IN CASE YOU NEEDED another reason to have a drink this weekend, Saturday May 18th is widely recognised as World Whisky Day. Since its foundation 2012, World Whisky Day has fallen on the third Saturday of May and has even been officially recognised by Scotland’s parliament. Look, it’s not a public holiday or anything, but there’s never a bad time to try premium spirits, and some of the best in the world can be found in your own backyard – metaphorically of course, don’t break out the shovel and start digging.

While the Scottish highlands and Kentucky’s bourbon heartlands are known as the capitals of the whisky world, new players have been disrupting the status quo, and they hail from the land down under. Australian whisky, with unique flavours and bold character, has been steadily gaining international acclaim.

Australia’s diverse climate, rich grain production, and pristine water sources provide an ideal foundation for whisky-making. Over the past three decades, pioneering Australian distilleries have crafted spirits that reflect the country’s unique terroir, utilising innovative techniques and local ingredients to create whiskies with distinctive characteristics that are quickly gaining popularity the world over. Here, we run through a few of our favourites.

What are the best Australian whiskies?

Best Australian Whiskies

Dark Lark 2024 Single Malt

Lark is renowned for its artisanal approach and dedication to quality. Just this week they’ve unveiled a new offering just in time for World Whisky Day. Dark Lark 2024 was “crafted under Tasmanian Aurora Australis,” which may not have much impact on taste, but certainly provides an eye-catching bottle design. Layers of mocha, honeycomb, light oak and caramelised pineapple make this intriguing newcomer the ideal World Whisky Day centre piece.

Best Australian Whiskies

Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask

Sullivans Cove, based in Tasmania, is perhaps the most celebrated Australian whisky distillery. Its French Oak Cask expression is a testament to the distillery’s craftsmanship, having won the title of Best Single Malt Whisky in the World at the World Whiskies Awards in 2019. Aged in French oak barrels that previously held Australian fortified wine, this whisky boasts rich, complex flavours with notes of chocolate, dried fruit, and a hint of Christmas spice. The smooth, velvety finish lingers on the palate, making it to perfect accompaniment to a deftly assembled charcuterie board.

Best Australian Whiskies

Starward Nova Signature Single Malt Whisky

One of the few Australian distilleries not based in Tasmania, Melbourne-based distillery Starward is known for its innovative approach to whisky-making. Nova, their flagship single malt, is aged in red wine barrels sourced from local wineries. This maturation process imparts a unique character to the whisky, with vibrant flavours of red berries, chocolate, and soft oak spice.

Best Australian Whiskies

Hellyers Road Dark Harmony No. 2

After Dark Harmony No. 1 was awarded gold at the 2024 World Whiskies Awards, Hellyers Road have lifted their game even further with No. 2. Another Tasmanian distillery, Hellyers Road combines traditional Scottish methods with local Tasmanian ingredients. Their second Dark Harmony expression delivers the balanced flavours of a French patisserie, with notes of strawberry shortcake and raspberry jam combining with milk and dark chocolate.

Lark Distillery Classic Cask

Lark’s Classic Cask expression is the benchmark of all its whiskies. Double distilled and aged in a selection of small casks, Lark Classic boasts several layers of complexity. Notes of toffee, apple crumble and red berries stimulate before being complimented by a smooth plum pudding finish. If you’re looking for the quintessential Australian whisky, this is it.

Best Australian Whiskies

Overeem Port Cask

Overeem Distillery produces small-batch whiskies that are highly sought after by enthusiasts. The Port Cask offering is matured in ex-port barrels, which infuse the whisky with rich, fruity flavours. On the nose, you’ll find aromas of choc-chip cookies, marmalade and clove, while the palate experiences a blend of spicy dried fruits, plum and cocoa.

The Gospel Projects Legacy Rye

We had to throw a rye in here. No best whiskies list would be complete without one. More similar to American bourbon than its Australian brethren, the limited-release Legacy Rye was aged in a heavy toast and high char cask. The result is bold flavours of lemon curd, toffee, marmalade, toasted cedar, fig and honey. The 2024 World Whiskies Awards gave this distillation the award for Best Rye in the Aged 12 Years and Under category, but due to its limited-release nature, it’ll be difficult to get your hands on, so you best hurry.

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