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Whisky distilleries are popping up everywhere and yet good whisky distilleries are still few and far between. These three are good and far between. Looks like we’ve got ourselves a ol’ fashioned whisky roadtrip in the land down under. More specifically around the state of Victoria.
First stop, the town of Timboon down the surf coast of Victoria in a lush bushy area called the Otways. Kinda like Scotland with a history of barley growing and illegal distillation. The residents were also legendary in the disdain for the tax man. On second thoughts, a lot like Scotland.
It was here that the creatively named Timboon distillery sprang to life in 2007 and in its current iteration with its current owner and head distiller Josh Walker. Let's step back in time where young Josh and his soon to be wife had a business in contracting farm equipment and then decided to backpack around the Americas...
Naturally they ended up slipping north into Kentucky whiskey country like any full blooded Aussie couple and discovered a love for crafted artisanal whiskey. The stars were also shining over their home at the same time with the local distillery being put up for sale. Just like that, they pulled the trigger on the purchase, got home, sold the farm equipment and got into it. Now they sell two main expressions being a 44% “Port Expression” and a large whack 60% Christies Cut. It’s a brilliant place they have basically in a town that is clearing between towering old eucalyptus trees. Certainly worth a visit and grab a meal whilst you’re there at the distillery building complete with Josh’s family farm meat on the menu.
Next stop, the Victorian Mornington peninsula. A passion project for Stuart and Naomi McIntosh after winning a whisky trip as part of a chivas regal competition. Talk about lucky buggers. Stuart began his professional career in the military, then onto finance and now whisky distilling. Naomi took care of the science behind all the distilling being a scientist. Naturally derrr. Very handy to have as a partner in the perfect distilling crime - so what's in a name? Well, McIntosh translates to Mhic an Tòisich in Gaelic which translates to 'Son of the Chief' in English. An honor given to the family 900 years ago in reward for loyalty and battle support of the Kings of Scotland.
These days Chief's Son has definitely gone on the growth path with such a volume that a local brewery are helping out in the early part of the process with the majority of remaining steps being done on site. There are essentially 6 expressions in various strengths with the newest being Tanist aimed at the mass market.
Next up we head on up to barely cross the border (before lockdown) into Corowa, New South Wales for another creatively named whisky producer - Corowa distilling. Dean Druce, the part owner and face of the business has a very interesting path to glory much like Josh Walker. He was basically a ski bunny over in Banff, Canada living his youth to the Pepsi Max. The Druce family had a chocolate and licorice company in Wagga Wagga, NSW and came across a huge heritage disused flour mill in the border town up for sale.
They eventually purchased the building for the grand sum of $1 from the council with plans to entice their jetsetting son back with the lure of whisky making and bam, the plan worked. Dean came back and soon realised he didn’t know anything about making whisky so completed an internship under head distiller Anthony Wills at Kilchoman. As good as it gets. Dean returned and met the future head distiller, Beau Schilg, on the footy field.
Fast forward through a bunch of work on the building, the addition of a chocolate facility and the installing of a cafe all onsite plus 2 years to age the whisky and Corowa is kicking a few goals (pardon the pun). There are no less than 7 varieties currently available and more to come online in time (and some to disappear as is the case with single casks). It’s one of those distilleries with the old school family feel. Go get yourself some and grab us some chocolates whilst you’re at it.
You might have noticed in this piece i’ve not given our opinion on the whisky itself as that will be for another article however this was more about a ‘hello I am here’ for these wonderful new distilleries in our home state (kinda) and to paint a little colour around the product as whisky at the end of the day is just a drink and it’s the people and place that make it more than it is. D