“This well crafted whisky released at a perfect pitch of alcohol, nose and palate.” is how the Godfather of Australian whisky Bill Lark describes Straight Batt, a newly released independent whisky straight from Tasmania. Now, there have been a few independent bottlers emerging in Tassie. We have Tim Duckett’s two multi-award winning labels Heartwood with its cult-like following and Tasmanian Independent Bottlers (TIB). Plus there’s the recently crowned global Independent Bottler (non-Scotch) of the Year 2019 Dark Valley Whisky, the brainchild of Alex Moores. Now we have another indie to try and we’re especially curious about this bottling, as it contains such a unique part of Australia’s whisky history.
For context, it’s important to note Australia is reaching an interesting time when it comes to the local whisky industry here. We are growing at a tremendous pace, with over 200 distilleries nationally. There are even rumours about that the Tasmanian Whisky and Spirits Association are currently preparing to regionalise Tassie whisky with its very own appellation – whilst others are saying that a market correction is soon to be upon us (side note: check out Heartwood’s tasty cheeky bottling aptly named Market Correction). But here at The Whisky List we’re calling it, there’s exciting times ahead.
Like all industries, Australian whisky has had its equal share of ups and downs. One name rings out amongst the others, and that sadly is Nant. Plenty of others have told the disappointing tale of Nant so today we’re going to focus on the good, and this is a tale of one hero that has risen from the ashes.
This is the story of Straight Batt – an independent bottling of two Nant barrels, one French oak ex-tawny and an American oak ex-bourbon casks that somehow survived (where over 700 barrels that other investors had purchased did not).
Welcome our hero – his name is Harry van der Woude, and when he isn't working for the Hobart Hurricanes (his local cricket team), he’s the Managing Director of Straight Batt Single Malt. It was actually his father Pieter, who had previous experience in investing in barrels, who partnered with Harry in purchasing two barrels from the Nant barrel scheme. A scheme we’ve all found out was too good to be true. A couple of years before news broke of just how embattled the Nant brand had become, Harry began to hear whispers that something wasn’t right up in the Tasmanian highlands, in the picturesque township of Bothwell, over at the Nant distillery.
So Harry and his father Pieter set out on a quest, riding their trusty steed, the family ute, up to the hills to the fortified city of Nant Estate, to reclaim their barrels, their prize. Armed with their ownership paperwork and two empty barrels, Harry bartered and battled till their foe gave in and they emerged victorious, returning to Hobart, with their two Nant barrels (containing actual aging spirit) steadily secured to their vehicle. At 225L each, they decided to let their matured whisky age a little longer, a smidge over six years in the end. A good shout indeed, as that extra aging added to the quality of finish in their whisky, which Mr Lark describes as “a long finish reminiscent of a chewy milk bottle lolly.”
Cue chapter two.
Harry now needed to decide what to do with his two barrels. With a few phone calls to certain experienced friends and mentors in the Tassie distilling community (cough *Bill Lark, and Pete Bignall* cough) and his mate Mark Nicholas, thus summoning his own round table of advisors. With barrel samples in hands, they experimented with various blends and ABVs, finalising the perfect dilution for a bottling of Nant that was to become Straight Batt.
When asked about the origins of the name, Harry tells us “I'll let you make your own guess and connections about the name. It is certainly a bit cheeky!” Upon further questioning, he revealed “Straight Batt is dedicated to those who lost, and the name is a show of solidarity to all those people.” As shocking as the whole Nant saga is (it’s sadly still continuing for many investors with AWH, Nant’s new owners, currently in mediation with barrel investors), we’re happy to report that this tale does indeed have a happy ending.
The final chapter.
So we have a name and the perfect blend of two casks of Tasmanian single malt. All our hero needs is a label worthy of his journey. It was Harry’s good friend, local Tasmanian illustrator and creative Alexander Barnes-Keoghan celebrated their momentous victory with a label that pays tribute to Harry’s passion for the game of cricket and the interesting history of the spirit contained within.
For those who know their cricket, you’ll notice the label features a cricketer playing a cross-bat shot, instead of the straight bat(t) shot. And for those who haven’t been following the Nant saga, the villain behind the entire collapse is a man named Keith Batt. Harry informs us a lot of this turmoil could have been avoided if only Batt had played it straight with investors, but instead had himself bowled out.
And thus was born the 400 bottle limited release, known as Straight Batt Single Malt Australian Whisky Bottling.
Bottled at 44% ABV, this release is a six year old Australian single malt from a combination of French oak ex-tawny and American oak ex-bourbon casks.
There are no plans for a follow up at this stage.
The bottle can be found (and purchased) here at www.straightbatt.com
The Whisky List were kindly provided a bottle of Straight Batt for tasting by Harry.
Our tasting notes are:
Nose: Massive banana upfront, 50/50 ripe banana and banana lolly. Sweet floral notes of lavender and crushed Lincoln Rose petals. Gentle creamy caramels. Orange blossom honey.
Palate: Oak spice and char upfront, leading into banana bread, shortbread and orange peel marmalade. Nicely balanced at bottled ABV of 44%.
Finish: Long, slightly chewy but same time gently – fantastic balance and lingers. We were lucky to once try an early bottling of 5 year old Nant, and this instantly reminded us of the OG Nant whisky.
Verdict: If you’re looking to buy a piece of Australian whisky history, or simply wanting to try whisky in the style that it was as originally intended from a distillery that was going places (it’s very different from what is bottled as Nant on bottleshop shelves today), then take a punt on this little beauty.