Whisky and Aviation come together at Launceston Distillery.
Launceston Distillery. This distillery is after my own heart. It is located right at the Launceston airport in an old, 1930’s hangar. As I pulled up to the hangar I was watching a Navy plane arrive. Quite a fun experience and the hangar still has the local history and pictures of how aviation was in the 50’s and 60’s. There are even old pilot jump seats just sitting the cask room. What a treasure hunt for people who like to fly and like whisky. I met with Chris Condon who is one of the 5 co-owners of the distillery. Launceston Distillery is owned by a handful of co-owners and a few silent shareholders. The owners come from various backgrounds including previous distillers, marketing experts and other locals of the Launceston area. Chris actually used to be the lead brewer at the James Boag brewery. The first distillate ran off the stills in October 2015 and the owners decided from the beginning that this was a whisky distillery. They have only produced whisky since this first run and have no intention to make Launceston gin or vodka. Later this year around November they will legally have whisky after it has been in the oak barrels for 2 years. Of course we started testing just to be safe while I was there!
The distillery has quite a simple floor plan. You enter the hangar and the whole whisky making process is right in front of you. You will also be greeted by Chris’s dog Angus. He’s the perfect guard dog for the distillery. They are running two mashes a week with their locally sourced, Tasmanian barley. This malted barley is coming from nearby Devonport Maltings. Their mash tun and fermenters are well polished, stainless steel vats. Not only did Peter Bailey, the local copper smith, build the copper stills for Launceston, but also the stainless steel mash tun. The water for the mash is brought in from the local river and treated on site. The vats for the fermentation have a capacity for 1,500 liters of wort, but they only put in 1,150 liters. They use a combination of distillers and brewer’s yeast and the fermentation process lasts 7 days. These fermenters are re-purposed wine tanks and they have cooling jackets just in case the vats get too hot in the summer and the fermentation is affected. After the 7 days, the 1,150 liters of beer/wash is moved over to the 1,600 liters wash still. One wash run will last about 9 or 10 hours and then move over to the spirit still. All of the elements for the still are electric and underneath the still. They are also using shell and tube condensers.
The goal for their new make spirit was to have a light, but full fruity flavor. I was able to try their new make spirit and wanted to share my tasting notes.
Launceston Distillery New Make Spirit
Holly’s Tasting Notes..
Nose: malty biscuit, very ripe fruits. Pears.
Palate: Some sweet kick up front, grain and oak finish with citrus fruits hitting in the middle.
You will see from the picture to the left that branding and bottles are still to be determined. The hanger is technically called H-17 and they hope to play off of that in some way. In the meantime their spirit is patiently aging in the adjacent room. They fill their casks with the spirit at 63.4% ABV and fill all different types of casks. They feel their new make spirit ages best in ex-bourbon casks but they also have a decent amount of sherry and port casks. Most of their spirit has been put in 20 liter and 100 liter casks. In the beginning they will release a few different bottlings. They plan on doing some cask strength releases along with 46% ABV single cask releases. At the moment as you can imagine, they are focusing on quality and consistency. There are plans to bottle and label on site. I know it feels like Fall 2017 is far away, but it will be here before you know it and hopefully in 2018 we will see the launch of Launceston Distillery and whisky to the market!