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Sunday, 28 June 2015

Limeburners Peated Australian Whisky Review!

Time for something a little different!

Limeburners whisky is produced at the Great Southern Distillery, located in Albany, in the south-western end of the massive state of Western Australia (see map below). Named after a nearby creek & national park, Limeburners single malt Western Australian whisky, to use it's full name, was first released in late 2008, but flies a little under the radar. I've never sampled their wares, so it's about time I review one of their malts. Which one? A peated one, of course!
But first, let's have a look at Limeburners. They were the first to produce whisky in Western Australia, and use locally-produced barley, which is malted (and peated, in this case) in the state capital of Perth, before making it's way to the distillery. They release the finished product in single cask batches, and the range includes a 43% standard release, a cask strength, and a peated release, all matured in a variety of casks. They also do not add caramel colouring, and do not chill filter. Sounds promising...

The Limeburners I'm reviewing here is a sample of batch (cask) M209, which was bottled at 48%, and is described as 'medium peated'. Matured for an un-disclosed period of time (remember the hotter climate equals faster maturation rule, though) in a 200L ex-bourbon American oak cask. So, let's see if curiosity will kill this cat!
Limeburners Peated Single Malt, NAS, batch M209, 48%. Albany, Western Australia.
Matured in a 200L ex-bourbon cask, yield 294 bottles. Medium peated. Non-chill filtered, no added colouring.

(tasted neat & with a dash of water)
Colour: Very pale gold.

Nose: Cola, mixed spice, a hint of grape? Weird. Toasted oats, green apple, sweet malted barley. Fresh. Water brings out a little dough, slightly floral honey & baking spices.

Texture: (neat) Medium weight, slightly oily. Nice. 

Taste: A big hit of spices, a little oaky, light honey, some pastry dough, slightly buttery. Not getting any peat or smoke neat, but a little dry smoke comes in with water. 

Finish: Medium-long, juicy malted barley and dry cereals. A hint of spicy peat, but very subtle. 

Score: 2.5 out of 5.

Notes: Very interesting! I'd like some more peat and smoke though, it's just too subtle for me. I would call this one lightly peated at most, like a Benromach or Springbank level perhaps. This could be partly down to the style of peat as well, as not all peat is created equal. Great quality spirit though, no heat or roughness, nothing has been rushed or pushed through. If you're curious, I found this sample here at Nippy Sweetie, and they've also got a few bottles still available. 

Limeburners have released a heavily peated bottling recently, I'd like to try that one, but it's already difficult to get your hands on. Likewise their cask strength bottlings, which have included some very interesting sherry, port and even brandy cask matured malt.

Australian whisky is certainly a world contender these days. While some Tasmanian whisky has been for quite some time, mainland distilleries are making serious inroads now as well. Starward, from Melbourne, for example, are doing fantastic work at very reasonable prices. I hear good things about Bakery Hill whisky as well, which is near Sydney, and Limeburners is flying the flag for Western Australia. Great stuff, and long may it continue.

On that note though, Australian whisky has one serious kink in it's armour. Tax. Which is to say, the Australian government. Australian distilleries pay a massive amount of tax, far more than the wine and beer industries. Somewhere around $70 AUD per litre of new make spirit, in fact. Which is just insane, and is holding the industry back, in my opinion. Australian distilleries, like all businesses, must cover their costs, pay their taxes, and if possible turn a profit, and to do this they have to charge quite a bit for their product. 

This Limeburners I've just reviewed, for example, retails for around the $210 mark here in it's home country. For an NAS, 48%, young whisky, albeit matured faster thanks to the climate. Let's compare this to, say, Laphroaig Quarter Cask Scotch, which is also NAS, uses quarter (smaller size) casks for quicker maturation, and is bottled at 48%, which retails at $100-110 a bottle. How is the Australian distillery supposed to compete and cover costs? And how do you justify that price difference to your average whisky drinking, and price / value discerning, punter? Not very easily, that's for sure. 

To be clear, I'm referring to the taxes / excise paid by the distillery in it's home country here, not import duty, which is paid by the importer / customer, and generally doesn't impact the exporting distillery itself. Obviously duty still impacts the price on the shelf, though. 

Let's hope the issue get's some more attention, and some changes start to take place, so the industry can grow even stronger.