Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

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The Lark Tasting

Tasmania seems like a good place to make whisky. The weather is like Scotland and I’ve hiked through moorland thinking about digging up the soil for the peat smoking process. Fortunately someone – Lark to be specific – already thought the same thing and made it happen. Just off the harbor across from the Tasmanian Museum lies the Lark bar and cellar door.

Walking in after the museum had closed I inspected the bottle price list. For not Scotch, these prices were rather high. For liquor in Tasmania, they weren’t. The bartender was just about to start a tasting when I asked so I pulled up a stool and joined Sebastian as we settled in for an array of fine malt products.

The whisky brandy was less sweet than I’m used to for brandies, having a full palate that was quite okay with me. The start was not great but the middle and finish were solid. Sebastian and I, both Scotch drinkers, were able to talk about the burn, the flavors, and the experience without pretension (at least, I don’t think we were being pretentious) with the woman serving us, also a fan of the such types of drinks.

The next taste, the 43% was fine but not staggering. Something I’d be happy to drink but not quite pay for at the prices listed here. (Then again, I don’t really want to pay the prices for anything in Tasmania.) Then we were given a sample of another bottle of 43% and an explanation. The distillery is small. They do single barrel batches. That doesn’t mean single barrel bottling. Batches. Each barrel worth of grain is roasted. Then brewed. Then casked. Then aged. It i sampled over time. And that barrel, based on taste, is bottled when it is ready, at 43, 46 or 58% (cask strength) based on which is tastes best as. If none are right at 46% no 46% comes out that year.

Batch 2 of 43, which had a different barrel number and distiller signature was more full, less Islay peat but better overall, something I wouldn’t expect myself to say.

The 43 Reserve was even better.

The 58 had a nice burn and when watered a little, the bourbon barrel finishing came across clearly as compared to the straight port casks of the previous tastes. Yes, that was noticeable in how much less sweet it was and a more full taste.

The whisky malt liqueur provided a guessing game on the 16 herbs, aromatics and botanicals included. No one but the distiller has the answer.

We continued to talk on whisky, on tastings, on hiking (the bartender and other taster had met on the Southern Track), on electric shocks (the boyfriend had joined in by this point). Vodka, pepperberry gin, and pepperberry liqueur were all poured. We discussed Falls Fest and local beers and job options at the Lark Bar. A job in Tassie is hard to find. Slinging fine whisky and scotch in a bar I respect in Hobart would be just about my dream job here.

After sampling the cask strength aged in rum barrels (yes it exists, yes it is glorious, and only 14 bottles remain in inventory before at least a 2 year drought) we headed to a local bar to drink local beer with other locals.

Thus far Hobart has been the friendliest city as far as locals opening up and inviting me along. I love it here. This is like Iceland / Reykjavik in many ways and I’m feeling that. Perhaps my journals six months from now, after seeing the rest of the country, will be detailing my new job singing the praises of Lark from behind their bar.

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This entry was posted on January 25, 2012 by in Australia, Tasmania (Hobart) and tagged .

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