I just about managed to squeeze in a short visit to Hangar 17 before catching a flight from nearby (and practically attached) Launceston Airport. An email inquiry followed by quick phone-call to the distillery was all that was needed. I’m very glad it worked out and I got to meet Chris Byrne and Chris Condon who showed me around, gave me an introduction to their distilling philosophy, and shared some of their drams with me.
Hangar 17 started their business in mid 2015, meaning that their first official releases will become available in early 2018 when their first spirit (assuming stemming from 20l casks) will have gone through 2 years of maturation. As implied by the name, Hangar 17 used to be an aircraft repair shed and it is said to be the oldest surviving aviation building in Tasmania.
The former Ansett hangar now hosts the two stills (designed by Peter Bailery together with Chris Condon), the fermentation tanks and the warehouse. Unsuspiciously mixed-in with the whisky one will find Ansett-era artefacts that still tell the story of former aviation glory. It becomes clear that distilling Hangar 17 are set up for growth and expansion. Hangar 17 only use local Tasmanian barley which provides their young spirit with a distinctive note. At this point cask selection is strictly Port, Apera (Australian Sherry) and Bourbon. When I was there, I was able to sample their Sherry and Port Cask expressions, both around 22 months old at that stage. Similar to other Australian distillery start-ups, Hangar 17 also run a (seemingly highly successful) barrel investment program. During my short visit, I could make out a great number of 20l barrels, as well as 100l casks. As many other Tasmanian distillers, Hangar 17 also run a 'private cask' program (and it seems to be quite popular).
Hangar 17 are likely going to ‘go public’ with their first releases in early-mid 2018. I was lucky to get a barrel-sample of both their Port and their Sherry cask expressions. First impressions are very positive and there is lots we can expect from this new Tasmanian distillery.