By Andrew Spence, theleadsouthaustralia.com.au
One of Australia’s early craft breweries has grown up to become a premium whisky distillery.
The Steam Exchange brewery in Goolwa, South Australia, has been rebadged Fleurieu Distillery, realising a lifelong dream for head distiller Gareth Andrews.
The distillery, on the edge of the River Murray about and hour’s drive south of Adelaide, released its first single malt whisky just before Christmas and has almost sold out despite its $260 a bottle price tag.
The next release is due in April while a new 36-hectolitre still is expected to be delivered before the end of the year.
While 350 bottles of the first release were pre-sold as whisky bonds before bottling, the remaining 250 bottles are being sold at the cellar door, through the distillery’s website and by the nip at specialty bars such as Hains & Co in Adelaide. Only about 70 bottles remain.
“They’re first-use barrels so they are at their maximum strength and we’ve had them cut down to 100-litre barrels,” Andrews said.
“We are looking at the premium end so we released at 52 per cent.
“The next one will still be port barrel but it will be what I call a medium peat and we are looking to produce that one at full-on cask strength – around 62 per cent straight out the barrel with no watering down.”
The distillery also produces G-Town Gin and still brews beer but both are only sold at the cellar door along with a selection of boutique Langhorne Creek wines.
“We also have whisky sitting in sherry barrels from McWilliams both peated and unpeated but our sherry barrel whiskies won’t be out until next year,” Andrews said.
Andrews began the brewery in 2004 and was one of only three craft breweries in South Australia at the time. The success of the business allowed him to eventually become a distillery, which had been a long-term goal. The businesses focus is now 90 per cent whisky, five per cent gin and five per cent beer.
“As the craft beer game evolved people became really fixated with the IPA style whereas I am a big fan of the more traditional style English ales,” Andrews said.
“We decided that was not the style we were interested in and we wanted to go off and do other things. There comes a point where you have to ask ‘what am I most passionate about’ and focus on that.
“For us down here our passion for whisky has grown and grown and the beer side has become less important – we’ll always have our Steam Exchange brand but it’s in the background now.”
The distillery’s 12-hectolitre still, custom made by Knapp Lewer in Tasmania, is a small version of the still at Islay distillery Caol Ila – one of Andrews’ favourites.
Andrews has engaged Knapp Lewer to make him a larger 36-hectolitre version of the still, which he hopes to have before the end of the year.