sullivan's Cove everyone around the table glances at the person next to them, then to the person from across of them.


The nose is strictly two aromas which we're informed comes from the American Oak and French Oak.

Vanilla and Cocoa.

That's it.

Vanilla from the American Oak.

Cocoa from the French Oak.

Nothing else.

Hopefully it'll taste better.

So we decide to taste.

Taste follows nose, exactly.

Vanilla and cocoa.

Again that's it.

Smooth, easygoing and boring.

The finish is again the same, vanilla highlights with cocoa at the end.


I'd heard some very good things about Sullivan's Cove.  But everyone at the table was so disappointed and bored with this whisky.

Even worse a bottle of the Double Cask would normally run around $100 AUS.

Too much for a bottle like this.   Maybe if this had been at Cask Strength it'd be much better.  Not sure.

This isn't a bad whisky as in it tastes bad or unpleasant.  It's completely and utterly none offensive.

It'd actually be one of those whiskies I'd introduce someone who was new to straight spirits not taken in shot form to.  It wouldn't scare them.

However while it's busy not scaring the whisky newbies, my family has just fallen asleep.

I'll give Sullivan's Cove another shot, I always love trying new whiskies, but I won't buy a bottle of Sullivan's Cove until I know that the Double Cask was just a random fluke.

Nose:          17/25
Taste:        17/25
Finish:        17/25
Balance:     17/25

Overall:     68/100

P.S I've just talked to a couple of good whisky friends who have informed me that our experience with Sullivan's Cove has got to be either a bad bottle or a badly oxidized bottle as this whisky is SO much more then this.  New mission is to get my hands on a good bottle of Sullivan's Cove for review.  Please do not just take my experience on Sullivan's Cove Double Cask as the normal experience.  I'll keep you all informed once I have my hands on a new bottle!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

State of Origin: Tasmania Represents!


Single Malt Single Cask


Whisky: Lark Single Barrel Port Finish






Lark Single Malt Port Finish








Young Sauternes



My wife and I, along with my brother and sister in law, had gone to a series of Australian whisky tastings at Helvetica.  I was very excited as I'd recently tried quite a few of these whiskies at The Grove when I was down in Margaret River.

Even cooler the head distiller/owner of Limeburners was going to be at this tasting event titled: The State of Origin (It's an Aussie thing.)

Now I'd had Penderyn Aur Cymru, Bakery Hills Classic Malt, and Southern Coast Distillery Batch 5.
The first two whiskies didn't leave me too impressed, while Southern Coast Distillery showed quite a bit of promise.

The whisky that I was going to be tasted next was one that I was really excited because it's a distillery that is always kicking butt and I'd had before and been very impressed with.


Lark is one of the Australian distilleries that's always kicking butt left and right.  I've never had a bad one, they're always yummy, however they can get pricey as they're always single barrel releases.

We chat a little bit more with Cameron as we start to nose this whisky.

The first thing that's evident is the spices. This is a spicey whisky!!
Pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg(?), peat and the slightest hint of the port from it's finishing.

Cool nose!

I expected quite a bit of fruit for some reason or another.  Not much there.

Once we take a sip the flavors follow the nose extremely close, except for no fruit and there is a hint of chocolate at the very end of the palate.

Light peat, those peppery spices with the cinnamon all come through the flavor with as a said a hint of chocolate at the end.

The finish is peaty with chocolate and very yummy!

Not a bad drop and it's the favorite whisky of the night so far.   I'd love to drink Lark more often, but sadly I can't afford it as often as I'd like.

On average I'd expect to pay at least $130 to $250 AUS per bottle, and it can be difficult to find at times as many bottle shops over here don't stock it.  But it's so very yummy that it's worth it.

Nose:        21/25
Taste:       21/25
Finish:       21/25
Balance:     21/25

Overall:     84/100

Monday, 6 August 2012

State of Origin: Southern Australia Shouts Out!

Southern Coast Distillers Whisky

Whisky: Southern Coast Distillery Batch 5



Southern Coast Distillery



Southern Coast Distillery Batch 5






Pale Straw



My wife and I, along with my brother and sister in law, had gone to a series of Australian whisky tastings at Helvetica.  I was very excited as I'd recently tried quite a few of these whiskies at The Grove when I was down in Margaret River.

Even cooler the head distiller/owner of Limeburners was going to be at this tasting event titled: The State of Origin (It's an Aussie thing.)

Now I'd had Penderyn Aur Cymru and Bakery Hills Classic Malt. 

Sadly I wasn't as impressed with them as I'd hoped I would be. 

Next on the list was a whisky from the Southern Coast Distillery in South Australia.   I'd never tried this distillery before and was rather curious as to what we were about to experience.

Now the head distiller from Limeburners, Cameron is wandering around the room, talking to the tasters, and stops to introduce himself to us.

He informs us that this is the youngest distillery in the entire line up and most likely the youngest whisky we'll be trying tonight.

When he finds out who I am I ask him if he'd mind giving me a quick interview.   He says sure, but he needs to say hello to everyone first.

We start to nose the tasting glasses.

And my wife has a startling discovery.

We pick up notes of cinnamon, oranges, chocolate, oak, toffee and as my wife exclaims, bacon!(!?)

I don't quite get the bacon myself, but I can see where she's getting it.  As do my brother and sister in law.

When we go to taste it's an enjoyable whisky with the oranges immediately evident.   As is the oak.  But there's some hints of coconut and chocolates.

It tastes quite woody, but not in a really bad way.   It feels like a very young whisky, and I'm not sure how long it's been in the casks, but I'm glad that it wasn't in them for longer as I do believe the oak would become overpowering if it'd been in for any longer.

The bacon never makes an appearance on the palate, but I'm still rather surprised that we got anything close to it off the nose.

The finish is largely more oak with coffee and quite a bit of yummy oranges.

It's an enjoyable whisky, but I think this one will be a harder one to find.  I've never seen it at a bottle shop, but I'm willing to be that it'll run roughly $100 to $150 AUS, if not more, if it's price point is similar to most Australian whiskies.

At $100-$130 it's only an OK whisky.  It's not a bad one, but there are better ones for the same price point.  If it's $150 or more then it'll be very overpriced.

However at this stage in the night, it's the clear winner.  The next whisky we're going to be tasting is from Lark which has me excited because they tend to be quite good most of the time!

Nose:        21/25
Taste:       20/25
Finish:       19/25
Balance:    19/25

Overall:     79/100

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Aussie Whiskies: State Of Origin; It Begins!


Whisky: Bakery Hill Classic Malt



Bakery Hill



Classic Malt






Young Sauternes



My wife and I, along with my brother and sister in law, had gone to a series of Australian whisky tastings at Helvetica.  I was very excited as I'd recently tried quite a few of these whiskies at The Grove when I was down in Margaret River.

Even cooler the head distiller/owner of Limeburners was going to be at this tasting event titled: The State of Origin (It's an Aussie thing.)

I'd just had a Swedish whisky: Penderyn Aur Cymru which while decent, wasn't all that I'd been hoping for.

The first Australian whisky that we were trying was Bakery Hill Classic Malt from Victoria.  I'd tried Bakery Hill before, although I'm pretty sure it wasn't the same expression and had been fairly pleased with it.

So we sit down and we decide to start nosing our tasting glasses.

Not a half bad nose.

Aromas of apples, spices, honey and sultanas hit my nose.  It's not a bad nose and is kind of interesting to try and pinpoint what spices.  I do believe I'm picking up some cinnamon, but I'm not completely sure.

As we're finishing nosing the whisky a gentleman who is dressed in a suit comes in and my wife overhears that he is Cameron, the big man from Limeburners!

However first things first.

Time for my favorite part of whisky exploration!

The tasting!

As I take a sip the whisky is fairly sweet with honey and sultanas coming through nice and clear.

There's some spices there, tastes a bit like nutmeg.

Finish is quite sweet and lingers on the tongue with honey and vanilla.

Not a bad whisky.   Not a great whisky.  Can be a bit difficult to find at times, at least in Perth as the most common Australian whisky seems to be Sullivan's Cove.  Price for the average bottle will probably be around the lines of $90 to $100, but like I said you're going to have to hunt for it.

Nose:      18/25
Taste:     18/25
Finish:      18/25
Balance:    18/25

Overall:     72/100