NSW Distillery - Baker Williams
Our last review for 2019 takes us to another NSW regional distillery. When wife and husband duo Helen and Nathan Williams of Baker Williams Distillery embarked on their journey, they had no idea their home brewing and distilling hobby would become a multi-award winning distillery. We caught up with Nathan to chat about their latest Australian whisky just released, how they embarked on this exciting adventure, their production process and even got to sample some of their products. PS: along with distilling whisky they make a killer gin, orancello, schnapps, rum, coffee liqueur + more.
Baker Williams Distillery was founded in 2012 by Nathan Williams and his wife Helen Baker (when naming their distillery, it was an easy choice) and located in the Mudgee wine region of NSW. Born from a fascination for spirits and liqueurs acquired while living in the suburbs of Denver, Colorado during the late 90's early 2000's which grew over time and came to head when they returned to Australia. After a few years of living in Sydney and the desire for a tree change and to make some whisky and the rest is history. Helen grew up in Mudgee, so when choosing which regional town to setup in, was an easy choice for the pair.
Nathan and Helen's favourite aspect of making spirit is seeing the enjoyment a product brings people when they are trying it and the challenge and satisfaction of making something and getting it right. Nathan tinkered with home brewing and distilling (allegedly) before things got really serious and he travelled back to the US to do some classes with the American Distilling Institute.
Distilling at Baker Williams is conducted on a bespoke in-house designed and constructed 400 litre hybrid pot still built by a local fabricator which stands almost 3 metres tall. Whisky and Rum spirit produced is then aged in a diverse selection of casks, varying with virgin American oak, ex-bourbon and ex-port casks have featured at one point or another along with a 300L ex chardonnay cask.
A major benefit of owning their own distillery is the freedom to experiment, especially with local flavours. Everything produced is small batch and sells out fast. For instance, their coffee liqueur is brewed up with the help of their roaster and Helen hand peels all the oranges that go into their orancello. The cellar door located at 194 Henry Lawson Drive Mudgee 2850, is definitely worth a visit when you’re in the area. Our favourite is their butterscotch schnapps.
Baker Williams barrels quietly working very hard ageing whisky. Photo by Alexandra Duggan.
Helen and Nathan have even picked up some awards along the way, with this year’s Australian Distilled Spirits Awards (ADSA) taking home a Silver Medal in the Overproof Rum category for their Baker Williams Single Barrel Rum, a Silver Medal for Baker Williams Whisky Barrel Aged Gin and a Bronze for their Navy Strength Gin called X-XLCR.
The Baker Williams 3m tall Still. Photo by Alexandra Duggan.
We asked Nathan to share any great stories about getting started, to which Nathan told us plenty but one of his favourites was “Our first barrel was actually sourced from Brian and Genise from Black Gate as I only had 200L barrels on hand.” After a quick conversation of Nathan asking Brian where they got their 100L barrels from, Brian pretty much told Nathan to “jump in my ute and get over there [to Black Gate], just take one of mine.” Nathan of course taking Brian up on his generous offer adding “Stellar people who make stellar whisky and rum!” There’s something uniquely special about the entire Australian distilling scene. A fantastic community of mates helping each other out.
Many local botanicals are used in their spirits and liqueurs. Photo by Alexandra Duggan.
Lachlan III Tasting Notes:
The Lachlan III is a single barrel whisky, aged for 3 years in an 100L ex-bourbon cask and is sampled here at cask strength, 68.3%. Very limited run of only 136 bottles produced.
Nose: Fresh hay, lemon sherbet, menthol cigarettes (in the packet), white pepper, almost ripe peach.
Palate/Finish: Big and punchy upfront with an almost Rye like spice and heat, underpinned by a lemon grass zest, a dry maltiness, cinnamon and five spice, leaning more on the aniseed end of the mix. Medium finish.
Massive thanks to Nathan for providing us with a sample to try. We can’t wait to see what’s next in store from this powerhouse of a rural town distillery (seriously go visit their cellar door, so much to taste), specialising in small batch spirits and liqueurs.
Nathan and Helen Baker - Head Distillers at Baker Williams Distillery. Photo by Isaac McIntyre, Mudgee Guardian (supplied).
For more information about Baker Williams Distillery, visit https://bakerwilliams.com.au/