Sullivans Cove whisky has won several coveted international awards catapulting the Tasmanian whisky into the world stage. Yet upon visiting the distillery in Tasmania, nothing can prepares you for the scale of what you’re about to see.
Inside Sullivans Cove
Sullivans Cove Distillery
Standing amongst 700 barrels quietly maturing, with the unassuming still to one side, you breathe in the air depriving those greedy angels from their share, and you soon realise that this small scale operation produces some of the world’s best single malt.
Sullivans Cove Distillery
Sullivans Cove Distillery was established in 1994 at the heart of the Cove and has since moved to Cambridge in Tasmania, a short drive from Hobart Airport. With Master Distiller, Patrick Maguire (whom we interviewed in 2012) at the helm, the distillery produces three expressions Sullivans Cove Double Cask, Sullivans Cove American Oak Cask and Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask.
Distillation at Sullivans Cove
Every 3 to 5 days, 12,000 litres of wash at approximately 7.5% ABV are delivered from Cascade Brewery or Moo Brew. The liquid is pumped through to the copper pot Brandy still that is modelled on the French alembic. The wash is divided by 2500 which is the still’s capacity before the wash run takes place. Distilling takes place seven days a week with the wash run taking up three days.
French Alembic Style Still
The second distillation, or the spirit run takes place along with the falls and feints of the previous run. 12,000 litres at around 7.5% ABV are reduced to approximately 1,100 litres at 63.4% which then go straight into the barrels. The entire process takes five days before the liquid is put into barrels and transferred onto racks.
Sullivans Cove use three types of barrels, French oak barrels with a 300 litre capacity, 200 litre American oak bourbon barrels and port barrels where they are aged for the next 10 to 12 years. The spirit from the barrels is tasted on a monthly basis to choose the ones ready for bottling.
Once the barrels are selected and marked, in the case of single cask or double cask, they decanted into plastic tanks. The larger ones contain the French oak maturation while the smaller tanks are filled with spirit from the American oak cask.
Flocking of Spirit
The whisky is rested and allowed to flock – there is no chill filtration – and this is where the breakdown happens. The ABV is reduced from 63.4% down to 47.5% in slow steps with regular tastings. In the case of French oak and Double Cask, the process takes three months over the summer period and is much faster in winter. American oak takes five to six weeks, but sometimes it does not even flock and you see some fine residue.
Fine Residue, No Chill Filtration
Bottling is a labour intensive process all done by hand. The bottles are individually filled, the cap is placed on top, the label is rolled on, then the caps are sealed and shrunk around the neck. Next comes matching the boxes to the bottles. Once the neck label is put on, bottle is turned to the side and a matching sticker is added, the bottle is polished by hand and put in the corresponding box, which is then boxed into six packs.
Bottling Done by Hand
In case you’re tempted to own a barrel of your own, you can purchase a 20 litre barrel and in 2 years’ time, it gets bottled and sent to you. And if you’re wondering the fate of the award-winning French oak barrel HH525, it has been refilled and re-labelled.
Sullivans Cove Whisky Tasting
Sullivans Cove Whisky
The distillery tour ends at the beautiful Cellar Door with a tasting of the latest releases in the Sullivans Cove Whisky expressions, Sullivans Cove Double Cask, Sullivans Cove American Oak Cask and Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask. Refer to our previous article for tasting notes.
Sullivans Cove Cellar Door
What’s New: Joint Tasmanian Bottling
New Make Spirits
In the tanks shown above, new make spirits from various Tasmanian distilleries are about to come together in a joint Tasmanian bottling. These include the triple distilled single malt from Mackey’s, McHenry’s, Lark, Overeem, Belgrove, Redlands and Sullivans Cove.
20 litres of new make spirit from each distillery will be blended together and each distillery will get back 20 litres of mixed new make spirit to be matured in a barrel of their choice. The whisky will be sold as a collection under the same label but bottled in various distilleries.
Tasmanian whisky enthusiasts can look forward to this joint Tasmanian bottling which will be available in 2 years’ time but can be pre-ordered in the coming months.
What’s Next for Sullivans Cove
According to Bertie Cason, marketing manager, Sullivans Cove whisky is in the next phase of development, and will increase production to 7 days a week, soon to be 24/7. The next step is to get a wash still that can do the wash in one run (3 days) and use the existing still for spirit runs (1 day) which means production could be quadrupled and only run on 5 days a week.
From a product perspective, we can expect more of the same whisky, though each year will see a variation in the proportion of all three expressions.
Sullivans Cove Distillery Tours
Sullivans Cove Sign
Sullivans Cove runs distillery tours ($30 per person) of the facility Mondays to Fridays from 10am to 4pm with tours taking place on the hour. As it is a working distillery, spaces and times may be limited so it is best to call ahead or book online. It is a well worth experience on your next visit to Tasmania.
Gourmantic travelled to Tasmania as guests of Lark Distillery. With thanks to Bertie Cason of Sullivans Cove for his time during our visit.
For more distilleries, visit the Australian Distillery Directory.
Sullivans Cove Distillery
1/10 Lamb Place, Cambridge, Tasmania, 7170
Telephone: +61 (03) 6248 5399
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