Water of Life
Over the last seven years, Tasmania, i.e. antipodean Hobart, has become a home away from home. What started with a flirt with the last stop before Antarctica and then morphed into a full blown love affair with everything remotely connected to what emerged the Museum of Old and New Art’s operations and festivals in 2011, has quickly spread across the wider local arts, artisanal, culinary and specifically whisky scene, due to the purity of the local air, the quality of the natural water that one can actually drink and enjoy and soil which informs and pervades the isolated island’s quality of products.
Long before Tasmania has firmly established itself as the highly coveted and sought after whisky wunderkind on international terrain, I became acquainted with Lark Distillery through a tour of Hobart’s Cascade Brewery and a recommendation of my guide – a recommendation that proved not to be further wondrous as it turned out that Lark initially sourced its barley directly from Cascade Brewery.
Whisky Hall of Famer Bill Lark, who founded Lark Distillery and owned it until in 2013, was the first one to start its operations in Tasmania after John Franklin’s 1839 ban on distilling, in a bid to curb public debauchery and to this day, I have yet to entertain a conversation with any local whisky aficionado without his name not being mentioned with gleaming eyes and full of reverence in the context of being the pillar and starting point for the local industry.
A smooth, richly balanced, complex marriage of unique casks chosen to formulate a profile that covers quite a bit of nuanced territory on the journey a dram takes you through, whose slow and defined crescendo leaves a deeply satisfying feel after each and every sip caressing the palate.
Lark Distillery has established itself with a harbor front cellar front, the visit of which is essential no matter if you pride yourself for being a teetollar or not interested in liquors for the welcoming ambience and prime position alone: It proffers an array of curated whiskeys and other liquors along with local craft brews along with its own range of aged single malts, whisky liqueurs their own gin range.
A sophisticated outlet that is down to earth and has its focus laser-like set on what counts: Welcoming service that is based on a foundation of a wealth of first-hand knowledge.
What gives Lark’s Single Malt a nuance that your humble narrator, who is heavily into whiskeys of the Islay variety, finds hard to resist is that half the Franklin barley that is being used is peated through osmosis in Lark’s own peat bog before being double distilled in their custom-made copper-pot stills.
Another feature of Tasmanian whiskies I have grown to love is that the use of Australian sherry and port casks are the vessels that due to their smaller size, i.e. 100 litre quarter casks, proffers a higher surface-to-whisky volume ratio, in layman’s terms: More oak contact, which is one of the factors that helps reduce the aging process. A trademark of Tasmanian whiskies in general: The aging process culminates after five to eight years dynamic aging process enhanced by Tasmanian mild winters and warm summers – a climate that proves to be very conducive to the process of distilling whiskies.
But enough of technicalities, let’s delve into Lark Distillery’s liquid emissions:
Reminiscent of what the better Speyside or Scottish Highland whiskeys have to offer, the lightly straw coloured flagship Lark Single Malt instantly won me over.
What a waxy, complex beauty - a creamy, slightly oily, fruity and sweet flavoured nose is enhanced by the port cask aging, which marries itself with a slightly forestry palate that is immensely enriched with a hint of peat that does not really enter smoke territory, yet gives me enough of a flavour. Tasmanian peat tends also to be milder in nature to the Islay variety – think more eucalyptus than iodine.
A smooth, richly balanced, complex single barrel whiskey that covers quite a bit of nuanced territory on the journey a dram takes you through, whose slow and defined crescendo leaves a deeply satisfying feel after each and every sip caressing the palate.
Sounds like a symphony?
A truly great one that, needless to mention, has won an array of international awards, which generated interest to an extent where you better get a hold of Lark whenever you have the opportunity as it tends to be sell out immediately.
Engaging with Lark Distillery luminaries in their natural habitat is a delight in itself: Passion pervades every facet of their operations and I have yet to leave a conversation with not either having learned a wealth of details I was not aware of or getting in-depth answers that shed light on why Lark Distillery is considered to be one of the best distilleries in the world.
Apart from their core range of whiskies, Lark has recently embarked onto gin territory. Not unlike their approach to making whisky, the focus is on Tasmanian ingredients, i.e. native spices to create a clear, refined and elegant gin and results in what has become known and esteemed as the hand stilled Forty Spotted. Based on a foundation of the gin staples juniper berry, coriander and lemon peel to create a traditional London Dry style, the incorporation of the wild Tasmanian Mountain Pepper berry, which imbues Forty Spotted with a unique spiciness and richness without overpowering it, makes it a very sippable potion that can easily be enjoyed near with its exquisite warming finish.
Read more Water of Life entries here.
Photos by @k.a.vv