For Bill Lark, the lightbulb moment came in 1989, while sharing a nip of Scotch with his father-in-law on a fishing trip in Tasmania’s Central Highlands. The climate was perfect, the water pristine and access to first-rate barley and peat was all too easy. So why, he wondered, was nobody on the island producing single malt whisky?
Three years later, with not much more than a hobby-sized second-hand copper pot still, Bill and his wife Lyn secured Tasmania’s first distillery licence in more than 150 years – and the rest, as they say, is history. Lark Distillery released its very first single malt whisky in 1998, kickstarting Tasmania’s now thriving whisky industry and a craft distilling revolution across the country.
The awards have piled up over the years, but Head Distiller Chris Thomson believes Lark owes its ongoing success to more than just a brilliant idea, high-quality ingredients and ideal conditions. “It’s the collaborative culture that I believe sets us apart,” he says. “We’ve learned not only from looking at Scotland, but also from wine, beer and cider producers here in Tasmania. This sharing of ideas has led to an extended range of whiskies and to Lark being described as one of the most innovative distillers in the world.”
To get a clear sense of Lark’s house style, it makes sense to begin with Bill’s favourite single malt (and the brand’s most popular) – the flagship Classic Cask. “It’s a big, oily and sweet whisky that showcases first-fill sherry and port casks,” Thomson says. Think layers of citrus peel, baking spices and butterscotch, all of which come together to form a distinctive flavour profile which Thomson believes “every Australian whisky lover should experience at least once.”
While the brand’s identity was forged by single malts, more recent experimental releases have also attracted their share of attention. Case in point: Symphony No. 1, Lark’s first blended malt whisky, which combines expressions from some of Tasmania’s best single malt distilleries. Thomson calls the fruit-forward release “smooth, light and sweet” and has high praise for its versatility. “It’s a complex but easy malt that can be experienced neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail,” he says.
Lark offers a wealth of hands-on experiences for the whisky enthusiast. Those wishing to head straight to the source should visit the new Pontville Distillery, just 30 minutes north of Hobart by car. Set on a 40-acre property in a series of heritage sandstone buildings, the so-called ‘whisky village’ opened in 2022 to coincide with the label’s 30th anniversary. Book a tour to watch the grain-to-glass process unfold, or blend your very own bottle of single malt from carefully selected casks in the bond stores.
Prefer a customised tasting flight with a side of history? Lark’s original Davey Street distillery, on Hobart’s waterfront, pours the full range as well as old rarities and cellar-door-only exclusives. And if settling into a soft leather booth for the night is more your speed, check out The Still – Lark’s swanky retail store and cocktail lounge in the nearby landmark Mercury Building, which is home to a 150-strong selection of Australia’s finest whiskies and lets you sample the goods straight from the barrel.
Products featured are available from 06/03/23 to 11/04/23, while stocks last. Some products or varieties featured may not be available in all stores.