By Richard Thomas
Like Canadians and Americans, Australians trace some of their roots back to the distilling nations of Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The only real reason Australia lacked a well-established whiskey industry was because whiskey distillation was illegal until the 1990s, so the legalization of distillation prompted the founding of Australia’s first distilleries. Since then, the Australian whiskey industry has steadily grown, especially in Tasmania.
For the most part Aussie whiskey-making has followed the school of Scotland into making malt and grain whiskey. Belgrove Distillery is a major exception, not just in Australia, but in international whiskey-making as a whole. This ecologically-minded, farm-to-still company is, to my knowledge, the only distiller outside North America in the business of making an unaged100% rye whiskey.
In the United States, it is common for new, small distilleries to release their white dog as a filler product for the market as they continue to age their other whiskeys. In keeping with its North American-leaning approach, Belgrove has released it’s own new spirit as a white whiskey, creating the truly odd and unique duck of an Australian white rye.
Bottled at 40% abv, Belgrove’s White Rye has the aroma of grainy cereals with a chunk of well-spiced raisin cake added for good measure. For those whose only familiarity with “the clear stuff” is moonshine/corn whiskey, the rye-spice and lack of corn husk in the grain scent will prove a novel twist.
The flavor follows from there: predominately grainy, without smacking of corn, with notes of seasoned pinewood, nutmeg and ginger, and dried dark and red fruits. The finish is a good one for a clear spirit, being smooth, clear, and warm.
At present, Belgrove Distillery’s whiskey is unavailable outside of Australia, but the company is working to change that, and some Australian web vendors are willing to ship internationally. The Belgrove White Rye is pricey for an unaged spirit, running at 99AUD ($88).