Just following a fantastic virtual Australian Whisky Show, in which Morris Whisky was featured, and definitely shined, we sat down with Head Distiller Darren Peck, for a deep dive in to producing Morris Whisky.
Q: Ok, let's start at the beginning, what grain do you use and where is it grown?
A: Malt right now, though we may try other grains in the future but for our malt we use 100% Malted barley and will continue to do so. It’s a blend of two Pale Ale Malt varieties malted then brewed and fermented in family operated brewery with pure and filtered water from the Snowy Mountains. We want a good yield but with the right balance to give a good ester-y wash.
Q: What size are your stills (or spirit producing capacity) and how many barrels of whisky are you laying down per day/week/year at the moment?
A: We are using our original hybrid copper pot and column still which has been on site at Morris of Rutherglen since 1941, that has been carefully restored. We named her Aurora after the princess in Sleeping Beauty, having been awoken after close to a century of slumber. Soon we will have our second hybrid still installed which we named Ella after the Cinderella fairy tale, from the rags-to-riches story of the still.
The still produces 400-500L of high strength new make spirit which we cut and bring down to 78% ABV as it gives the quality of spirit we’re seeking and balances the congeners we want, whereas the traditional Scottish method takes it off the still for filling at 63.5%.
We are laying down stocks daily, averaging about 50 barrels filled each week, with a very long-term view on production and expression finishes.
Q: What barrel types do you use?
A: All of our maturation has taken place on-site in the purpose-built barrel house using ex-wine barrels that have been lovingly restored by hand by the coopers we work with. We use a combination of 225L American and French oak, ex-Shiraz and Cabernet red wine barrels, carefully selected from family-owned wineries in the Barossa and Coonawarra regions.
The Signature Whisky is then finished in a combination of Morris fortified barrels, while the more premium Muscat Barrels Whisky is finished in rare Morris Muscat barrels, some of which have held the world’s most highly awarded fortified wine to create the unique and distinctive Morris Whisky flavour profile. David Morris’ role in Morris Whisky has been identifying and hand-selecting the best Morris fortified wine barrels to perfectly finish the whisky.
Q: You have a cooperage on site, which is very uncommon. What can you share with us about the cooperage and why it's so important?
A: We have a private family-owned cooperage to prepare our barrels ready for filling. All the barrels are hand coopered at the private cooperage in-house in Yenda led by Anton Remkes, to a customised shaving and toasting method for optimal maturation. We primarily use a combination of STR (shave, toast, re-char) preparations as well as our own proprietary specifications.
We have worked with highly regarded whisky experts one being John McDougall, one of the world’s most renowned whisky makers (who now consultants exclusively to Morris in Australia as Master Distiller), and the other being the late Dr Jim Swan who is described as the ‘Einstein of whisky’ for his technical expertise. Both were integral to designing a unique barrel maturation program, including barrel selection and providing the team with a special and unique barrel toasting regime.
The selection of the fortified barrels is also an extremely important part of the process, with the fortified notes extracted from these barrels assisting in building the flavour and complexity in the whisky.
Q: You've only just released your whisky, but it's been a long time coming, how long has Morris been making whisky?
A: Whisky production at Morris first commenced back in 2017. The Signature Whisky has been matured for minimum 3 Years, and then finished in a combination of fortified barrels while the Muscat Barrel Whisky has been matured for minimum 3 Years and then finished for an extra period in Muscat barrels which have held award winning Fortified Muscat wine.
Cheers Darren! (And everyone reading this!)
To grab a bottle of Morris Whisky - click here.