Fannys Bay Distillery. Imagine you arrive in Hobart, Tasmania. You rent a car and decide to drive straight north, through Launceston and all the way to the top of the island. Drive right to the water, almost working to a point where you can see Melbourne just beyond the Bass Straight.
Well now you have arrived at Fannys Bay! This small distillery is located in a quiet village where all you can hear are the waves hitting the beach and rocks and the sea breeze air whisking by. Fannys Bay was started by Mathew and Julie Cooper. They are originally from Launceston and had always wanted to move to the water. They are now living and making whisky right along the Tam O’Shanter Bay. Known for its surf, golf, sailing and private beaches. The name Fannys Bay actually comes from the small cove bay next to Tam O’Shanter. Mathew and Julie truly took me in like I was part of the family. We started off with a cup of coffee, just chatting about the local area and the whisky industry in general. Not only would they walk me through the distillery and distillation process, but they also gave me samples of exclusive casks and the opportunity to fill my own cask! It didn’t stop there. This area of Northern Tasmania is also known for their wine and world class vineyards. We decided to spend the rest of the afternoon visiting a few vineyards for lunch and wine tastings. This kind of spirit and friendliness is not common in the world anymore and especially in the States. I truly believe this kind of passion and positive energy is being passed on through to not only their branding but into their spirit. Fannys Bay is definitely making a name for themselves in regards to not only their unique brand name, but also for their style of making whisky.
Mathew and Julie filled their first barrel in November 2014 and actually plan for their first bottle release to be potentially later this year if the spirit is deemed ready. Their process really starts with the water. They capture the natural rain water that is rich with salt and magnesium. This is the water that is used throughout the process and definitely gives them a regional flavor. Their barley is sourced from Tasmania and malted in Devonport. It is then mashed in to a stainless steel vat that was re-purposed from the beer industry. Mathew and Julie also got their three fermenters from a local brewery that was updating and expanding. They have three stainless steel fermenters, each at a capacity of about 600 liters, but they only ever fill it with about 300 liters of wort. They pitch the yeast in after about 20 liters of wort has entered the tank and this helps to agitate and encourage activity of the yeast as the wort continues to flow in. They run about a seven day fermentation period. Mathew continued to stress the importance that “you have to make a good beer to make good whisky”. Their one copper still will be running both the wash and spirit runs. The still was designed and fabricated by Mathew and is about 400 liters in capacity. They only put in about 300 liters of wash for each wash run. I was able to try a bit of the new make spirit.
Fannys Bay New Make Spirit
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Peach, nutty, earthy and pears.
Palate: Nutty, fruits, caramel, tangerines and a mineral finish on the palate. Almost like sea rocks or sea stones.
Mathew also stresses the importance of the cutting of heads and tails of the spirit runs. He typically likes to cut deeper into the tails. When a distillery is just starting out they are looking for an exact flavor profile or testing out multiple cuts and combinations of other factors to get a flavor they like. Pieces of the process they often alter are grains, malting, water, yeast, fermentation time etc. Deciding where to make cuts is not always discussed since many large brands have machines and monitors that make cuts for them. In these small, boutique distillery set ups cuts are all based on the owners nose and palate. It is quite a process to get the exact flavor profile you want for your new make spirit. The best part is that once you do find it, you then get to wait and see if it tastes good after being in oak for at least two years!
Fannys Bay is using a variety of casks. Everything from French Oak, ex- bourbon to Pinot Noir casks. Their pinot casks come from a local, organic vineyard called Sinapius. We actually visited Sinapius and they make some incredible pinots and chardonnays. I am excited for the partnership the two businesses have made in regards to sharing casks. I was able to try a small dram of the new make spirit aging in the pinot noir casks. It was full of oranges, peanut brittle, thick jams and plums. It still needs a bit more time, but soon enough it will be a very nice dram. As I was looking through the casks, I do my usual routine,. First is to find my birth date, which I knew I wouldn’t find here since I am too old, but the second thing I do is look for my favorite number, 7. I found the #7 Fannys Bay cask and Mathew was nice enough to give a healthy pour of it for me. Here are my tasting note for this:
Fannys Bay Cask #7 aged about 2 years in Ex-Bourbon Casks
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Toast, toffee crunch, oak, pine nut, almonds and sharp nuts. Maybe even some pepper.
Palate: Buttered toast, orange peel, nutty, some dried fruits and some cracked pepper crackers too.
The oak can hit quite hard at first on the palate because it is young, but there are a lot of sharp, awesome flavors in this.
Mathew and Julie are experimenting with a few gins and are also very focused on getting their marketing and branding on par. They have a few more months to finalize everything as their first few barrels come of age. I was able to fill a 20 liter barrel of recently produced new make spirit. No one has ever let me do this and I was very nervous! I spilled a bit at first and felt terrible. This takes weeks to make even this small batch. Once I got the hang of it, it was okay. I then put my name on the list for interest in buying a barrel. I believe good-hearted, passionate people are always the kind of people you want to keep close. Good energy is contagious and I believe in their brand and look forward to visiting them again soon!