Sydney Whisky Fair 2012 at the Oak Barrel

The Sydney Whisky Fair returned for the third year to the Oak Barrel in Sydney. The sold-out event offered visitors over 170 different whiskies, Bourbon, Rum, Cognac and Armagnac to taste in relaxed and convivial surrounds.

Running for three sessions over two consecutive days, VIP ticket holders were treated to an additional hour in which to enjoy a special selection of drams before the main session times.

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Sydney Whisky Fair 2012

With whiskies ranging from Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Japan, America, Wales as well as spirits from France, Guyana, the Caribbean, Norway, Venezuela and Mexico, the Sydney Whisky Fair offered visitors a diverse range of spirits to enjoy and discover and learn about different expressions from the exhibitors.

There were several highlights to this year’s fair including a range of award-winning Japanese whiskies, independent bottlings with expressions not previously available in Australia and a sampling of Jim Murray’s ‘2012 World Whisky of the Year’, the Old Pulteney 21 Year Old. Another highlight was the surprise Haggis Ceremony complete with a bagpiper performed with flair and gusto with a tasting of the dish offered to visitors.

Below is a comprehensive review of some of the spirits on taste. As Gourmantic attends many whisky events, we chose to feature many drams we have not tried before as well as some of the favourites which are shown in bold and blue.


In addition to the extra hour in which to enjoy the fair, VIP ticket holders enjoyed a small selection of special and luxurious whiskies which were not available to other visitors.

Bunnahabhain 25 Year Old Single Malt
Bunnahabhain is a distillery in Islay and this expression is a25 yo lightly-peated single malt. Sweet and slightly floral on the nose, sherried and elegant on the palate, it has a soft and lingering finish.

Dalmore King Alexander III
The Dalmore King Alexander III isaged in 6 different types of oak: French wine barriques, Madeira drums, sherry butts from Jerez, Sicilian Marsala barrels, port pipes from the Douro and bourbon barrels from Kentucky which give different layers to the whisky. Simply stunning. A dram with long length to be savoured

Old RIP Van Winkle Whiskey 10 yo
Dubbed as the “connoisseur’s brand of choice”, Old RIP Van Winkle Whiskey is a handmade Bourbon with a touch of wheat added to give the whiskey a smoother and sweeter flavour. At 107 proof, it needs water to cut through and bring out the flavour of intense fruit and spice. You get the initial heat followed by the sweetness of the whiskey in a long finish.

VIP Tastings
Some of the VIP tastings

Duncan Taylor Teaninich 27 yo Rare Auld
Duncan Taylor & Co is known for its casks of rare auld single malt and single grain scotch whiskies. The Duncan Taylor Teaninich 27 yo is bottled as a single cask, at cask strength of 45.9% ABV. Each bottle has information pertaining to the distillery, with a cask number, cask strength, the date it was bottled and the individual bottle number. A little sweet on the palate with toffee notes and fruit with a creamy mouthfeel and finish.

Old Pulteney 21yo
Declared by Jim Murray of the Whisky Bible as the 2012 World Whisky of the Year, the Old Pulteney 21 yo (46% ABV) is matured in ex-bourbon oak with spirit from ex-sherry wood casks. Light and fruity, with a hint of honey smoothness and vanilla notes.

Glenmorangie 18 yo
After spending 15 years ex Bourbon casks, this whisky is transferred to Oloroso sherry casks for another 3 years of maturation. Complex and fruity, Glenmorangie 18 yo (43% ABV) has raisins, stewed fruit characteristics followed by a spicy finish.

Glenmorangie Signet
Very dark in colour, the Glenmorangie Signet has some of the oldest and rarest of Glenmorangie whiskies. At 46% ABV, it has no age statement but is aged in expensive casks. With hints of coffee, malted barley and a dark chocolate finish, this is a luxury whisky to be enjoyed at the end of the meal.

This concludes the VIP tastings.


Limeburners (Australia)

From Limeburners in Western Australia comes Australia’s first Bourbon, the Tiger Snake Sour Mash Whiskey a whiskey that as awarded a bronze medal at Royal Hobart a year before it was bottled. Made from 60% corn, 30% malt and 10% wheat and rye, the spirit has 43% ABV and is a  small batch distillation with single cask releases. It has a unique flavour with a lingering sweetness and, marzipan at end of the palate. The story behind the name is that the police came by the distillery one night warning them of an unwanted visitor which was a tiger snake hence the name. This is a uniquely Australian product and one of the favourites on taste.

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Tiger Snake Sour Mash Whiskey

Limeburners Barrell M63 054/113 is bottled atcask strength (61% ABV) and meant to be diluted. Matured in bourbon casks and finished in port cask, it has a fruit cake and spice flavour, candied orange and cinnamon quill. Add water and you release the fruity character. A 50/50 dilution is recommended for sensitive palates.

Limeburners Barrel M85 is matured in sherry casks and has a very spicy finish. One for those who enjoy their whisky with a lot of spice and a little burn. Limeburners Whisky Liqueur is a single malt whisky with Karri honey and angelica added. The trees only flower once every 2 years which make it a rare spirit. It is very sweet on the nose, with herbaceous notes and a long lingering honey finish.

Limeburners are currently workingon a single malt that been peated with WA peat, near the Valley of the Giants and a distillate was available for the curious-minded. The raw spirit has 72% ABV and only has the effect of the peat and the whisky hence it is high in esters. The end product will end up as a peated single malt, so keep an eye out on it in the future.

Hellyers Road Distillery (Australia)

Hellyers Road Distillery is the third oldest distillery in Tasmania and Australia’s largest single malt distillery. Owned by a co-op of dairy farmers who decided 12 years ago to produce single malt, the whisky is now 8 years old. They produce 2 peated and non-peated styles, and due to demand they have had to import peated grain but the rest is all Tasmanian. While the current inventory is 3000 barrels, it is still a boutique production on a world scale.

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Stewart Ferguson, Hellyers Road Distillery

Hellyers Road Distillery Original Single Malt is8yo and has 46.2% ABV. Floral on the nose with a clean taste, this is an entry level whisky with citrus and orange peel on the palate that makes it easy drinking. Hellyers Road Distillery Original Single Malt Pinot Noir Finish is the same as the Original but finished in pinot noir barriques for 6 months. Darker in colour, it exhibits more complexity and is a very different whisky with more heat, spice and fruit.

Hellyers Road Distillery Peated Single Malt (46.2%)is light on the nose with the peat but get a hit on the palate. The flavour is full bodied with a combination of apple, citrus and spice. Unlike Islay whiskies, it does not have medicinal properties and lacks the seaweed character. A most enjoyable peated dram with a flavour of its own.

Hellyers Road Distillery Whisky Cream Original Liqueur can be described as Australian’s answer to Baileys Irish Cream. Made from Hellyers Road Original and fresh Tasmanian cream, the liqueur exhibits herbaceous notes with coconut on the finish.

Sullivans Cove (Australia)

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Sullivans Cove Range

Sullivans Cove Double Cask (40% ABV)comes is a Tasmanian single malt whisky that enjoys a combination of an 11 yo French oak cask and an 11 yo American oak cask to give this dram a clean and crisp character with a vanilla-driven aroma with soft spice, fruit and cloves on the palate.

Sullivans Cove American Oak is matured for 11 years on American oak and bottled at 47% ABV. This is a more complex whicky, spicy on front palate with stewed fruit on back palate and comes in limited quantities.

Sullivans Cove French Oak (ABV 47.5%)is aged in French oak port barrels for 12 years which gives it a dark chocolate, fruit cake flavours with a warming finish. This is the favourite of the range.

To learn more about Sullivans Cove whisky, read our interview with Patrick Maguire, Master Distiller and Sullivans Cove Distillery Tour.

NANT Distillery (Australia)

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Nant Distillery

Nant is a Tasmanian Highland Single Malt Whisky produced on theNant Estate which dates back to 1821. Production began in 2006 and they make three different expressions, Nant French Oak Sherry Cask 43%, Nant French Oak Port Cask 43% and Nant American Oak Bourbon Cask Strength 63%, the latter with honey and fruit notes, vanilla and a long finish.

Jura (Scotland)

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Jura range

Jura Boutique Barrels 1995 Bourbon Finish (56.3% ABV) is a vintage single cask bottling with the spirit bottled at full strength without chill-filtration. Creamy toffee, citrus and vanilla on the nose yields ripe fruit and a hint of spice on the palate.

Jura 16 yo Durachs’ Own
Aged for 16 years, this is a subtle malt that has gentle spice. Golden in colour, the whisky is lightly peated with butter notes, oranges, apricots, stewed fruits and a toffee finish.

Jura Prophecy (46% ABV) is the most peated of the Jura range. A mix of sweetness and peat best describe it, with a spicy sea spray and salty notes with a lingering finish. One of the favourites on taste.

Read more about the Jura range.

Scapa (Scotland)

Scapa 16 yo is a single malt from Orkney. Aged for 16 years in American oak, it is un-peated and displays a more mineral taste with sweet toffee, honeyed palate and a smooth finish.

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Laura Hay with Scapa 16yo

Longmorn (Scotland)

Longmorn 16yo  is a Speyside single malt (48% ABV) matured in mostly American oak. A complex spirit that is Sweet, fruity and spicy, with a long dry finish.

Connemara (Ireland)

From Cooley distillery comes Connemara, the only peated Single Malt Irish whiskey. Double-distilled compared to the usual triple distillation of Irish whiskeys, it is aged in ex-Bourbon casks and has a characteristic creamy peat with a sweetness to it. A favourite of the whiskeys on taste.

Greenore (Ireland)

Also from the Cooley distillery, Greenore is a single grain whiskey made with corn and aged in ex-Bourbon casks. Very smooth, sweet and rounded Irish whisky.

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Jared Plummer with Greenore single grain whisky

Bowmore (Scotland)

Bowmore single malts come from Islay. The Bowmore Legend is crafted from a selection of the finest North American bourbon barrels with a smoky peat on the nose and lemon and honey notes with a hint of pepper on the palate.

The Bowmore 12 yo has spent 2 years in sherry casks and has a alight peat character with more prominent dry fruit and citrus. A well-balanced and easy to drink whisky that is not too pungent. Bowmore 18 yo is darker in colour with rich flavours of toffee, ripe fruit and smoky aromas which make it a more complex whisky and one of the favourites on taste.

Auchentoshan (Scotland)

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Nathan Bradbury with Auchentoshan

Auchentoshan Three Wood is triple distilled and matured in ex Bourbon oak before it is finished in Spanish oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. This is a stunning whisky with Christmas cake flavours, dark fruit, butterscotch and roasted hazelnuts – and one of the favourites on taste.

Lark Distillery (Australia)

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Bill Lark with the Single Malt Apple Brandy Finish

Lark Distillery Single Malt Apple Brandy Finish (58% ABV) is an exclusive whisky made for the Oak Barrel. It is a normal cask strength whisky that has been finished with apple brandy. Fruity on the nose and the palate, there is hint of spice, and it is simply a delicious dram.

Read more about Lark whisky in this Masterclass with Bill Lark and about Lark Distillery here.

Overeem / Old Hobart Distillery (Australia)

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Overeem Port Cask Matured Single Malt

Overeem Sherry Matured (43% ABV) is a single malt made from single casks, and aged in ex-sherry French-oak barrel. Aged for 4 years, it is very smooth, easy to drink with spice and fruit on the palate. Overeem Port Matured (43% ABV) is more complex, with fruit and Christmas cake characteristic that come from maturation in ex-port French-oak barrel single casks. The port matured whisky is one of the favourites on taste. Both expressions are also available at 60% ABV.

Read more about Overeem whisky and their recently-awarded medals.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon (USA)

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon takes the regular bourbon and matures it in a second cask that is heavily toasted and lightly charred. Very sweet on the nose, with caramel and toffee, you get raisins and stewed fruit on the palate.

Read more about Woodford Reserve in this masterclass with Stuart Reeves.

Hibiki (Japan)

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Hibiki, Taketsuru, Hakushu

Hibiki 12 yo is a blended whisky made of malt and grain that has been part-matured in plum liqueur casks. This is an elegant, fresh style of whisky with a clean fruity aroma and taste, with pineapple and honey and a soft mellow finish.

Taketsuru Pure Malt (Japan)

Taketsuru Pure Malt (40%ABV) is a pure malt blend of 2 single malts (or vatted whisky) matured for 12 years in Mizunara wood. Very light in aroma, it has vanilla, oak, cherries and apples on the palate.

Hakushu Single Malt (Japan)

Hakushu Single Malt Heavily Peated (48% ABV) is made at a distillery 700m above sea level using decompression distillation. Floral and lightly-peated on the nose, the peat is evident on the palate. A pristine and balanced whisky with a short, dry finish, and one of the favourites on taste.

Lagavulin (Scotland)

Lagavulin 1995 Double Matured takes the regular 16 yo expression and finishes it in Pedro Ximenez. More subdued in flavour than the regular 16 yo, it exhibits dark fruit and peat character on the finish. Another favourite.

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Lagavulin 1995 Double Matured

Caol Ila (Scotland)

Caol Ila Distillers Edition (43% ABV) is a limited release bottling that is finished in muscatel casks. On the nose, it has peated and medicinal character with rich ripe fruit on the palate.

The Antiquary (Scotland)

The Antiquary range is a Premium blend of the finest and rarest old malts and grains, mainly Tomatin malts or malts from Islay.

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Tomatin and The Antiquary range

The Antiquary Finest is very smooth easy drinking with notes of vanilla, citrus and mild smoke with a grain and fruity character on the palate. The Antiquary 12 yo is made from a blend of grains and over 30 malts mostly from Speyside while capturing the characteristics of Islay with a little smoke and a citrus flavour. The Antiquary 21 yo has a blend of different malts with a characteristic smoothness. Lightly peated, with a creamy texture, it has stewed fruit flavours and a little spice on the finish.

The Balvenie (Scotland)

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The Balvenie range

The Balvenie Portwood 21 yo is matured in ex-Bourbon oak which are transferred to port casks that have previously held fine port wines which give it its signature sweetness. For lovers of the Balvenie, this is a more complex whisky with fruity and raisin notes and a creamy character with fruit, honey and spice. One of the favourite drams on taste.

Glenfiddich (Scotland)

Glenfiddich Age of Discovery 19 Year Old (40% ABV) is matured in oak and sherry barrels then finished in Madeira casks. It has a honey bouquet with vanilla and cocoa, vanilla and dried fruit mid palate with a sweet spice finish. This is a very limited range and one of the favourites to look out for.

The Inverarity (Scotland)

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The Inverarity range

The Inverarity 8yo is a vatting of four Islay Malts, each aged not less than 8 years. With a lighter peat on nose than on the palate, the palate has seaweed and salt characteristics with a dry oaky finish. An interesting dram worth a taste.

Bruichladdich (Scotland)

Bruichladdich is an old distillery from Islay and one of the only ones still not connected to a computer. Located at the rim of the plateau of Islay, it gets inundated with rain and therefore has marine elements. It is said that the water changes into the colour of the bottles at certain times of the year.

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Bruichladdich Rocks is an unpeated and refreshingstyle of Islay whisky with apple, spice, brown sugar and vanilla on the palate. Bruichladdich The Laddie Ten (46% ABV) is a 10 yo single malt made from Scottish barley that is slow-fermented for purity. Light on nose but not on the palate, it exhibits mild peat characteristics.

Bruichladdich The Organic is a multi-vintage vatting with clarity of flavours. Sweet on the front palate with citrus and crispness of malted barley, it is clean tasting with grassy notes. Bruichladdich Laddie Classic (46% ABV) is matured in ex-bourbon casks and characteristic of its floral and elegant style. Salt and smoke with marine qualities. Simply stunning. And a favourite.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (Scotland)

From the Scotch Malt Whisky Society comes an impressive range of single malts made from single cask at cask strength sourced from distilleries all over Scotland. These are independent bottlings and each one is unique, making the collection incredibly rare.

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Suzy Tawse, Scotch Malt Whisky Society with 129.2

The bottles bear a number such as 129.2, where 129 refers to the distillery and 2 refers to the cask number. 129.2 comes from Islay and the Kilchoman distillery (61.6% ABV) and is a first fill barrel cask. Also from Islay, 29.112 comes from Laphroaig, dubbed as sweet and smoky (61.3% ABV), a 16 yo aged in in ex bourbon barrels. As the name states, it is sweet and smoky with a smooth finish. One of the favourite drams on taste.

Laphroaig (Scotland)

Laphroaig Triple Wood (48% ABV) is Quarter Cask Laphroaig matured in Makers Mark bourbon casks (200L) then in quarter sherry cask (125L). On the nose, there are hints of sherry, raisins, dry grapes and sultanas, as well as pepper, spice, fruit and peat on the palate.

Read more on Laphroaig in our interview with John Campbell, Master Distiller.

Elements of Islay (Scotland)

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Elements of Islay range

Pe5 is a luxurious favourite from the Port Ellen distillery which closed in 1982. A lot of brown sugar and spice on the nose with a stewed fruit/Christmas cake character on the palate with good smoke and a long lingering finish.

Read more about the full range of Elements of Islay in this masterclass with Ben Baranow.


Around the halfway mark, visitors were treated to the Haggis Ceremony, a special performance that heralds the arrival of the haggis.

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Ben Davidson

The ceremony began with the Haggis being carried into the Oak Barrel’s tasting room, lead by bagpiper, Ben Davidson, and closely followed by another gentleman, James Buntin, carrying special knives. With much flair, Ode To The Haggis, written by Robbie Burns, was recited before the haggis was cut and the customary Scotch whisky imbibed by the men.

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James Buntin

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Cutting the haggis

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The haggis

Visitors were offered a taste which many have followed with a swig of whisky to keep in the spirit of the occasion.


In addition to whiskies and bourbon, a small number of spirits were available to taste. Below are some of the highlights.

La Flibuste Agricole Rhum – comes fromMartinique and is brand new to Australia, this rum is dark in colour, floral on the nose with a strong sweet palate. Simply stunning, and one of the favourites.

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Curtis York with La Flibuste Agricole Rhum

El Dorado 15 yo rum – amolasses style rum made from wooden pot stills, the only one in the world. Voted world best, no 1 rum in the world. Sweet on the nose and the palate. A strong sipping rum.

St Etienne Rum Habitation 2002 Single Malt Finish – a rum that comes from Martiniquewith a single malt finish. Earthy, spicy with a little burn on the finish.

Delord 1985 Bas Armagnac –  Situated, the Delord vineyards are planted to Colombard, Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche vines in Bas-Armagnac. If you enjoy Armagnac, you can’t go past this favourite.

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Delord 1985 Bas Armagnac

Bache Gabrielsen Pineau des Charentes – a decadent style of  Pineau des Charentes aged for 25 years with a marked flavour of dried apricots, nuts, and mature cognac.

King’s Ginger Liqueur – made for King Edward VII as a tonic, has a distinctive smooth ginger flavour with a dry finish. Good in cocktails, it is macerated in grain and lemon oil and finished with single malt.


The following spirits were not tasted at the Sydney Whisky Fair as they were reviewed previously but they are worth the mention as they stand among the favourites. Click on the links for the reviews.

Tomatin, Glenfarclas, Macallan, Highland Park and Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Appleton Estate Rum, Diplomatico Rum, Dalmore Cigar Malt, Midleton Rare.

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Australian Whisky Distillers/Exhibitors – L-R: Bert Cason (Sullivans Cove), Ross Dinsmoor (Lark), Stewart Ferguson (Hellyers Road), Bill Lark (Lark), Cameron Syme (Limeburners), Casey Overeem (Overeem), Graeme Grimshaw (Nant)

The Sydney Whisky Fair 2012 was held on Friday 31 August 2012 and Saturday 1 September 2012 at the Oak Barrel in Sydney.  Gourmantic attended the event on Saturday as media guests.

Photography © by Kevin Burke for Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved.

A photo gallery of the even is available on the Gourmantic Facebook page. Remember to “Like” the page and tag!

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Sydney Whisky Fair

The Oak Barrel

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.