Exploring our people, places and produce: Lark Distillery

Bill Lark inside Lark Distillery's barrel room.
Bill Lark inside Lark Distillery's barrel room. Photo: Supplied

Back in 1992, Bill Lark was issued with the first license to distill whisky in Tasmania since 1839 where he began with a 20 litre still and sourced his malted barley from Cascade Brewery in Hobart. Fast forward to 2014 and Lark is generally considered the godfather of the Australian whisky industry.

It's an industry attracting global accolades with Tasmania's Sullivan's Cove recently picking up the top gong at the World Whisky Awards in London.

For Lark, the local industry has really taken off since 2009 with initial demand driven by international markets although Lark says Australians are embracing local single malt whisky like never before.

"The future looks very good for Tasmania. Our water is sensational, our barley is sensational and our climate is perfect for ageing whisky," Lark says.

Lark also has access to a fantastic peat bog in the Tasmanian highlands. It's layers of a deep chocolate coloured mass of decomposing sphagnum moss which when smoked in a kiln with local malted barley imbues Lark's whisky with a delicate smoky note.

Yet it's not just the peat and barley driving the taste of Lark's whiskies, it's the small cask ageing process using 100-litre barrels sourced from Seppeltsfield in South Australia.

Bill Lark coopering at a peat bog in the Tasmanian highlands.
Bill Lark coopering at a peat bog in the Tasmanian highlands. Photo: Supplied

"We're maturing the whisky in old Para (port) barrels. Some of them date back to 1878 and our cooper shaves the red staining away before re-charring the barrels and the century old residual port that has seeped into the wood.

"What you get from the aged whisky is a richness of flavour comprising plum pudding and marzipan and a beautiful middle palate maltiness," Lark says.

Visitors to the Lark Distillery Cellar Door on Hobart's waterfront can discover the flavours for themselves on a quick tour or they can really embrace the Tasmanian whisky experience on a longer tour to watch the production process.

While there are half day tours out to the distillery at Coal River with plenty of sampling thrown in, serious buffs might prefer the one and two day whisky tours.

On the two-day tour, a highlight is being driven up to the peat bog early in the morning to squelch around in the peat while a guide prepares smoked Tasmanian trout over a smoky peat fire matched with Lark's 43 per cent single cask whisky.

The tours offer an opportunity to wander through historic townships, visit other distilleries and lunch at Frogmore Creek Winery to sample seasonal produce and Tasmanian wine.

One of Lark Distillery's copper stills.
One of Lark Distillery's copper stills. Photo: Supplied

"It's a mixed day of whisky, wine and food as well as art and history."

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This content is produced by Good Food in commercial partnership with Tourism Australia.