Launceston Distillery’s Apera and Tawny matured Tasmanian Single Malt Whisky

The Launceston Distillery is based at Launceston Airport’s Hangar 17, which is just a short drive south of Tasmania’s north coast and some world-class vineyards that sit along the Tamar Valley. Launceston – which is Tasmania’s second largest city behind Hobart – has for a long time been a foodie hub, with nearby wineries and farms producing some of Australia’s finest pinot noir and cheese. Now, the Launceston Distillery seems keen to add whisky to that list. 

Hangar 17 of Launceston airport was transformed into Launceston Distillery in 2015, after a long history of being used in Australian aviation since 1933. Tasmanian through and through, the distillery’s wash still and spirit still were manufactured in Hobart by Peter Bailly of Knapp Lewer Engineering and its whisky is made using Tasmanian malted barley and pure river water from the South Esk river. 

The whisky making process at the Launceston Distillery is overseen by its head distiller Chris Condon and his faithful furry mate, Angus. Before Chris and his friends founded Launceston Distillery, he was a brewing team leader at Tasmania’s Boags brewery before becoming the founding distiller at the Nant Distillery.

launceston chris and angus.jpg
Chris and Angus.

Angus is understood to keep a watchful eye on Chris, to ensure he stays true to Scottish whisky making traditions. Following in the footsteps of many Scottish distilleries the distillery uses malted barley to make its single malt and it ages its double distilled  new make spirit in casks that have previously held fortified wine. But, to give its whisky a distinctively Australian and Tasmanian identity, Chris makes use of mostly Australian ingredients in the whisky making process (sorry Angus!). 

Wort made from Tasmanian malted barley is fermented for 7 days before it becomes an alcoholic wash of about 7%abv. The wash is double distilled to produce new make spirit that is 63.4% abv. To give that clear new make spirit colour and more flavour, the spirit is matured in a variety of oak casks including casks that have previously aged Australian fortified wine such as Apera (sherry-style fortified wine made in Australia) and Tawny (port-style fortified wine made in Australia). 

Chris kindly sent me 100ml samples of Launceston Distillery’s Tawny Cask Matured (batch H17:05) and Apera Cask Matured (batch H17:06). 

Launceston Distillery Tawny Cask Matured (batch H17:05)

launceston tawny.jpg

Type: Single malt whisky

Origin: Launceston, Tasmania, Australia 🇦🇺

ABV: 46%

Age: 2.5 years

Price: AU$156

Oak type: French oak, previously held Tawny 

Tasting notes: Nose: Light, sweet and syrupy, the glass smells of liquid raisins and it has  a striking rummy character brimming with sugars. Palate: Easy-drinking with a thin mouth-feel and a straightforward no-nonsense whack of sweet raisiny Tawny, the whisky is youthful and offers fiery cereal rich spirit notes and spices like cinnamon, anise and clove alongside sweet syrupy raisin, toffee and licorice – this whisky has a heavy Tawny flavour which dominates its profile. Finish: The sweet sticky Tawny flavours fade slowly into prune and mushy raisin, as wood tannins make the tongue a bit grippy. 

Launceston Distillery Apera Cask Matured (batch H17:06)

launceston apera.jpg

Type: Single malt whisky

Origin: Launceston, Tasmania, Australia 🇦🇺

ABV: 46%

Age: NAS

Price: AU$156

Oak type: French oak, previously held Apera 

Tasting notes: Nose: Delicate, clean and fruity, with black cherries, dates, raisins/sultana and vanilla. I really love the fruity nose on this whisky – it reminds me of the smell of the little boxes of sultanas I’d snack on when I was a kid. Palate: The mouth-feel is pleasant as the whisky has some oiliness and viscosity, and the Apera’s dying winy character and soft dried fruit flavours are nicely integrated into the malt, as warming spices, sultanas and dates take hold with caramel. Finish: Buttery vanillas soften the spices and drying winy character, with lingering dried fruit from the Apera and hints wood smoke and flashes of cinnamon. 

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