Tasmanian distillery Sullivan’s Cove has been named the world’s best single malt whisky at the World Whiskies Award held on Thursday night in London.
Sullivan’s Cove’s French Oak Cask variety was judged the global winner, as well as Australia’s best, from a high-quality pool of single malt entries. They included Scotland’s Bunnahabain, Aberfeldy, Glenkinchie and Glenlivet distilleries, as well as Japanese powerhouse Yamazaki.
The World Whiskies Award is considered the most prestigious in the world for whisky producers and the manager and part-owner of Sullivan’s Cove, Patrick Maguire, said it would put Australia and Tasmania firmly on the world whisky map.
“It’s the big one, there are a few big ones in the world such as the Jim Murray Whisky Bible and Liquid Gold awards, but the World Whiskies Award is it, that’s the one everybody wants,” Maguire said.
“We’ve won Australia’s best, Australasia’s best and southern hemisphere’s best in the past but to win the overall best whisky globally is incredible stuff.
“It’ll really put Sullivan’s Cove and Australian whisky on the world map, there’ll be a lot of promotion of this in places like Britain and France, so it will really put us on top of the whisky tree.”
Judges described the French Oak Cask entry as “light, peppery and intriguing”, “a match made in heaven with a smooth buttery feel” and “keeping it simple in a very good way”.
Maguire said tasting the Sullivan’s Cove entry would have been something different for the judges. “I think what the judges are enjoying with us is that we don’t over-process our whiskies and this is something that the bigger distilleries have to do,” he said.
“The process of getting it into the bottle is something we do in a slow, old-fashioned way that retains all the natural flavours, colours and the viscosity of the whisky, and that’s something the judges don’t get the chance to taste all the time.
“With our whiskies, they are that old-fashioned style so that when the judges taste them they do tend to stand out, and that’s why we’ve been consistently winning these awards.
“We’re going to stick to our guns and continue on with the old-fashioned hand-bottling way that we do.”
Tasmania has a cluster of highly-regarded whisky distilleries which, surprisingly, are better known in other parts of the world than in Australia.
“It’s taken Australia a little bit longer to latch onto what we’re doing here with Tasmanian whiskies, not just for Sullivan’s Cove,” Maguire said.
“We’ve been selling into Europe and Canada for the last six or seven years, and Australia’s really only kicked in in the last two years.”
Local appreciation is rapidly catching up. however. “Years ago it was seen as an old man’s drink but our demograpic is changing rapidly, it’s now the 25- to 45-year-old age group and a lot of those are women, as well.”
For whisky aficionados plotting to obtain a bottle of the winning whisky, there is bad news.
The winning whisky was drawn from barrel number 525, and only 516 bottles were created and sent some time ago to retailers, making any examples still on shelves or in personal liquor cupboards rare and valuable.
Sullivan’s Cove itself has only three bottles from batch 525 left, and will be holding onto them until it figures out what to do with them, Maguire said.
“If there’s anybody out there able to run down to the bottle shop and find (Sullivan’s Cove) French Oak Cask from barrel 525, get it – quickly,” he advised.