You’ve probably seen him at events like Hobart’s Wooden Boat Festival. He’s the man who makes those amazing sand sculptures.
He is also the man who so beautifully restored the old water mill at Nant in Bothwell. And, until the drought hit, he used to grow and sell about two million strawberry runners to all parts of Australia each year.
He also collects waste cooking oil from a few cafes, puts it through a home-made Heath-Robinson set-up and turns it into bio-diesel to run all his farm vehicles, home central heating and hot water.
Most recently, he built himself a 500-litre copper pot still and has become Tasmania’s and, as far as I can tell, Australia’s first producer of rye whisky using the only home-made, bio-diesel-powered still in the country.
You could say Peter Bignell is a most talented and versatile man. And his rye whisky is, for me at least, a knockout.
When he was 15, Peter brought a particular variety of rye from the mainland and grew it to feed sheep and cattle at the family’s Thorpe property at Bothwell. It is the same rye he is growing 40 years later for his whisky on his Belgrove property at Kempton.
The process he uses is much the same as that by which whisky and other distillates are made the world over. Put simply, part of the rye grain is malted (germinated), then mixed with milled rye to form a mash, which is steeped in hot water to convert the soluble grain starches to sugars. The liquid is then drained, fermented and distilled with, in this case, the residual dried mash going to fatten some lucky Berkshire pigs.