Saturday, 8 March 2014


Whisky Discovery
The opportunity arose recently to taste some more 'New World Whisky' from the Australian Limeburners brand

So just who are Limeburners?
Limeburners is produced by Great Southern Distilling Company and can be found in Albany, Western Australia. They're a boutique distillery producing premium quality single malt whisky using time honoured techniques and traditional copper pot stills. Each batch is produced and bottled by hand. By world standards they are a tiny operation, but with a growing local demand there is pressure to increase capacity, and production has been slowly increasing by around 20% per year and now they are in the process of creating a new distillery in Margaret River.

The distillery was founded by Cameron Syme in 2004 merging his love of whisky and his knowledge of business to establish the Great Southern Distilling Company. With roots extending back to Scotland and a history of family distilling, the path seemed a natural one. The distillery is named after Limeburners Creek, which is 10 minutes down the road from their distillery. In the convict days after Albany was first settled, Lime burning kilns were used for making mortar for the buildings. 

Whisky Making
Some of the best barley in the world is produced in South Western Australia, Southern wheat belt barley is the only barley that they use, and it's malted in Perth by Balston Maltings, the only part of the whisky making process they don't undertake. Their standard range of single malts are unpeated, but a limited release peated whisky is made using locally sourced peat.

The process starts with milling the malted barley in the mill and combining this grist with hot water in the Mash Tun before pitching the yeast and transferring the wort to one of their fermenters.

Their water source comes from limestone aquifers near the distillery and used in the initial processing, however when bottling, filtered rain water collected at the distillery is used.
Whisky Discovery
The distillery
They currently have two stills in operation, an 1,800 litre Wash Still and a 580 litre Spirit Still. both traditional whisky copper pot stills and were custom made in Hobart, Tasmania, by Australian Still makers Knapp Lewer. The parameters were selected in order to achieve a particular spirit profile. This decision was made after lengthy research on stills used by the distilleries producing some of their favourite Scottish Single Malts.

Whisky Discovery
580 litre spirit still
The shape of the still is one of the variables that affect the final flavour of whisky and, in line with the preference of many of the great distillers; they are using specially designed small pot stills, loosely based on the design of some of the Scottish legends. The lyne arms slope slightly down which helps to provide a great depth of character in the spirits distilled from these stills. Distillation capacity is currently three runs from each still a week, but no spirit safe is required in Australia.

Master Distiller, Ben Kagi is a local from Albany, joined the company in 2005 and put his refined palate, honed over many years as a winemaker and associate judge in wine shows, to good use. After initially looking after product quality control, he is now the main distiller

Whisky Discovery
Master Distiller Ben Kagi
Each batch of whisky is aged in specially selected barrels to infuse the depth of flavour, colour and aroma that make these whiskies so unique. Using both single and double barrel maturation, with an array of oak casks including Bourbon and old Australian Sherry, Port and Tokay, generally the first stage of maturation is undertaken in ex-bourbon barrels. They come in one piece from Tennessee as 200 litre casks. Once they have matured for two years to be legally called a whisky they are put in finishing casks which are sourced from various suppliers.

Some of their barrels are sixty to eighty years old, and can trace the provenance of some of these barrels to the US bourbon houses in the 1930’s and 1940s. These barrels have then held port or sherry for the next seventy odd years before being selected for maturing Limeburners Single Malt Whisky.

The maturation time ranges anywhere from three to nine years. Due to the climate a fairly fast maturation is possible, the warmer weather allowing the spirit to penetrate the wood taking on the flavours. Their oldest vintage released is from March 2006

We were sent three single cask samples, two from their standard range which are bottled at 43% abv having been brought down from barrel strength by filtered rainwater, and one from their barrel strength releases which are bottled at 61% abv.

Whisky Discovery #704

Limeburners Single Malt Whisky Cask M76 (43% abv)
Australian Single Malt Whisky
No longer available in the UK
My first Limeburners came from Cask rather unflatteringly named 'M76'. Distilled and barrelled on the 3rd of April 2009, initially in American ex-bourbon casks and finished in a very old Australian Port cask before being bottle on the 19th December 2012. Just 299 bottles were released.

So What Did I Think?
Colour: A rich ruddy red-ish hue

Nose: Initially sweet and sugary; barley sugar taking the lead masking most of the other notes to start with. Fresh mint leads the charge through the sweet barley sugar which is followed by some old decaying wood notes. Fruity notes come through by way of sweet toffee apples, stewed plums and red grapes, then later ripe boiled corn notes develop

Taste: This came across quite sweet on the palate, but there was a gentle spiciness too, bit overall it was the sweeter notes that dominate, although the mouth feel is quite dry. Sweet wine notes, sweet candied fruits turning more grainy later, finishing with a dry saccharin sweetness. The following morning the empty glass gave up mint chocolate 'Matchmakers which was a pleasant surprise.

Verdict: This was a little too sweet for me although very easy to drink

Whisky Discovery #705

Limeburners Single Malt Whisky Cask M92 (43% abv)
Australian Single Malt Whisky
No longer available in the UK
Cask M92 was distilled and barrelled on the 21st November 2009 and bottled almost four years later on the 9th October 2013. It was matured in an American Oak sherry cask for the full term. 345 bottles were released bottled at 43% abv

So What Did I Think?
Colour: While still quite dark, it was a shade lighter than M76

Nose: Another sweet nose but with more herbal notes. Waxy furniture polish notes follow with richer stone fruit notes, Victoria plum, perhaps some dark cherry. Putty notes develop later.

Taste: Again sweet but the herbal notes giving an almost heather like flavour. Lots of barely sugars and a touch of spice with wild fennel, sweet aniseed and licorice. The putty notes found on the nose come through towards the end too. The following morning the empty glass smelt of sawdust

Verdict: Another sweet dram and very easy to drink. I preferred this sherry cask matured expression to the Port finished M76

Whisky Discovery #706

Limeburners Single Malt Whisky Cask M61 (61% abv)
Australian Single Malt Whisky
No longer available in the UK
This was the second release from Cask M61 being distilled and barrelled on the 30th September 2008, initially left to mature in American ex bourbon casks, before being finished  in very old Australian port casks  and just 104 bottles were filled at barrel proof of 61% abv on 12th September 2013

So What Did I Think?
Colour: The darkest of the three samples received, almost mahogany

Nose: A candy sweetness with a touch of charcoal char behind it. The charcoal note develops with time, giving an oiliness, though no smoke, and a touch of menthol. There's also some polished hardwood notes, like old mahogany or Chinese rosewood furniture. 

Taste: Leather an polish were the first two words I wrote in my notebook. It's spicy and an odd balloon rubber note too. Earthy forest floor notes follow, woody spices, cinnamon bark, all spice and star anise. Fruits; Black cherry and rich dark plum and chocolate by way of Black forest Gateaux at the end, finishing with aniseed and damp wood. The following morning the empty glass smelt of sawn wood, resinous

Verdict: My favourite of the three, and the rich Black Forest Gateaux notes were lovely, although the balloon rubber was a little odd!

And finally
Whilst not my first Australian single malts registered on the Liquid Log, this is the first comprehensive tasting I have had the pleasure of discovering, but it is the first dedicated blog post on an Australian brand. Limeburners Single Malt Whisky is available at Master of Malt in the UK, but as you can imagine being single cask whisky will not always be in stock. However the appointment of a UK Brand Ambassador Andrew Purslow, certainly shows their intentions of bring this whisky to the UK. Many thanks to Limeburners and Andrew for the samples

Slàinte! Dave

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