Hobart’s best distilleries
Enjoy a stunning taste of Tasmania with our guide to the best boutique distilleries in and around Hobart.
Shene Estate & Distillery. Photo: Samuel Shelley
The golden nectar
Fancy a dram of Tasmania’s famed whisky? Hobart proudly claims the “Godfather of Australian whisky” Bill Lark, who in 1992 established Tasmania’s first licensed distillery since colonial times. Try the drop that put Tassie on the world whisky map at Lark Distillery Cellar Door beside Constitution Dock, along with Forty Spotted Gin and Quiet Cannon Rum.
Fellow Hobart institution Sullivans Cove made its own whisky waves when their single malt, made using Tasmanian barley, won best whisky at the World Whiskies Awards in 2014. Sip the good stuff, along with their small-batch brandy, at the cellar door near Hobart airport during daily tours and tastings.
It's a gin thing
Hobart is also emerging as a craft-gin hub. "To track down some sensational local gins, you can take yourself on a mini-tasting tour around Hobart’s waterfront,” says Mary McNeill, founder of Gourmania Food Tours. “All within easy walking distance are Institut Polaire on Murray Street, William McHenry on the Brooke Street Pier, and Lark Distillery on Davey Street. These are all very fine drops, from the classic London Dry style through to some creative seasonal releases and luxurious offerings such as saffron, sloe (a distant cousin of the plum) and barrel-aged gins.”
Institut Polaire is the home of Süd Polaire, a dry gin crafted with Antarctic-chilled waters. The small-batch gin is designed with the dry martini in mind, which is precisely what the team can mix for you in their sleek wine bar, or walk you through a gin tasting.
McHenry Distillery crafts its renowned gin, whisky and vodka using natural springs on their stunning Tasman Peninsula property. If Port Arthur is too far, taste McHenry’s wares at Brooke Street Pier or Saturday’s Salamanca Market. Try the Federation Gin – featuring botanicals from every Aussie state and territory.
Hellfire Bluff Distillery. Photo: Mitch Osborne
From field to bottle
Tasmania’s “locavore” movement – celebrating produce grown or farmed nearby – extends to its distilleries. Niall Maurici is head bartender at Hobart’s Glass House, and ambassador for the fine apple brandy and spirits of the Charles Oates Distillery in Huon Valley’s Willie Smith’s Apple Shed.
“It is really pleasing to see the Tasmanian tradition of commercial fruit growing intersecting with our relatively new industry of local craft distillation,” Niall says. “All Charles Oates products are orchard-to-bottle spirits also – Tasmanian spirits through and through!”
Pasture-to-bottle comes to life at Hartshorn Distillery. At a farm overlooking D’Entrecasteaux Channel south of Hobart, Ryan Hartshorn transformed whey from the family’s Grandvewe cheeses into the world’s first sheep whey vodka and gin. Taste the subtle, smooth spirits at the cheesery-meets-micro-distillery, or at Brooke Street Pier.
Meanwhile at pioneering farm Hellfire Bluff, aesthetically unfortunate potatoes go into the distillery’s vodka, local lemons appear in limoncello and foraged sloe berries and Tasmanian pepperberries flavour gins. Visit the new cellar door at Marion Bay an hour east of Hobart, or visit the Salamanca Market stall.
Forty Spotted Rare Tasmanian gin. Photo: Julia Smith.
Get outta town
A hop out of Hobart you’ll find some of Tassie’s grandest destination distilleries.
The Kernke family’s distillery has revived the 200-year-old Shene Estate 30-minutes north of Hobart. Swing past the roadside tasting shack on Sundays, or tour the storied property where the award-sweeping Poltergeist Gin and Mackey single-malt whisky is crafted. With luck, you’ll catch the resident Hobart Polo Club training.
Nearby in a stately 19th-century inn, Old Kempton Distillery (formerly Redlands) is a must-visit for aspiring distillers. Sample some small-batch spirits – including a single-malt whisky, apple liqueur and lavender-malt spirit – or invest in a barrel to be aged on the premises. Inspired into a career change by your Tasmanian spirit journey? The distillery school offers a hands-on immersion in the craft.