It was Burns Night and I was enjoying a drop of Dalwhinnie without ice and water. Carried away by the vapours, my imagination conjured the idea of an article to promote the lesser known distilleries in Tasmania and the wonderful products they are making. Let’s start with William McHenry & Sons Distillery in Port Arthur, the most southern whisky producers in Australia.

William McHenry & Sons Distillery, Port Arthur Tasmanian Whisky
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William McHenry & Sons Distillery

by Roger Findlay

Most readers will be aware of the prominent Tasmanian whiskies: Lark, Sullivans Cove, Nant and Hellyers Road. When I enter Dan Murphy’s I am sub-consciously aware of the Tasmanian product on the left at head height. Sullivans Cove and Helleyers Road sit alongside the best single malts from Scotland. Using the self-discipline of a reformed smoker, I keep walking and look forward to the special occasion when I have an extra dollar or two.


 

Being one of only a few haggis makers in all Australia, I can understand the pride of a small craft distiller. In response to my request for photos and content for my article I have received enough for two articles. Even if you don’t like whisky, I am inviting you to appreciate the skills and dedication of these distillers in crafting truly Tasmanian products that are being recognised and awarded on the international stage.

Bill McHenry: Port Arthur, Tasmania

You can see from the photos that William (Bill) McHenry is just an ordinary bloke but what he and his family are doing in southern Tasmania is quite extraordinary when you consider that most things are produced outside of Australia or have been tempered by health regulations.

William McHenry & Sons Distillery, Port Arthur Tasmanian Whisky
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William McHenry & Sons Distillery, Port Arthur Tasmanian Whisky
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Down in Port Arthur where the gales blow clean air off the sea and the pure rain fills the springs and streams, the conditions are similar to those found in the Highlands of Scotland; just perfect for whisky making.

William McHenry & Sons Distillery, Port Arthur Tasmanian Whisky
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William McHenry & Sons Distillery, Port Arthur Tasmanian Whisky
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With the help of his family, Bill McHenry goes about his business of making not only whisky but vodka and gin also.

William McHenry & Sons Distillery, Port Arthur Tasmanian Whisky
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Crystal Clear Spring Water: Mount Arthur

At this most southerly distillery in Australia, the main ingredients lie right on the doorstep. Good water is the key ingredient and there’s none better than the crystal clear spring water that flows off Mount Arthur directly into the distillery.


 

Temperature and climate assist the slow maturation process and the equipment has to be right too. Bill chose to use a Tasmanian made pot still that has an electrically heated water jacket with precise temperature control for a high quality product.

William McHenry & Sons Distillery, Port Arthur Tasmanian Whisky
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His choice of a Tasmanian-made still was spot on as I know that the still going into a small distillery in Corowa, NSW is also from Tasmania. Good choice (I say)!

William McHenry & Sons: Artisan Distillers

In the craft method of distillation, everything is hand made with the result that every brand and bottling reflects the skill of the artisan distiller. Authenticity, personal attention and love of one’s work puts the Craft Distiller on a pedestal far removed from the one occupied by a distiller of a mass produced product where technology controls the entire process and end result.

William McHenry & Sons Distillery, Port Arthur Tasmanian Whisky
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Next time I’ve got a few bob to spare, I’m going to treat myself to a bottle of Three Capes 10 year old single malt whisky. I’m going to sip it from my best crystal cut glass (the one my father left me) void of ice and water and, when I’ve finished that one, I’m going to have another.

William McHenry & Sons Distillery, Port Arthur Tasmanian Whisky
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Thanks to Bill McHenry for providing the notes on which this article
by Roger Findlay is based and to Peter Jarvis who has kindly
allowed Think Tasmania to use his wonderful, professional photos.

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Map: McHenry & Sons Distillery, Port Arthur