There’s plenty of ways to explore the Tasman Peninsula, but I must say a whisky tour is one of the best. Hop aboard Brett Steel’s Tasmanian Whisky Tours and not only do you get to look out the window the whole way down, but you have a designated driver to get you home! Tours depart from Lark Distillery, home of the heralded Godfather of Australian whisky, Bill Lark.
Starting the day with a ‘breakfast whisky’ in a deep red armchair at 9am is in stark contrast to the commuters motoring up Davey Street on their way to work, just beyond the window. We sit beside a copper still Bill had commissioned for his basement just after he overturned the 1839 law, allowing whisky distillation in Tasmania once more.
Bill was on a central highland’s fly fishing trip when the idea dawned – looking out across barley fields, a peat bog just up the road and the River Clyde flowing beside him. He couldn’t understand why no one was making whisky. So the professional surveyor shifted careers and began crafting whisky instead- just recently being inducted into London’s whisky hall of fame for his efforts.
We collect a gourmet lunch from the Wursthaus Kitchen and head to Sullivan’s Cove Distillery in Cambridge. Around 800 barrels of aroma waft up our nostrils on entry – an award-winning scent. Sullivan’s Cove French Oak Cask just happened to be named the world’s best single malt at the World Whiskies Award for 2014.
Our next stop is William McHenry’s distillery, just beyond Port Arthur Historic Site. As we cross the Dog Line at Eaglehawk Neck, where fierce dogs once kept convicts on the Tasman Peninsula, Brett shares stories of escapees that some believe are true tales.
We then head down the peninsula, dropping into Port Arthur Lavender where a gaggle of locals are knitting by the fire. A little further along, we arrive at Bill McHenry’s distillery where Bill is waiting with a warm handshake and Daisy the distillery Labrador. Bill takes us down a forest track to a natural spring – the DNA for all his spirits. Velvety water bubbles up through ancient dolerite; enjoyed best served by Bill at the source.
Our final stop is Bangor Oyster and Wine Shed. There is no whisky to be seen, but Brett has one of the world’s only 100 per cent rye whisky on hand – promising us that Peter Bignell’s Belgrove whisky goes perfectly with Pacific oysters. Bangor has its own trove of stories, dating back to Abel Tasman setting foot on Tasmanian soil for the first time, planting the Dutch flag on Bangor soil. As if to celebrate this occasion, we are served up plump oysters, abalone and a range of Bangor wines.
Those who have a nose for whisky, from July to November, Tasmanian Whisky Tours will be hosting whisky weekends, beginning at the Brooke Street Pier’s new Glass House dining bar. Expect paddock-to-bottle tastings at Redlands Estate and a Posh Pit cruise to MONA as part of the three-day journey.
Words: Alice Hansen