Lark Whisky Masterclass with Bill Lark

Mention the word whisky and you associate the amber spirit with images of Scottish highlands, verdant spaces and rolling hills. Terms like Single Malt, smoky finish and lengthy warmth roll off the tongue.

But little does one relate it to an Australian spirit.

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

Lark Distillery is an Australian whisky producer located in Tasmania. They have been producing Single Malt whisky since 1992.

We’re fortunate to meet Bill Lark for a brief chat before the Lark Whisky Masterclass commences at the Oak Barrel in Sydney.

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

The Oak Barrel Liquor Store is one of Australia’s oldest bottle shops and dates back to 1956. Through the sandstone façade, lies an extensive range of wine, craft beer and spirits.

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak BarrelLark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

The Cellar Room at the rear of the shop is a spacious cave with subdued lighting, wine plaques, vintage bottles and other drink paraphernalia that set the ambience for the tasting.

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

Bill Lark of Lark Distillery

The masterclass begins with a welcome by Simon Clarke of the Oak Barrel and an introductory video which can be viewed here. Lark is the first distillery to be licensed in Tasmania since 1838 and the only one that has its own peat bog in the centre of the Apple Isle, which is also used to smoke their barley.

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

Listening to Bill Lark recount the story of what led him to produce whisky leaves you feeling inspired. While out fly fishing with his father-in-law and enjoying a few nips, he looked around and noticed that they were surrounded by fields of barley, pure water and peat bogs in the Central Tasmanian Highlands. And in an epiphany-like moment, he questioned why anyone isn’t producing whisky.

The reason soon became apparent. The Distillation Act of 1901 ensured that licenses were only available if large quantities were made. With the help of politicians who saw potential in this industry, Bill was successful in getting the law changed in 1992.

Lark Pepperberry Gin

The tasting begins with Lark Pepperberry Gin, a traditional London style gin and one of Lark’s bigger exports. Made with the usual botanicals including juniper, coriander and lemon peel, Lark Gin is also distilled with the native mountain pepper.

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak BarrelLark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

The purpose of the gin starter is to prepare the palate for the whisky tasting. Sipped neat, the gin has a little spice on the nose and a gentle peppery taste. This is a gin I would be keen to try in a Vesper Martini.

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak BarrelLark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

Lark Single Malt Single Cask Whisky 43%

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak BarrelLark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

The first whisky on taste is Lark’s flagship product. At 43%, the Lark Single Malt Single Cask Whisky has a good balance of Franklin barley, floral notes, port barrels with rich plum pudding on the nose and front palate with a little peat smoke on the back palate.

Lark use ale yeast which picks up floral barley notes and get their malt from Cascade Brewery. Copper stills with short fat neck are used in the distillation process to ensure little reflux. Released at 6 years after maturing in 100L casks, this is when the whisky is at its optimum.

Bill explains how adding a little water opens up the floral notes. We add just a few drops and an explosion of flavours follows.

Lark Distiller’s Selection Single Cask Release Whisky 46%

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak BarrelLark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

The second tasting is the 46%Lark Single Malt Single Cask Whisky, delivering less floral notes than the 43%, more malt and a rich plum pudding on the nose. The higher alcohol content is evident, and much like the 43% Single Malt, a few drops of water release the flavours.

Lark Single Malt Cask Strength Whisky 58%

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak BarrelLark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak BarrelLark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

At 58%, the Lark Single Malt Cask Strength Whisky slaps you around with it high alcohol content, rich colour and well-balanced flavours. Again, you can cut it with a little water and you have yourself a good range of flavours. This is my favourite Single Malt on taste, and since I can only drink whisky in small quantities, I prefer it neat.

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

Bill’s passion for his work is evident in the masterclass. He is an enthusiastic speaker, an entertaining raconteur and a man with an affable personality who encourages questions and participation.

Lark Slainté – Malt Whisky Liqueur 37%

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak BarrelLark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

Slainté (pronounced “slon-jay”) is Gaelic for “Good Health” and a malt whisky liqueur created by Lynne Lark, Bill’s wife, from a recipe that is a well-guarded secret. Made in 80L copper stills, it is distilled with botanicals and spices married with 5 year old whisky.

This is a luscious liqueur with sweet aromatic notes that leave a long finish. Although it has honey characteristics, Bill reveals that it has no honey or pepperberry but a little Star Anise. The taste reminded me of a sweeter version of the yellow Chartreuse.

The liqueur a good accompaniment to cheese, particularly blue cheese and it can also be used in affogato. By far, my favourite drop on the night.

Lark Bush Liqueur

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak BarrelLark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

We finish with the Lark Bush Liqueur, one that can be coined an iconic Australian spirit. Also created by Lynne Lark in 1996 using native mountain pepperberry which gives the drink a spicy character, it is not as sweet as the Slainté.

The Bush Liqueur is good on its own, or with crushed ice and fresh lime and is making an appearance in cocktails. The aromatic flavours with citrus highlights also complement King Island cheese. This is a genuine Australian gift that you can take to friends and family abroad.

Food and Whisky Matching

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak BarrelLark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel

Bill takes us on an imaginary culinary journey with food and whisky matching. Admittedly, we haven’t enjoyed such pairings but the concept sounds intriguing enough to try.

For the 43% Single Malt, Bill recommends crispy skin salmon or trout, or any fish with the subtlety of the sea that matches floral notes. For the higher alcohol spirits, venison, Angus beef, roast and haggis are a good match. The sweet whisky liqueurs complement rich chocolate desserts. I ask how the whisky was served during those dinners and they can be cut by a little water if that is one’s preference.

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel
The range of Lark products on taste

Chatting with Bill after the class, we soon learn that talent grows in the family. Aside from his wife Lynne which he acknowledge for her contribution to the whisky liqueurs, his daughter Kristy was head distiller, and his young son Jack was the runner up in Junior Masterchef.

Lark Whisky Masterclass at the Oak Barrel
Simon Clarke (L) of The Oak Barrel and Bill Lark (R) of Lark Distillery in Tasmania

The Lark Whisky Masterclass was an informative and enlightening session conducted in a relaxed setting. As long-term fans of single malt whisky, the Lark story has educated us that if a spirit is made with passion, respect for the ingredients and processes and a little fun, the result is a first-class whisky of which the world is taking note.

Gourmantic attended the Lark Whisky Masterclass on Thursday 10th March 2011 as media guests.

The Oak Barrel
152 Elizabeth Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Lark Distillery
14 Davey Street
Hobart Tasmania 7000


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Lark Whisky Masterclass with Bill Lark was last modified: December 20th, 2016 by Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.


  1. Thanks for this educational post! I’d never heard of Australian whiskey before. Will need to be on the lookout for it from now on.

  2. How fun! A “spacious cave” sounds like the perfect spot for such a venture. I am not a whiskey connoisseur, but I’d like to change that. 🙂

    • Thanks for the fantastic write up!

      Krista, be sure to check out our upcoming whisky events here:

      The Glenfiddich night would be a great introduction to Single Malts!

    • It’s a nice setting that’s for sure! Like you, I wasn’t a fan of whisky but as long as I’ve known Mr G, he’d been an aficionado so naturally I became converted 🙂 Keep an eye out for it when you come back to Australia this year!

  3. I heard of peat bogs in Tasmania some time ago, but never heard of any whiskey produce from it. It’s good to see. I’m very curious about local efforts into this area, especially when I live in a wine-dominated state.

    • I think you’d find a masterclass this this one very enlightening and inspirational. If you get the chance to attend a masterclass with Bill, you’d enjoy all the effort that goes into production.

  4. This sounds really interesting. I am definately going to keep an eye out for this.

    • Thanks Oscar. Please come back and tell us what you think after you’ve tried it. We’d love to people to share their opinions 🙂

  5. They make whisky in Tasmania? Lark Whisky Masterclass rundown from @Gourmantic

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter.

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