Manly Spirits Company – Distillery Review

It’s not the place where you would expect to find Sydney’s first artisan distillery, but in the heart of an industrial estate on Sydney’s northern beaches sits the up and coming Manly Spirits Company.

 

The Manly Spirits Company is located about a 10-15 minute drive from the internationally acclaimed Manly Beach (and now rated Sydney’s number 1 beach by Trip Advisor)

 

A relative newcomer the distillery opened in May 2017 after the company founders, David & Vanessa Witten took inspiration to open their own distillery after visiting some of the fabulous whisky distilleries now operating in Tasmania. What followed on from that was a whirlwind 15 months of intense research at distilleries in the USA, Europe, Scotland and other locations in the UK.

With David’s background in chemical engineering the scientific side of the processes were certainly in good hands. However another ingredient that is necessary for boutique distilleries to succeed is passion for the crafting of the spirits. This is certainly evident in many of the Tasmanian family operated distilleries and David and Vanessa certainly embraced the assistance and guidance they received from many of their Tasmanian counterparts.

Somehow with all this ‘schooling’ going on they still managed to oversee the ordering of their pot stills, barrels and all the various components that go into setting up a manufacturing base. David told me that their major problem was that as the delivery of all these components was nearing they still had not located a suitable site to commence their setting up their operations.

Fortunately a site came up just in time in an industrial estate in Brookvale and the frantic process of assembling their operation commenced. The Manly Spirits Company officially launched operations in May 2017, which if you can believe is only 15 months from when they first formulated this idea on their Tasmanian whisky trip. It is an incredible feat to be able to accomplish this in such a short period of time. However if you consider on top of the distillery operations setup they have been able to open up commercial supply with their gins and vodkas into bars and restaurants and have recently struck a deal to stock these products into one of Australia’s most prestigious liquor retailers on a national basis is a real feather in their cap.

Manly Spirits Local Ingredients

Wall of Local Ingredients

 

The Spirits: Single Malt Whisky – Hand Made Gin – Botanical Vodka

The spirits are distilled in their 2 Holsten copper stills (which are named Bella & Jordan).

The Manly Spirits Company have undertaken to specialize in 3 spirits:

  • Gin – which is distilled with Australian native & foraged botanicals most of which are sustainably sourced from the local northern beaches environment. Some of the ingredients include: sea lettuce, finger limes, sea parsley & beach cast kelp to name a few.
  • Botanical Vodka – using selected Australian wheat
  • Single Malt Whisky (a work in progress as the first batch is slowly maturing in both Pinot & Bourbon barrels)

The spirits are distilled in their 2 Holsten copper stills (which are named Bella & Jordan).

Manly Spirits Co Distillery Tour

Manly Spirits Co Distillery Tour

Events & Functions:

The venue is available to hire for your next event. The warehouse environment mixed with lounges, timber bourbon barrels & the gleaming stills of Bella & Jordan certainly make for a unique party environment. To find out more about their functions follow this link. 

Distillery Tours:

A distillery tour is a great way to gain an insight into the processes involved in crafting artisan spirits. You will be able to touch taste and feel many of the botanical ingredients use to give the spirits their distinctive aromas and flavours. After the tour you will be treated to an in depth tasting experience of spirits carefully selected by the Head Distiller.

Tours of the distillery are available on Friday, Saturday & Sunday but are limited to only 15 people at a time.

To find out more or book a tour click here.

Distillery Tasting Bar:

A distillery tour may not be your thing so maybe you would prefer to lay back in a chesterfield lounge or around a whisky barrel to savoir one of the delicious spirits or cocktails. The bar is open from 4pm on Fridays and from 12pm on Saturday & Sundays.

Share cheese/ charcuterie boards & olive bowls are available.

Recommendation:

If you would like a very different experience then the Manly Spirits Company is definitely worth a visit. It has a unique vibe that is created by the mix of modern industrial and old world whisky barrels & styled pipes running in all directions from the beautiful copper steam stills.

The bar staff have a great working knowledge of the Manly Spirits product range and are very friendly and attentive to your needs. You can also purchase spirits from the bar to take away as a wonderful memory of your visit.

Tasmanian Whisky Distilleries To Visit

If you are reading this article you may be considering a trip to the ‘Apple Isle’ better known as Tasmania, an island state of Australia located, directly south from Melbourne. Even better you may even be thinking about tantalizing your taste buds with some of the world’s finest whiskies that are now distilled on this beautiful island state.

Tasmanian Whisky Distilleries

Tasmanian Whisky Distilleries are now highlighted in the whisky world

Tasmanian whisky has sprung to prominence in recent years after Sullivans Cove Distillery, located about 25 minutes (by car) north-east from the centre of Hobart, took out the prestigious World Whiskies Award for best single malt whisky in 2014. This was an incredible achievement as their whisky was pitted against some of the giants of the whisky world including Alberfeldy, Glenkinchie, Glenlivet, Bunnahabain & the Japanese powerhouse Yamazaki.

 

Since winning this award there has been an explosion of interest by travellers (particularly whisky aficionados) wanting to visit Tasmanian whisky distilleries. Everyone is now realizing that Tasmania’s natural resources and climate match perfectly as a location to distill single malt whisky. Tasmania is blessed with:

  • An abundance of pure soft water
  • fields of rich quality barley
  • Highland quality peat bogs
  • A cool temperate climate which is perfect for barrel maturation
  • The final ingredient to make it all happen is a bevy of entrepreneurs who have a passion for distilling world class single malt whisky

 

So with all the above resources in place a host of quality distilleries are now available to visit. There are many more smaller boutique whisky distilleries that may find on your travels. If you are looking for them speak to other visitors at the distilleries as well as the distillers themselves

 

Distilleries in and around the Greater Hobart Area:

 

Whisky bars in Hobart Tasmania

Hobart waterfront in Tasmania is home to the Lark Cellar Door & Whisky Bar

  • Lark Distillery: Located on the Hobart waterfront, Lark Cellar Door & Whisky Bar was founded in 1992 by Bill Lark . It is a family run distillery including Bill’s wife Lyn and their daughter Kristy who is one of the youngest female head distillers in the world. For more information about this impressive distillery/bar click here on Lark Distillery.
  • Heartwood: Heartwood is not a distillery but an independent bottler who source supply from 7 Tasmanian distillers. Once they agree on a batch they then introduce their own techniques to mature the whiskies anywhere from 8-14 years. With some of their alcohol content reaching up to 72.5% Heartwood whisky is some of the strongest in the world. Although their whisky is very strong there is also an underlying unique flavour that has gained the approval of whisky legend Jim Murray. Maybe worth asking to try some of their well known whiskies such as ‘Release The Beast’ or ‘Velvet Hammer’. Heartwood is located in the heart of Hobart.
  • Trappers Hut: Not a distillery as such but an outstanding whisky that was purchased by investors initially in 2000. So good is this whisky that the investors were talked into starting their own independent label in 2008 which becameTrappers Hut. Trappers Hut specialize in the single cask whisky and source their supply from various Tasmanian distilleries and then mature it in their own 200 litre American Oak casks which were formerly used to mature bourbon. Their whisky can be purchased from Bruny Island House of Whisky. Bruny Island itself is well worth a visit in itself. There is a Bruny Island Day Trip 7 Course Lunch available from Hobart. Find out more here.
Single Malt Whisky From A Tasmanian Whisky Distillery

Tasmanian single malt whisky served in whisky glasses

  • Sullivans Cove Distillery: As mentioned in our opening the Sullivans Cove single malt whiskies is some of the most sort after whisky in the world. Located in Cambridge just 20 minutes drive north east of Hobart where they recently established their new distillery. Not a great deal more needs to be said other than making sure this whisky distillery is a must do. For more information follow this link.
  • Nonesuch Distillery: With its first release of single malt whisky due for release in 2019 people in the tightly knit whisky community are quite excited at the expectations of the latest newcomer to Tasmania’s now flourishing whisky industry. One thing is apparent in all the distilleries we have mentioned and that is the passion and love of their craft that all the distillery owners have for their spirits with Rex Burdon being no exception. The name of Nonesuch as a noun has the meaning (something without equal, a paragon) sums up the small batch distillery. Located at Forcett on the picturesque Rayburn Farm just north of Hobart it is well worth a visit.
  • Dark Valley Distillery: This is a very unique distillery and the reason we say that is because of Alex Moores total consumption and love of all things whisky. The distillery is located in Malbina on the western outskirts of Hobart. The name Dark Valley is derived from the Gaelic name Glen Dhu. The Dark Valley whisky releases are very limited with only 30-40 bottles being released on occasions.
  • Belgrove Distillery: The Belgrove Distillery is a very unique distillery as it is the only distillery that grows and harvests its own grain, malts, ferments, distills and ages the barrels all on the one site. The rye whisky still is the only one in the world currently powered by bio-diesel. Belgrove is located in Kempton just north of Hobart. One of the most revered whisky connoisseurs, Jim Murray has described the Belgrove Rye Whisky as ‘Liquid Gold’. To find out more about this distillery follow this link.
  • Redlands Distillery: Located not far from Belgrove is the Redlands Distillery run by Dean Jackson. Their new home is located at historic Dysart House in Kempton. In 2016 they planted their own barley which is to continue the Redlands tradition of paddock to bottle single malt whisky. You can even purchase your own 20 litre Tasmanian Whisky Barrel. Redlands is renowned for their award winning ‘Water Of Life’ whisky. For more information to visit Redlands Distillery click here.
  • Overeem: Located in Blackmans Bay is the Old Hobart Distillery which is run by Casey & Jane Overeem. More a boutique whisky distillery they specialize in producing hand crafted single malt whiskies. Casey’s interest in whisky dates back to the early 1980’s in Norway where he started to experiment with micro distilleries after a visit to a relative’s house. For more information on the Overeem Distillery click here.
  • William McHenry & Sons: Located only a few minutes from the World Heritage Port Arthur Historic site is the William McHenry & Sons Distillery. It is one of the most picturesque locations you could imagine with stunning views back to Hobart and the surrounding mountain range. Their highly regarded Three Capes Single Malt Whisky is well worth a trip on its own but to make it even more enticing is their McHenry London Dry Gin, McHenry Classic Sloe Gin and to top things off – PUER triple distilled Vodka. To find out more click here.
  • Shene Estate: Located around 28km north of Hobart lies the magnificent Shene Estate & Distillery near the town of Pontville. The sandstone estate was constructed by convicts back in 1819 and is now under heritage listing. It is a working farmed run & owned by David & Anne Kernke. Their head distiller Damian Mackey & his wife Madeleine have been distilling Irish style whisky since 2007. Their first release of Mackey Single Malt Whisky (Cask Two) won a gold medal at the 2016 International Whisky Competition and sold out very quickly. The estate also distills highly awarded Gins as well. This estate is well worth a visit as there is so much more to see and do – click on this link to find out more.
  • Spring Bay Distillery: A bit further north of the Shene Estate nestled on the coast at Spring Beach lies the Spring Bay Distillery. A picturesque seaside location that was only established in 2015 by Cam & Suzy Brett. The distillery is the culmination of a 20year love affair Cam & Suzy have had with single malt whisky. They are now using the distinctive natural resources surrounding their distillery to craft some very unique and distinctive seaside characteristics into their upcoming releases.

Distilleries on the North Tasmanian Coast:

 

  • Fannys Bay Distillery: This artisan distillery located at Tam Oshanter on the windy northern coast of Tasmania was initially a hobby distillery for Mathew & Julie Cooper that blew into full commercial production in 2014 when distilling commenced. The whiskies are currently bedded down in a selection of Port, Sherry, Bourbon and Pinot barrels and maturing into what will be a truly unique northern Tasmanian single malt whisky. Visits to the distillery are by appointment only. This could be a journey well worth taking to be some of the first to imbibe & enjoy this unique whisky from northern Tasmania.
Coastal view from near a Tasmanian Whisky Distillery

Scenic landscape of Tasmanian coastline at Bass Strait near the Hellyers Road Tasmanian whisky distillery

  • Hellyers Road Distillery: Located in the rolling hills outside of Burnie lies the Hellyers Road Distillery that is owned by local dairy farmers that set up the Betta Milk cooperative in 1956. Hellyers Road first spirits began to be released in 1999 but were not sold commercially until 2006. In 2010 Hellyers Road was recognized by the Malt Whisky Association of Australia for producing the finest single malt whisky. Hellyers Road’s whiskies have also been sold internationally and are highly regarded in Europe where it won ‘Best New World Whisky’ in a blind tasting event at Whisky Live in Paris in 2013. Aside from producing excellent single malts Hellyers Road also has some wonderful other products to tempt you including: single malt cream liqueur, whisky ice cream, whisky relish, whisky chocolate fudge. Find out more about Hellyers Road here.

Follow Crawfords World of Whisky where we will commit to a full-scale tour of Tasmania’s famous Whisky Distilleries as well as a bit of adventure with fun things to do & see in Tasmania while on tour.

The History Of Whiskey

History of Whiskey

How The Name Of Whiskey Was Derived:
Since the invention of Whiskey is tied to Scotland, so does its name derive from the ancient languages spoken there. The term Whiskey originates from the Gaelic “uisge beatha” or “usquebaugh” which means “water of life”.

One of the earliest references to the actual word “uiskie” occurs in a funeral account of a Highland laird around 1618. (Whiskey History Retrieved from here)

Earliest records:
The earliest official records that document and prove organized production of the drink are from 1494. A certain Friar John Cor received an order of “eight bolls of malt to make aqua vitae”. This was enough for approximately 1500 bottles of whiskey which indicates mass production was already ongoing for quite some time, it just wasn’t recorded until then.

History of Distillation:
Whiskey is made through distillation of fermented grain. Distillation itself has a long and rich history as well, going back some 2500 years when sailors from ancient Greece boiled seawater to make it drinkable. Around 2100 years ago a similar process was used to filter spirit from wine. The Greeks used a container with a small mouth covered by a bowl. (The History Retrieved from here )  At a later stage, a tube was added along with a container at the bottom to catch the spirit giving us first similar distillation process that we know today. The distillation process was also used in ancient civilizations of the far-east like Mesopotamia originally to make perfumes and aromas. Earliest installments of distilleries throughout Western Europe are tied to Christian Monasteries. At first, the church was against producing distilled spirits but eventually allowed production as monasteries had herbs ready in their gardens which could be used to produce medicine trough the distillation process.

Ingredients:
Whiskey is made from fermented grain mash. Various grains are used for different variations: barley, corn, wheat, and rye. Whiskey is most often aged in wooden casks most frequently made from charred white Oak.

The first commercial distillery:
The first commercial distillery is credited to one Evan Wiliams. It was founded in Louisville on the Kentucky River in 1783. The first officially licensed distillery, however, is the Old Bushmills Distillery. The official license dates back to 1608 and it is the oldest of its kind in the world. (Whiskey History: A timeline of Whiskey Retrieved from: http://www.bottleneckmgmt.com/blog/whiskey-history-timeline/)

Evolution of Whiskey:
Like already mentioned, earliest production of whiskey was tied to Monks. This tradition came to an unexpected end in 1541 when the English King Henry VIII dissolved all monasteries in Scotland. This act actually led to an increase in whiskey production since unemployed monks started producing in their own distilleries across all of Scotland. Even though the dissolvent of monasteries by the king had an involuntary positive effect on whiskey production the crown did have a major negative impact on whiskey at a later stage. In the early 18th century the English crown merged with the Scots and with this merger came a new set of heavy taxation rules on all unlicensed alcohol brewing. This move, however, led to illegal production on a mass scale across all northern England. The production was carried out mostly at night to hide the smoke from the distilleries. The process was nicknamed “Moonshine” a name that remains until today in rural areas of the United States. Heavy taxation lasted for around 150 years. Shortages of Whiskey had major effects on events around the world. During the American Revolution, there was such a shortage of Whiskey that it was often used as currency! After the end of the Civil war, the US government also introduced heavy taxation on the ingredients as well as production and sales. The dissatisfaction was so great that the farmers started the famous Whiskey rebellion! (Origins and History of Whiskey Retrieved from here:  The end of the struggles for the producers of whiskey came in 1823 when the English government introduced a law that legalized production. Whiskey production has suffered only one major blow since and it was during the prohibition in the United States. It lasted for 13 years from 1920-1933. The USA followed a similar pattern to the Scots when they had similar conditions, illegal manufacturing and smuggling were blossoming which led it to becoming a great underground industry. However since 1933 there have been no further obstructions with the production whatsoever.

Technological advancements:
During that troublesome period, there were some positives as well, there were a few technological breakthroughs and lucky breaks for whiskey manufacturers. The invention of the “Continuous still” by Robert Stein, that was later patented by Aeneas Coffey, revolutionized the whiskey industry as it allowed for faster production and whiskey of a markedly higher quality. Scott Andrew Usher perfected his “Blended whiskey” during the second half of the 19th century. Around this time there was another important event that boosted the popularity of the drink. A plague of the pest Phylloxera had a devastating impact on wine production. With a huge shortage of wine, people turned to whiskey as an alternative drink which further enhanced production!

Single malt whiskey:
A single malt whiskey is a special form of production where only one grain is used and thus the name. Most commonly it is produced from just water, barley, and yeast. The barley is malted which means to start the barley seed to sprout by soaking it in water and then interrupting the process with heat. Single malt whiskeys are mostly associated with Scotland and are usually products of one distillery.

Worldwide industry:
Today, whiskey is one of the most popular drinks worldwide and its popularity is increasing with each passing year, thankfully, with no obstacles with production or distribution! Production that originated in Scotland spread across the whole world, biggest producers of the drink are the United States, Canada, Ireland, and Japan. Besides these titans in the industry countries that have notable production are: Australia, South Africa, England, Taiwan, Spain, Sweden and Wales.