By Andy Young

A new distillery in the McLaren Vale wine region is confident that access to high quality barley and barrels, as well as the climate, will help the region emerge as a producer of top-shelf whisky.

Former Lark Distillery CEO John Rochfort is the founder and general manager of the McLaren Vale Distillery and he said that access to high-quality local barrels was one of the reasons McLaren Vale was chosen as the site for the distillery.

“We’ve selected some incredible South Australian barrels with amazing history like a 90-year-old Muscat cask that continually held Muscat for the entire period of time, it was the same block of Muscat every single season, and we’ve got our hands on some incredible port barrels as well,” he told The Lead in South Australia.

“A lot of the vineyards are coming forward with their best, award-winning barrels saying ‘we’d love you to have them, please in four or five years when it’s ready can you spare us a bottle’.”

The distillery will begin operating this month with the aim of releasing its first single malt in around two years.

Rochfort added that the distillery’s location in the southern Mount Lofty Ranges overlooking the vale was an “amazing climate” for maturing whisky.

“We get these really crisp, cool nights and then South Australian summer days and then in the afternoon around three or four o’clock we get these really nice cool breezes that bring it right back down so for maturing barrels and really getting the most out of the wood it’s an amazing location,” he said.

The plan is to mature most of the whisky in 100 and 200-litre barrels, but initially the distillery will use some 50-litre barrels to kick start the operation.

“Obviously with the wood to spirit ratios they will mature much faster so I would expect that in two years, two and a half years there to be a first release,” Rochfort said.

“We would like to think it would be a good rich, oily whisky, that’s got a lovely oily mouth feel and is rich with a really good palate feel, that’s the goal.

“Bill Lark in Tasmania really taught me everything I know and I spent a lot of years tasting and assessing Lark whiskies before we made them available for release and everything that we did in Tasmania we’re recreating here with the benefit of a much better ability to select barrels.

“We’ve already been approached by a couple of different countries putting their hands up for our first thousand bottles, which we haven’t even put down yet -demand is incredible at the moment.”

Rochfort added that he was working with separate groups in three other South Australian wine regions – Barossa Valley, Limestone Coast and Clare Valley – who are also looking to start their own whisky distilleries.

The Shout Team

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