Australians have been distilling whisky since the early days of penal settlement, but it was only in 1992 when the craft whisky boom that we are experiencing today began. Australians have been drinking and enjoying whisky for far longer, however.
Before we get into how to drink whisky best, let’s take a look back at the history of whisky distilling in Australia.
Today, Tasmania still makes some of the best Australian whisky, but award-winning craft whisky is produced in all Australian states. Single malt is the prevailing style, although distillers are also experimenting with other grains such as rye, wheat, corn, unmalted barley, and even native cereal grains to produce a distinctly flavoured Australian whisky.
Another important aspect in the unique Australian whisky style is the use of high-quality wine casks. But distillers also use ex-bourbon casks to showcase the underlying flavour of local malted barley.
When it comes to enjoying the best Australian whisky, let your tastebuds do the talking and opt for a style that you enjoy. Whatever your preference, here are our whisky drinking tips for making the most of your dram.
When Tasmanian Peter Lark successfully challenged federal distilling regulations that prohibited anyone with a still smaller than 2700 litres making whisky, it marked a new beginning for craft distilling. His company went on to produce the first single malt spirits in 154 years, and dozens of distillers followed suit, ushering in the modern era of boutique Australian whisky.
As with Scotch whisky or Irish whiskey, the best way to experience and savour the full array or aromas and flavour of an Australian whisky is to drink it neat at room temperature. Choose a tulip-shaped glass to enhance the characteristics of the spirit on your tastebuds. The bowl shape will funnel the aromas through the narrowed rim, and holding it by the long stem will prevent your hand from warming the whisky.
Pro whisky tip? Add a drop of water to “open up” the whisky, this will subdue the alcohol and elevate the aroma and flavour molecules, making the spirit more palatable. Use spring water if possible, as it has a neutral taste that won’t affect the flavour of your prized Australian whisky.
Drinking your Australian whisky over ice will slightly decrease its temperature, making it easier to drink, and more refreshing – especially in the summer. However, chilling the whisky also dulls its intricacies and will dilute the spirit as the ice melts. So, choose larger blocks of ice to slow the rate of dilution. It’s best to make your own ice, preferably out of spring water (see above). And make sure to always use fresh ice, as ice can quickly stale and take on off-flavours from the contents of your freezer.
Drinking whisky neat is an acquired taste and many prefer the pleasure of a well-crafted and refreshing whisky cocktail. A good Australian whisky mixed with tonic is a sublime combination, and so easy to mix for yourself at home. Citrussy and bitter, tonic water works best with fresher, vibrant, fruity styles of whisky. Simply pour whisky over ample blocks of quality ice and top with tonic. Stir a few times and garnish with a wedge of lemon or grapefruit.
In Australia, whisky tends to most commonly be of the single malt variety but there is also an exciting new generation of rye whisky in Australia – ideal for those who like classic cocktails such as a Whisky Sour (2 parts whisky, 1 part lemon juice, ½ part sugar syrup.) Look out for Gospel Solera Rye Whisky which is also beautiful when paired with a Fever-Tree Ginger Ale in an easy and refreshing whisky cocktail.