A stone-throw away from Redlands’ Dysart house (and right at the bottom of Tasmania’s Southern Midlands) sits the picturesque Shene Estate – since 2016 home to Australia’s only triple-distilled Whisky (Mackey) and some of the best Gins on the continent.
For me as an architect, arriving at Shene estate certainly has a massive appeal due to its particular 19th century design – which – as I was to learn during my stay, is strongly connected to the particularities of early Australian settlement. Only the stables of the homestead were ever finished, yet they still provide a picturesque backdrop to the actual distillery which is - clad in traditional Tasmanian hand-split gumtree shingles - located next to the driveway leading up to the main building.
What first seems like the gatekeeper’s cabin turns out to be the Shene Estate ‘tasting booth/shop’ and in it I found nobody other than Shene’s head distiller Damian Mackey … and what a gate-keeper he is!
Damian not only fills me in with all the details about his time working as a surveyor for Bill Lark, he also gives me details of the Mackey triple distilling process, barrel selection, and whisky aging philosophy. Damian then also takes the time for a brief tour of the distillery. The setup is simply amazing and I don’t recall having ever seen such a well-configured setup with 3 stills (going from a 4500 litre to a 2000 litre and finally a 900 litre one. Knowing how few Mackey bottles ever made it to the market, it surprises me to see several hundred casks of different sizes to grace the bond store at the end of the distillery-shed. Damian explains: Distilling had only started in 2008 (albeit at a different location) with production only ramping up to a larger scale since 2011/12. Mackey Whisky spends a minimum of 5 to 6 years in the barrel (which means that greater number of bottles will start to hit the market by 2018).
So what about the drams? After the tour I tasted the outstanding Poltergeist Gin (both filtered and unfiltered), as well as the Mackey triple distilled Whisky (for which Damian uses Port-casks exclusively for maturation). An absolute stunner with a great nose and multiple layers of sweetness interwoven with fine herbal notes and undertones of bitterness (which perfectly balance out the Port sweetness) from the oak. To my great demise the whisky was not available for purchase at the time of my visit due to very limited stock. In case it become s available, it typically only sells to select bars and via the Shene Estate cellar door (gate-keeper’s cabin). As one would expect, it doesn’t last there long and those who managed to get their hand on any of the first 5 releases are very lucky.
I can’t wait until Mackey will become available in larger quantities in 2018!