Water of Life – Bakery Hill
Now, this instalment of our series is a special one – special because Bakery Hill is the one distillery that almost got away. I have pursued the oldest and most established single malt distillery on Australia’s mainland for quite a while and every time I came across a bar that had their offerings on the shelf, I partook and savoured every drop.
Bakery Hill Distillery, whose emissions have not only accumulated accolades but have met such an extensive demand that they had to curb their export endeavours to focus on satisfying the local appetite for its exquisite drops.
Having learned more about Bakery Hill and their approach to distilling, this does not come as a surprise as not only all facets are informed by a quality first and borderline scientific approach, but minuscule attention to detail is paid when it comes to maturing their single barrel whiskies, the content of which will only be released when it has met their internal benchmark set by founder and ex-chemist now chief alchemist David Baker.
We have had the pleasure of being guided by Andrew Baker, Operations Manager and distiller from Bakery Hill Distillery, through the history of Bakery Hill Single Malt whisky. The evening could not have found a more suitable ambience as it was held within the stylish and classy confines of the recently opened Highlander Whisky Bar, which we have covered before.
The evening started with the warm, fruity and welcoming Single Cask Classic Malt. Given that it is a no age statement, young drop, it is not surprising that after the nostrils are tickled by a melange of fruit and yeast, alcohol heat cuts through waves of vanilla and before it finishes with a spicy oaky crescendo. While it is not overly complex, it is on the flavourful side of things and hinting of what was to come next.
Bakery Hill Double Wood took things to the next level: Matured in ex-bourbon casks before being finished in French oak casks, this drop is an example par excellence for combining layers of subtle flavour nuances, the total of which is much bigger than the mere sum of its individual components: The aroma is already an experience in itself with sweet vanilla dancing with passion fruit and sweet spices, which seamlessly transitions to what materializes on the palate: Orange chocolate meets nuances of mango, plums and culminate in an unexpected spicy finish.
Expectations were now high as we had not even progressed to the Peated Malt expression I had been looking forward to.
Matured in American Oak, the peated golden drop is not exactly peat forward – au contraire – on the nose the aromas of peat are framed by fruity and earthy undertones, which interweave in an intriguing manner. The first impression that it is reminiscent of the peated, more sophisticated Speyside whiskies is confirmed by what materializes on the roof of the mouth: Earthiness dominates is pierced by hints of fruity and a subdued smokiness, only to arrive at a charismatic elongated finish. A brilliant drop that again raised the bar.
However, the ultimate highlight was yet to come: Andrew Baker was so kind to share a sample of Bakery Hill’s limited Sovereign Smoke expression and boy, was I in for a treat.
To fully savour the experience, I paired the whisky with a Hop Nation Jedi Juice IPA and while I got a weak spot for well-matched boilermakers, this one proved to be one that will be hard to rival.
Bottled at 50% ABV, the limited-edition Sovereign Smoke hints at Islay heavyweights on the nose, however, there is a twist to it as the peated barley is imported from Belgium and adds coastal peat aromas that are reminiscent of the Hebrides yet are enriched by salty nougat and sugary undertones.
Matured in ex-bourbon barrels, the palate is serenaded with complex nuances that run the claviature from salty ends of the spectrum to sweet via detours to malty territory.
It is testament to Bakery Hill’s art of distilling that even Sovereign Smoke with its higher peat level maintains their trademark distinct sweet DNA at its core, culminating in an elongated finish that is smoky in the most subtle manner, framed by tobacco and brown sugary sweetness.
Photos by @k.a.vv