Move aside Tassie whisky, a NSW distillery called Amber Lane is snapping up a swag of gold meals around the globe.
Amber Lane has dominated domestic and international tasting competitions in its first year of commercial operations, including recognition as Category winner – Australian Small Batch Single Malt and gold medals at the World Whiskies Awards 2023, and winning Gold and Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Awards 2023.
The Whisky List recently announced it will distribute Amber Lane products throughout Australia and hosted an online tasting with the Yarramalong Valley-based whisky distillery for media and trade.
It was fascinating to hear from Cellar Master Rod Berry during the tasting about the distillery’s rise to fame, which may seem sudden from a consumer perspective, but has actually involved many years of preparation behind the scenes.
Amber Lane has been laying down barrels since 2017, but didn’t release its first bottled whiskies until 2022 because the founders had a focus on ensuring complex and refined flavours in their cask program.
Its whiskies are matured for a minimum of four years, primarily in premium large format 250L+ Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso Sherry casks, sourced from famous Sherry bodegas such as Fernando de Castilla, located in Jerez, Spain.
“Small barrels can produce overly oaked whiskies,” Berry explained. “I love using the big barrels because it gives the liquid a chance to evolve slowly.
“We’ve been quietly producing our whiskies since 2018. Our goal was never to rush to market. Using larger whisky barrels from Spain means the spirit takes several more years to reach maturation ready for bottling, however the extra time our whisky has spent in cask has really allowed the flavours of our new make spirit to strike a refined balance.”
According to The Whisky List founder Oliver Maruda, demand for refined and complex sherry cask matured single malt whiskies is growing rapidly both in Australia and around the world.
“I would even say that Amber Lane’s unique flavour profile and style of whisky is akin to that of traditional sherry cask matured Scotch Whiskies like Macallan, Glenfarclas and GlenDronach,” he said.
When it comes to using bourbon casks, Berry is equally specific in his requirements as he is for his sherry casks.
“We only accept barrels from Heaven Hill and we are really pleased with the results as it provides a wonderful consistency in the whiskies we produce,” he said.
Using traditional Scottish distillery techniques, the team double distil their own whisky using 100% Australian malted
barley in a 3600-litre copper still that is modelled on one from Springbank distillery in Campbeltown, Scotland.
Berry also draws on his extensive research and technical knowledge studying Cognac production in south-western France, utilising Cognac -style maturation and blending techniques in some of their expressions, which have proven to be highly popular.
The combination of their robustly-flavoured premium casks, Scottish distillery techniques and Cognac style maturation process produces a refined, elegant and complex flavour of whisky that Maruda describes as being beyond their years.
Among the whiskies sampled at the online tasting were Amber Lane Silk Road, Sleigh Bells, Noble Lane, Equinox and Liquid Amber.
The majority of the whiskies have a high ABV – Sleigh Bells packs an impressive 58% – but all six drams were surprisingly smooth to sip.
Our pick of the bunch was Noble Lane, which has an ABV of 57%. Drinks Digest agrees with afficionadoes who describe the experience of tasting the whisky as being like “drinking a vanilla cake”. Delicious!
Amber Lane is available for purchase at select retailers and bars across Australia and through The Whisky List’s online platform.