Talking Aussie whisky with Simon McGoram

The traditional realms of whisky – Scotland, Ireland and Kentucky – are facing a serious new contender. Australian whisky is on the fast track to steal their crowns and scoring a swag of medals in the process – when the 2021 World Whiskies Awards handed out its Round 1 gongs recently, 42 medals went to Aussie distillers.

So it’s hardly surprising that independent UK bottler That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC) will unveil its first release of Australian whiskies on April 23.

The line-up of eight new expressions is the brand’s first full range of whiskies from Australia. It’s also the first series release from a single country since the company shifted strategy to a quarterly focus last year.

The TBWC Australia Series features whiskies from Black Gate, Belgrove, Tin Shed, Fleurieu, Killara, Riverbourne, Startward and Bakery Hill.  

TBWC is a project by Atom Brands, which also produces Bathtub Gin, Character of Islay Whisky Company and Darkness Whisky.  

Simon McGoram (above), whisky expert and Regional Sales Manager Asia Pacific for Atom Brands, said: “We’ve certainly noticed the rise in interest of Australian whisky globally. Starward is leading the charge I’d say in terms of accessibility and Sullivan’s Cove has a globally recognised status in terms of its quality.

“We have previously done an Australian release back in 2016 with two batches of Tasmania’s Overeem. And other renowned independent bottlers have certainly looked at and bottled Australian releases, but a series of eight distilleries in one hit is an achievement we’re really proud of and cements our reputation as a leading bottler of world whisky – not just Scotch. We’re also honoured that these distilleries choose to work with us – especially considering the small outturns some these distilleries produce.”

But what exactly is That Boutique-y Whisky Company and what makes it stand out from the crowd?

“At Boutique-y Whisky we’re all about liquid qualit-y,” McGoram explained. “We try not to get too tied down in jargon like fill dates, cask types and cask-strength – the most important thing is that we bottle the most delicious-y whisky we can get our hands on. You might also notice that Boutique-y’s bottles are a little different from your regular indie bottlers – each of our bottles is adorned with fun graphic-novel style artwork that tells a story about the distillery or has humorous references, in jokes or just shocking puns. We’ve also bottled whisky from well over 150 distilleries from around the globe including whisky from Taiwan, England, France, Israel, Holland, Germany, India, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, US,  Japan and more!” 

McGoram said that while Australian whisky is piquing interesting globally, it’s always had a special place in locals’ hearts.

“We tend to forget that Australia has a long history of making whisky and that local drops like Corio, which used to be made in Geelong until the late ’80s, were all the rage until tariffs were lowered on imported whisky in the 1960s driving the growth of blended Scotch in particular,” he said.

“The rise of the modern Australian craft whisky scene can of course be traced back to Tasmainia’s Lark Distillery getting its license back in 1992. As Australia’s whisky making capabilities have grown we now have more educated consumers – but Australian producers have often not been able to meet demand or an accessible price point – It’s only natural that the consumer has filled their appetite for quality whisky by buying Scotch.”

Australia becomes top 10 Scotch Whisky market

Australia recently entered the top 10 markets for Scotch Whisky for the first time. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, exports to Australia totalled £113million in 2020. While this was down 3.17% on 2019’s total, exports to Mexico and India fell further, which led them to drop out of the top 10.

McGoram said that Scotch Whisky trends in Australia are similar to what’s being encountered in the UK.

“It’s no secret that heavily sherried whiskies and peated stocks are in increased demand from consumers as they explore the wonderful range of flavours this category can offer,” he said. “At Atom we’ve responded to this by investing more into our stocks of hand-coppered sherry octaves (64l litre casks) for our Darkness Whisky brand and we’ve also invested more into Islay casks for our Character of Islay Whisky Company range. “

As for his personal preference when it comes to whisky appreciation, McGoram said: “I don’t just sip neat whisky – I love a cocktail! For a no-fuss potent potable, I’ll simply go for a highball with Boutique-y’s World Whisky Blend – 45ml in a tall glass with lots of ice, chilled soda (or tonic) and a wedge of grapefruit or lemon. If I’m feeling a little more fancy, I enjoy a Penicillin cocktail – essentially a whisky sour with honey and ginger syrup and some peated scotch – with a float of Aerolite Lyndsay, it’s pretty hard to beat.”

That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s Australia Series will be available to the trade via Proof & Company as well as online and in store through The Oak Barrel, Old Barrel House, Nicks Wine Merchants and other independent retailers.

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