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Latest Whisky & Spirits News

An Evening With Tasmanian Whisky Distiller Peter Bignell

Nestled away in Kempton, Tasmania, is one of the world’s truly remarkable whisky distilleries. Peter Bignell’s Belgrove distillery is a quintessentially Australian story of the land, ingenuity and sustainability.

Belgrove’s rye whiskies can sometimes fly under the radar, his Tasmanian single malt neighbours (with comparatively big operations) tend to be a bit louder.

But Bignell’s is an Australian whisky story that needs to be told.

He hand-built his distillery on the farm, growing his own ryecorn to product a 100% rye whisky – and using 100% rye in a mash bill isn’t an easy feat. His copper still was built from scratch, is direct fired and runs in biodiesel Bignell makes from oil from the fishand chip shop down the road.

Water heating, his forklift and truck also run on biodiesel.

In his own words, “The only significant material I bring to the farm is waste cooking oil and the only product to leave is whiskey.”

Belgrove is perhaps the greenest distillery in the world, and one that’s starting to gather an international following.

Friday 27 January we’re delighted to confirm Peter will be dropping by The Oak Barrel to tell the story of his remarkable distillery and pour a few drams.

We’ve had the pleasure to sit with Peter on a few occasions now and we can assure you, his stories are legendary.

Expect a few variations of his rye whisky to be on pour – line-up to be confirmed on the night when Peter reveals what he’s brought…

WHAT: An Evening With Peter Bignell Whisky Masterclass
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Friday 27 January, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $20 / Non-Members $30
TICKETS: [MEMBERS] / [GUEST]

 


Posted: 22/12/2016
Christmas Whisky Gifts For All Budgets

Just because you've left it to the last minute doesn't mean you still can't be thoughtful - give 'em whisky!

(We've also got some masterclass in the new year, details here...)

Ardnamurchan New Make Spirit

$19.95 / $17.96 for members
Straight off the still spirit from one of Scotland’s newest distilleries. Great way to warm up ahead of their anticipated single malt debut next year…

Peated Malts Miniatures Gift Pack

$44 / $39.60 for members
Four peated whiskies, four different types of smoke.

Heaven Hill Bourbon

$55 / $49.50 for members
Made in Kentucky using a Tennessee-style filtration. Great alternative to your favourite mixer.

Hakushu Distillers Reserve

$109 / $98.10 for members
Bright, fresh, citrusy whisky for summer. Not all Japanese whisky has to break the bank…

Rock Town Bourbon

$175 / $157.50 for members
Very limited expression in Australia from Arkansas distillery Rock Town.

Paul John Single Cask #987

$179 / $161.10 for members
Australia’s first single cask from India’s Paul John distillery. Sweet and nutty – a house favourite.

Douglas Of Drumlanrig Ben Nevis 18 Year Old

$365 / $328.50
An exceptional Ben Nevis sherry single cask. Rich and complex, beautiful on the palate.

Tomintoul Five Decades

$550 / $495
Made with whisky dating back to 1965, a brilliant expression spanning 50 years without a 50-year-old price tag.


Posted: 21/12/2016
Berry Brothers Whisky Masterclass

Berry Brothers & Rudd has operated out of the same shop in London since 1698, making it Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchant. The brand also holds warrants for both HM The Queen and HRH The Price Of Wales, to further cement their prestige. 

On the whisky front, Berry Bros are an independent bottling force to be reckoned with. They are renowned for their Berry’s Own single casks and the Blue Hanger blended whisky series.

Not always readily available in Australia, we saw some great expressions come into the country in 2016. Good news is 2017 is going to kick off with a bang, with a whole new shipment arriving.

As is the standard Oak Barrel approach when we get excited about something – we’re going to open a bunch of bottles for a masterclass Wednesday 8 February.

The top of the bill is a 1987 Bunnahabhain bottled as part of their ‘Exceptional Cask’ series. There’s just six bottles coming into the country (will probably retail around the $800 mark) and we’ll be opening one for this tasting.

We’ll also be cracking the brand the Craoi na Mona, Berry’s new 10-year-old Irish Whiskey part matured in ex-Laphroaig casks.

There’s also the gorgeous 18-year-old North British single malt, which we got a brief taste of this year when just a handful of bottles were brought in (it’s delicious).

The 11th release of Berry’s world famous Blue Hanger blend will get a run while there’ll also be a cask strength bottling from Dailuaine and another Bunnahabhain single cask.

The masterclass will be hosted by Berry Brothers & Rudd’s Australian whisky ambassador Daniel Hutchins-Read.

ON TASTE

Berry’s Own Dailuaine 2000 11-Year-Old 55.1%
Berry’s Own Bunnahabhain Margadale 56.9%
Berry’s Own North British 1996 18-Year-Old Single Grain 56.7%
Blue Hanger 11 Release 45.6%
Berry’s Craoi na Mona 10-Year-Old Irish Whiskey 46%
Berry’s Exceptional Cask Bunnahabhain 1987 48.7% (only six in Australia)

WHAT: Berry Brothers & Rudd Whisky Masterclass
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Wednesday 8 February 2017, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $55 / Non-Members $65
TICKETS: SOLD OUT


Posted: 21/12/2016
December Aussie Rum Releases

A handful of new releases from Australia’s bourgeoning rum scene have landed in store this December, all in small quantities.

We’re focusing on two distilleries here – Husk Distillers in Northern New South Wales and Archie Rose in Sydney’s inner suburbs.

TUMBULGUM 1886

Husk began harvesting cane for rum in 2012 and in December 2015 release their first single barrel release. Sold out virtually instantly, the next release has come around almost exactly a year. Dubbed the Tumbulgum 1886 (a nod to the namesake township’s 150 anniversary) it is a vatting of four casks, yielding 2,200 bottles.

It arrived in store late last week and this first allocation we’ve received is on its way to selling out.

In Australia rum needs to be matured for a minimum of two years before you can call it rum. So, unlike elsewhere internationally where ‘white rum’ is produced, un-aged expressions here are called ‘Cane Spirit’.

Let’s call these next two releases ‘Australian Cane Spirit in the style of international white rum’…

ARCHIE ROSE VIRGIN CANE SPIRIT

 

A triumph of both flavour and state-wide logistics, this is the first ‘rum-style’ release from Sydney’s Archie Rose, who began distilling cane for rum last year. Bottled at 50% and with a lovely texture, it’s being drunk both neat and in cocktails. Just over 2,000 bottles from this inaugural release.

Read the full story behind its creation here.

HUSK DISTILLERS PURE CANE SPIRIT

 

The first release in Husk’s new bartender series, this was designed through a collaboration with the distillery and bartenders across the Northern Beaches. Clean and crisp, limited to just 895 bottles.


Posted: 15/12/2016
Baker Williams: A New Favourite NSW Distillery

Go West Young (Wo)man: If you travel from Sydney and head over the Blue Mountains, past Lithgow and north west to the town of Mudgee, you’ll find one of The Oak Barrel’s favourite New South Wales distilleries – Baker Williams.  

A tiny operation in the heart of a wine-dominated region in the state's Central West, the Baker Williams distillery was established in 2011 by Helen Baker and Nathan Williams.

Baker and Williams – a husband and wife team – have been letting their creativity run free since spirit first ran off the stills, each bringing a different set of ideas, palate, to the table.

So while their early experiments with patient spirits like whisky and brandy are quietly maturing away, they’ve a plethora of ready-to-go-now delectables.

Highlights include the thick citrus bombs of the Orancello and Lemon Myrtle liqueur (which we’ve been alternating straight over ice on the hot nights), their new bold fresh XLCR Gin and their Butterscotch “Please Pour Me Over Ice-Cream” Schnapps.

Without resorting to bloody awful clichés, these bottles actually make brilliant Christmas presents – great unique presentation, well presented, designed to be shared and drunk rather than stashed away, and the juice inside is awesome.

(If I’ve any friends/relatives reading this, I may have shown my hand regarding presents – please act surprised on Christmas Day.)

A huge hit at the Sydney Craft Spirits Fair, we’ve now re-stocked with our favourites from their range. (We might even have a couple of bottles underneath the counter open…)

Click on a product name below for more info, or see all of Baker Williams’ products here.

Baker Williams Butterscotch Schnapps

Baker Williams Café Liqueur

Baker Williams XLCR Gin

Baker Williams Lemon Myrtle

Baker Williams New Make Spirit

Baker Williams Orancello

Baker Williams Wheat Vodka


Posted: 08/12/2016
Well Aged Cognac and Armagnacs

Everyone wants to drink something old. There's something special about a spirit that's been lying dormant for 10, 20 or 50 years before being bottled, a sensation that’s intensified when you open it.

So much can happen in one year, let alone 50, that there’s a patient reverence that comes with drinking an aged spirit. What were you doing the year this was distilled (if you were even alive)? What was the world like then? They force you to slow down to extract each bit of history from the glass.

Unfortunately, some of these aged spirits are becoming quite cost prohibitive – if only they knew 50 years ago how many drinkers there’d be on the world now! But there are still opportunities for you to enjoy them without having to sell the sheep station.

Here’s a few gorgeous Cognacs and Armagnacs that fit the bill. Elegent French brandies from the two famous regions.

Click through on a name for more info.

COGNAC

Francois Voyer

A historic name in cognac, these are rich and elegant from the Grand Champagne Cru.

Francois Voyer XO Gold (20 to 30 year old): $125 / $112.50 for members

Francois Voyer  Napoleon Cognac (12-20 year old): $145 / $130.50 for members

Francois Voyer Terres De Grande Champagne: $95 / $85.50 for members

Cadenhead

Let the Scots bottle cognac themselves and you’ll get a 30-year-old at over 50% ABV…

Cadenhead 30-Year-Old Petit Champagne Cognac: $275 / $247.50 for members

ARMAGNAC

Delord

An Armagnac house with an amazing warehouse of vintages.

Delord Bas Armagnac 1966 Vintage: $299 / $269.10 for members

Delord Bas Armagnac 1972 Vintage: $219 / $197.10 for members

Delord Bas Armagnac 1985 Vintage: $130 / $117 for members

Darroze

A cult producer, everything that bares the Darroze name has a level of excellence

Darroze 50 Year Old Grands Assemblages: $599 / $539.10 for members

Darroze 1999 Domaine De Rieston: $199 / $179.10 for members

 


Posted: 01/12/2016
All I Want For Christmas Is Kilchoman Masterclass

'Tis always the season for whisky, but when the festive season comes knocking there's an added impetus. It's in this spirit that we're excited to announce a Kilchoman bonanza - a smoky whisky masterclass and swathe of gorgeous new smoky expressions in story.

------------
KEY POINTS OF THIS ARTICLE
1. Kilchoman Masterclass this December
2. Great pricing on new, old, rare, core Kilchoman expressions right now
------------

If you’re not familiar with the story Kilchoman is the youngest distillery on Islay (excluding any planned ventures that haven’t been built yet).

Built in 2015, it was the first new distillery built on the famous whisky island in 125 years. Founder Anthony Wills endured all sorts of hardship (financial and emotional) in the early years but the hard yakka is paying off and 11 years down the track it is one of the most cult-adored distilleries in Scotland.

An annual capacity of just 125,000 litres (although that figure has grown and is growing) makes them one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries as well.

The most important factor about Kilchoman, though, is the taste – and their whiskies are delicious. From the standard Machir Bay expression all the way through to limited release offerings (Madeira cask, Sauternes cask, vintage releases, cask strength expressions) Kilchoman has an intoxicating peat reek, a connection to the farmyard-process and a power that belies its youthfulness.

A favourite of The Oak Barrel, we’ve held many masterclasses throughout the formation years of Kilchoman – but nothing as big as this.

To herald the release (or imminent arrival) of some brand-new expressions, we’ll be going through ten (read ‘em: ten) expressions in one massive December masterclass.

We’re also celebrating some pricing adjustments across the 2016 limited releases: they’ve dropped in price, (a rare and fantastic trick in the single malt world of 2016, we’re sure you’ll agree).

In an extensive, all-investigating, monster tasting we’ll be trying the following expressions:

Kilchoman Cask Sample #1
Kilchoman Cask Strength (new release)
Kilchoman 100% Islay 6th Release
Kilchoman 2008 Vintage
Kilchoman Machir Bay 
Kilchoman Sauternes Cask
Kilchoman Madiera Cask
Kilchoman Cask Sample #2
Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2016
Kilchoman Sanaig

Please note – some of these expressions are pre-release, so there are very limited stocks in Australia. As a result we won’t be able to add another evening when this sells out!

Hosted by Johnny Raphael from importers Baranow’s and The Oak Barrel’s Scott Fitzsimons, it’s happening Wednesday 14 December. And with the price of tickets for Oak Barrel members, we reckon this – our final whisky masterclass of 2016 – might be the best value of the year.

WHAT: Kilchoman Smoky Whisky Masterclass
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: 
Wednesday 14 December 2016, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: 
Members $30 / Non-Members $40
TICKETS: SOLD OUT

To celebrate the arrival of these new limited editions, we’re also happy to offer a bunch of expressions (museum, new, core, otherwise) at some great prices. See the spreadsheet below for more information.


Posted: 24/11/2016
Yamazaki and Hakushu 18s Return, Let's Have A Masterclass!

The long-absent 18-year-old expressions from Suntory’s two single malt distilleries – Hakushu and Yamazaki – are officially back in Australia. So we’re going to crack ‘em open.

Although they were never actually discontinued, they may has well have been in recent years due to their sparseness. Yesterday’s delivery marks the first time in many years that these expressions have been available through Suntory themselves – they haven’t had to come through the open marketplace.

The rich, resinous sherry cask driven Yamazaki 18 and the herbal, slightly smoky and zesty Hakushu 18 are now back in stock in reasonable quantities (read: that’s still very limited).

We’ve been able to build in a built of price relief for these two lines, compared to what they’ve been swapping hands for on the secondary market in recent years. That said, the days of picking these up for under $250 a pop are long gone, unfortunately. (We’ve also sourced a limited edition version of the 18, which you can see below.)

CLICK ON AN IMAGE BELOW FOR MORE INFO

These are all whiskies that have been out of reach for many of us recently so as we’re pleased to see them officially return to Australian shores, it’s a good opportunity to get them back into people’s mouths.

That’s why we’re also announcing a Japanese whisky masterclass of household drams for which it’s been too long between drinks.

We’ll be trying:

Yamazaki 18-Year-Old
Hakushu 18-Year-Old
Yamazaki Limited Edition 2015 Release
Yamazaki Limited Edition 2016 Release
Hibiki 21-Year-Old
Nikka Woody & Mellow Distillery Exclusive

It’ll happen Wednesday 18 January, 2017 here at The Oak Barrel, hosted by our whisky specialist.

WHAT: Japanese Whisky Masterclass
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: Wednesday 18 January 2017, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: Members $85 / Non-Members $95
TICKETS: SOLD OUT

SECOND TASTING CONFIRMED AND ON SALE NOW:

WHAT: Japanese Whisky Masterclass
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: 
Thursday 19 January 2017, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: 
Members $85 / Non-Members $95
TICKETS: SOLD OUT

THIRD & FINAL CONFIRMED AND ON SALE NOW:

WHAT: Japanese Whisky Masterclass
WHERE: The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St, Sydney 2000
WHEN: 
Tuesday 24 January 2017, 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start
PRICE: 
Members $85 / Non-Members $95
TICKETS: SOLD OUT

Ticket price includes entry and all tastings, guided by the masterclass host. We recommend travelling by public transport and arranging to eat before or after the event.


Posted: 17/11/2016
A Selection Of Australian Whiskies

It's been a big year for Australian whisky releases (that's a sentence we weren't saying a few years ago) and we're lucky enough to be enjoying drams from some pretty far-flung places of this great wide land. 

We've very limited stocks from the following distilleries.

A lot of these are early releases in the history of these distilleries, all of them are very small runs and most released in the last couple of months.

 

MCHENRY (Tasmania)

We drank our sole bottle of the first release at the Aussie whisky tasting earlier this year, but we do have a tiny allocation of the third release from Tasmania's McHenry distillery, located in Port Arthur. Australia's southern-most whisky distillery enjoys an almost Scotland-like micro climate and produces a light, delicate spirit.

McHenry's 3rd Release Single Malt ($315 - $283.50 for members)

BLACK GATE (New South Wales)

Located in the central west of New South Wales, one of our favourite Aussie distilleries with some fantastic bold, rich drams. An incredibly small production has meant that these early releases have been drip-fed over the past 12 months and following the release of cask #08 at Whisky Fair in August, there will be no new single malts until the same time in 2017. Very limited stocks of the last few releases, which were held back for the Fair, in store now.

Black Gate Single Malt Cask 007 ($189 - $170.10 for members)
Black Gate Cask Strength Single Cask BG011 ($259 - $233.10 for members)
Black Gate Single Malt Cask #08 ($259 - $233.10 for members)

TIN SHED DISTILLERY (South Australia)

Rising from the ashes of Southern Coast, it's only been 12 months since the first single malt from Tin Shed under the Iniquity label. Each batch has sold out instantaneously, but we've got a couple of bottles of Batch 5 which were reserved as emergency tasting stock for Whisky Fair 2016.

Iniquity Batch 5 Single Malt ($199 - $179.10 for members)

SOUTHERN COAST (South Australia)

Speaking of the infamous closed Southern Coast distillery, we've released the last few cases of our own bottling - Cask 37 - from the distillery. Bottled at 55% and with just 103 bottles, this is your last chance at a piece of modern Australian whisky history.

Oak Barrel Cask 37 Southern Coast ($239 - $215.10 for members)

TASMANIA DISTILLERY (Tasmania)

Famous for being the distillery of Sullivan's Cove, a few casks have escape over the years to be bottled by private parties. We've got two indie bottlings at the moment, one each of their famed American and French oak maturations.

The Exile 15 Year Old French Oak ($525 - $472.50 for members)
Tasmanian Independent Bottlers First Release ($279 - $251.10 for members)

HEARTWOOD (Tasmania)

Tasmania's world famous indie bottler - while we await the arrival of the We Are Cousins release, we've got some sneaky bottles of the Lark-distilled, port-cask infused We Are Brothers. 

Heartwood We Are Brothers ($320 - $288 for members)

LIMEBURNERS (Western Australia)

One of the busiest years for one of the country's founding single malt distilleries, we've seen some exciting new releases (and re-packages) including the Darkest Winter, their strongest expression ever.

Limeburners Darkest Winter ($360 - $324 for members)
Limeburners Director's Cut M118 ($399 - $359.10 for members)

More Limeburners...


Posted: 03/11/2016
Signatory Vintage October Whisky Delivery!

One of our favourite independent bottlers - who finally appeared on Australian shores earlier this year - the latest shipment of Signatory Vintage whiskies have landed in Australia.

With a huge stockpile of maturing whisky from distilleries all over Scotland, Signatory Vintage provide both great value and brilliant quality (the tasting we held a few months ago is proof of that).

This late October shipment is as ecclectic as ever, with expressions from house-hold names (Glenlivet, Caol Ila), obsurities (TormoreGlen Keith) and closed distilleries (Port DundasCambus).

The expressions come from their Cask Strength series, the Un Chill-Filtered Collection and Single Grain lines. They're all very small batches, often single cask. 

Some of the expressions are sister casks to the great expressions from what we saw earlier in the year - perhaps now a year older - and others are brand new.

For more information about Signatory Vintage, have a read of when we got all excited about their arrival in June.

For the current outturn, take a look at the table below. You can sort by price, age, vintage, ABV etc. by clicking on the header. More information about the history of the distilleries and individual bottlings behind each "CLICK HERE" link.

LATEST SIGNATORY VINTAGE ARRIVALS

Or you can have a look at them visually here.

 

 


Posted: 25/10/2016