One of the newer and bigger players on the local scene is 23rd Street Distillery, based in Renmark, South Australia (roughly 250km's North East of Adelaide) on the banks of the Murray River in the heart of the Riverina.
As much as we love hearing about the good old days of Whisky, there is something to be said about the excitement, drama and sheer volume of whisky and whisky related products hitting the market these days. Yes it is becoming harder to navigate the marketing and buzz in the scene but all the noise and fuss comes with a raft of benefits, one example we are particularly enjoying, the rise of the Australian whisky industry.
The story so far...
The site was originally established back in 1914 by Chateau Tanuda to take advantage of the bumper Riverina grape harvests, but transitioned shortly thereafter to a co-op, The Renmark Growers' Distillery Company, which was owned by the local Vintners, created after the original founders Chateau Tanuda hit financial strife. Operations and structural ownership changes continued (albeit on a steady downward trajectory) right through to 2002 when the site finally fell silent. Fast forward to 2016 when the current owners Bickfords moved in and gave birth to the 23rd Street Distillery.
Where are we at?....
After a massive renovation and upgrade the distillery looks like something that belongs on Grand Designs Australia with an amazing blend of new and old world architecture and technology somehow combined into a single cohesive whole. Two 7500 litre stills which are almost as old as the site itself, were sourced from Berri Estate (ex-Hardy's and Tintara and the genesis of Black Bottle Brandy) before being lovingly restored and updated to become the back bone of the dark spirits distilling program at 23rd Street. Having visited the site you can feel the excitement, passion and dedication being poured into the site and the spirit by the team
The 23rd Street Distillery team is managed by Head Distiller/Distillery Manager, Graham Buller who has decades of experience as a winemaker and was drawn out of retirement by the lure of creating something new and exciting at 23rd Street. To quote the man himself;
'I was between jobs, enjoying early retirement when I was approached to join the team, and the rest is really history. Once told of the innovation opportunities at Twenty Third Street it was clear, reinvigorating Brandy was exciting being an ex-winemaker and the focus on celebrating the Riverland’s local produce was something I am passionate about.'
Graham was drawn to making whisk(e)y and other spirits next, once again in his own words;
'Twenty Third Street Distillery prides itself on innovation and cross-category exploration, when launching the brand, Brandy was at the forefront with eyes to reinvigorate the category with a modern expression, followed by Gin, Vodka and a Hybrid Whisk(e)y a unique blend of Scotch and Bourbon. Hybrid sparked a lot of interest, and Australian Whisky was the next progression. From a distilling perspective, it’s an exciting category, we have access to quality local grain options, different malts and peats, and endless choices when it comes to barrel selection and configurations.'
Since operations have commenced at 23rd Street Distillery they have released several spirits including multiple old world and new world style riffs on Brandy, Gin, Vodka and Whisk(e)y. As fans of the darker distilled spirits we have taken a closer look at two of their products, the Hybrid Whisk(e)y and the Single Malt Whisky.
Graham sees the future of the industry as being heavily dependent on education, citing the explosive growth and consumer interest in Australian made Gin and is excited by the complexities and stylistic differences in Whiskies, emerging in different regions around Australia even though the same four ingredients (grain, water, yeast, wood) are used in all cases.
Looking forward, Graham and his team have a Signature style whisky planned for 2020/2021 as well as a Limited Edition range planned to highlight different styles.
What does it taste like?....
Arguably the most important question of all 😉
As fans of whisk(e)y will know it, whisk(e)y takes time. Having been established in 2016 and keen to get their hands 'dirty' the team at 23rd Street Distillery decided to launch a blended, sourced whisk(e)y while waiting for their own spirit to mature. To this end, Scotch whisky (no younger than 5 years old) and American Bourbon Whiskey (no younger than 2 years old) were sourced and blended by the 23rd Street production team before being married and aged further in ex-Bourbon barrels.
Nose: Definitely unique, very floral with prominent herbal notes like thyme and lavender sitting in the more common whisky notes of sherry, dark raisin and orange peel.
Palate: Palate is an interesting melange of Bourbon corn spirit, malty biscuits and almost a whisky liqueur sweetness/lightness balanced by a hint of oak and toasted nuts. This whisky seems like the perfect entry point for fans of Gin or other lighter spirits to dip their toes in to the wonderful world of whisky.
Australian Single Malt Whisky
23rd Street Distillery's first in house whisky was produced using the copper pot stills at Renmark from a lightly kilned pale malt barley sourced from around Toowoomba in Queensland using a mash developed in conjunction with Stone & Wood (brewing) before being matured in American oak ex-Bourbon barrels.
Nose: Sunlight soap, lemon Wizz fizz, simple syrup, pink peppercorn, butter menthols (more on the menthol)
Palate: Bright, orange ice tea, cardamon, white pepper, fresh lime zest and pepper, buttery caramel.
The TWL Team in partnership with 23rd Street Distillery