Own your own 20-litre barrel of whisky
Lots of people are into brewing beer without realising whisky distilling might be their next step-up. “Some of the ingredients and the process, up to the wash, are the same,” says Josh Walker who took the leap from home brewer to owner of the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery last year.
As one of only three distilleries in Victoria producing single malt whisky this is an increasingly popular stop-off on the inland route to the 12 Apostles.
The complex, which also features a local produce store and popular restaurant, is in a renovated old goods shed at the terminus of the disused railway line. A visit might include a hearty lunch in front of the open fire or summertime treats such as free tastings of Timboon ice cream under the Bedouin roof.
Dishes feature local ingredients such as Apostle Whey cheeses, Schultz Organics, Western Plains Pork, and Hopkins River Beef. Josh even plans to bring in beef from his 40-hectare property just down the road.
The coffee alone makes the trip worthwhile and the glorious cakes are guilt-free for those renting a bike out the back shed to cycle the old rail trail.
Plans to exercise post-meal, however, might backfire, as it would be hard to leave all things epicurean without tasting the 57% proof whisky that would fuel a rocket never mind a cyclist.
Whisky here is serious business. Josh runs you through tastings with his 600-litre copper version of Scotland’s The McCallan still, proudly gleaming by his side. He’s come along way since his home brewing days including detours to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to learn secrets from artisan distillers.
He uses French oak or American oak barrels that have previously held port so the flavour seeps though. The barrels are recoopered with heavy charring on the staves for that ever-so-slight smokiness.
You can walk out breathing fire with a carefully labelled bottle with Josh’s father unmistakable handwriting numbering each label.
Despite the potency, the result is as smooth as velvet. As Josh says, “No Coke or beer within a 100 metres of this whisky.”
In an innovative move you can almost literally roll out the barrel as you can purchase your very own 20-litre barrel of whisky. It takes two years to mellow in Josh’s local, registered Bond store. A barrel will yield around 48 bottles of smooth single malt whisky saving you around $50 a litre and Josh will also do the bottling for you.
At the cost of $3,900 a barrel it’s more small collectives that make up this option. “There are plenty of corporates investing in it,” Josh says. “One financial firm bought it as a Christmas present for their lucky employees while another group bought it to raffle off.” Other free tastings include Josh’s delectable coffee cream liqueur, strawberry ‘schnapps’, premium vanilla vodka and Limoncello made from real lemons.
The varied options only add to the exciting history of distilling in the region. Above Josh’s still are wall panels charting the incredulous story of local-distiller Tom Delaney in the 1890s. Irish and antiestablishment, the young Delaney, who like Josh was only in his 20s, made moonshine because he was ”agin the government” whilst cheekily labelling the 378 litres he illegally distilled each week with the government stamp.
Not to be mocked, the government sent in a Detective Christie who disguised himself as a tinker, even faking a limp, as he began hobbling door-to-door doing odd jobs. When Delaney’s pregnant wife asked him to mend a worm (the coiled tube connecting to the head of a still), it he knew he was onto a sure thing.
Shots were fired but the distillers escaped. Delaney was at large for three weeks before deciding to give himself up because of his pregnant wife. He expected a hefty fine but instead received 18 months jail time at Geelong’s Barwon prison with a stint at Pentridge as well.
Tom Delaney and Maria went on to have another eight children, so they have plenty of descendants in the region to pass on their knowledge to. One wonders whether a local like Josh might even have inherited a wee drop.
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt
t: 03 5598 3555
a: The Railway Yard, 1 Bailey Street, Timboon, VIC 3268