It’s been an exciting six months for Australia’s most famed fortified winemaker Morris of Rutherglen since it launched a range of whiskies matured in its barrels, with the distiller revealing expansion plans for 2022.
Global Marketing Manager Michael Sergeant said Morris Whisky has just expanded distribution into the UK and plans to distribute to the US in February/March. The distillery is also preparing to open a visitors’ centre in Rutherglen and is expecting big Christmas sales for the brand.
“We are seeing accelerated growth in the Australian whisky market, especially for locally produced whisky, with the sales of local whisky more than doubling from 2019 to 2020 according to IWSR,” Sergeant said.
Morris whiskies are housed in barrels that have produced some of the most awarded fortified wines in the world. The whisky is created in regional Victoria at Morris of Rutherglen and crafted with 100% local ingredients and using a carefully restored, original hybrid copper pot and column still that has been on site at the winery since 1941.
Production of the whisky commenced in 2016 in the still, which was previously used to create base spirits for Morris fortified wines. Meticulously restored, it has been named Aurora in recognition of the princess in Sleeping Beauty, who was awoken after close to a century of slumber.
The resulting liquids created by Aurora have seen Morris Signature Whisky win Platinum, while its Muscat Barrel took out Double Gold at the 2021 SIP Awards in the US. The distiller was also recognised at The World Whisky Masters 2021 with Morris Muscat Barrel presented with a Master medal, and Signature being awarded a Gold.
“Since launching in June 2021, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both trade and consumers,” Sergeant said.
“With the Morris family name widely renowned for exceptional fortified wines, and access to some of Australia’s finest barrels for maturation, they have been particularly interested in the history of the brand, the provenance, and the story of how Morris Whisky has been developed.”
Sergeant admits that the pandemic has created a few challenges that Morris wasn’t anticipating when it decided to put its historic still to use. John McDougall, a Master Distiller and one of the world’s most renowned whisky makers (Balvenie, Laphroaig and Springbank), and the late Dr Jim Swan, who was described as the ‘Einstein of whisky’ for his technical expertise, started consulting with Morris back in 2016. Head Distiller Darren Peck worked under the tutelage of McDougall for five years to create a unique Morris Whisky style that speaks to its home in Rutherglen.
Made with Australian barley and pure, filtered water from the Snowy Mountains, Morris Whisky reflects not only the world-class fortified barrels, but also its regional Victorian provenance. The Rutherglen region has a climate of hot summer days and cool nights, that is ideal not only for producing world-class wines but also barrel ageing exquisite fortified and whisky.
“The June lockdown did make for a bit of a slow start but we are extremely pleased with our distribution footprint – you can now find Morris in the best whisky and spirits forward venues nationally,” he said.
“Again, we are receiving tremendously positive feedback to both whisky expressions from a quality and price perspective. Feedback has been that Morris Whisky is redefining the pricing of Australian single malt whisky and making it more widely accessible.
“We appointed Vanguard Luxury Brands as our distribution partner and they have done a tremendous job in driving distribution in stores and venues nationwide,” he said.
As for whether there’s been a favourite among trade and consumers, Sergeant said both Single Malt Signature Whisky and Single Malt Muscat Barrel Whisky have received a positive response; however, the distiller has been pleasantly surprised at
the popularity of the Muscat Barrel.
Australian whisky wins Christmas
As Christmas approaches, Sergeant said indications are that the Muscat Barrel will be a popular choice for gift giving.
“Consumers are choosing to drink more Australian whisky all year round, and we expect Christmas to be no different,” he noted.
“A bottle of Morris Whisky makes a great gift for the whisky lovers in your life, and we think that Australian consumers would agree with us. We hope to see continued growth in the market and an increase in people purchasing our whiskies during the festive season.”
As for how he would suggest people serve Morris at Christmas, he recommends enjoying Morris Muscat Barrel neat or on the rocks.
“This ensures that the unique and distinctive flavour that comes from being finished in highly awarded fortified wine barrels really shines,” he said.
“For a festive cocktail made with Morris Signature, we can’t go past a classic Old Fashioned. It is also delicious enjoyed with a piece of Christmas cake or mince pie.”
When asked what he enjoys about a Rutherglen Christmas, Sergeant can’t help but smile.
“We love Rutherglen with its beautiful vineyards, lakes and rivers and there is nothing quite like it on the sunny summer days,” he said. “Like most Australians, we love to enjoy our beautiful outdoors with friends and family, and of course toast with a delicious glass of Morris Whisky in the afternoon sun.”
As for what’s in store for the brand in 2022, he said Morris has a few ideas to develop the range further, including premium releases.
“Access to the Morris family-owned library of fortified wine barrels, some well over 100 years old, allows us to create some of the most unique whisky finishes, unable to be replicated anywhere else in the world,” he said.
“We are working on plans for greater distribution to an increasing number of international markets, which will overseas consumers to experience the brilliant whiskies we are able to craft in Australia.
“We are also very excited to be working on opening our very own brand home, the Morris Distillery in Rutherglen in 2022. We’re currently working hard on landscaping and developing the new Morris distillery which will be the perfect destination to experience the heart of Morris Australian Single Malt Whisky. More to be revealed soon!”
Morris Signature Whisky has an RRP of $95, while Muscat Barrel Whisky has an RRP of $140. Both are available at morriswhisky.com, Dan Murphy’s, Boozebud and Nicks.
Photography by Martyna Angell – @wholesomecook.