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Mighty Craft is an ASX-listed craft drinks company with investments in several distilling brands that have featured previously on this podcast: Hidden Lake Whisky, 78 Degrees and Seven Seasons Spirits.In this episode, we meet Mighty Craft’s head of distilling operations, George Campbell, who joined the business in mid-2021, bringing with him a strong pedigree from the Scotch whisky industry.George started his whisky career as a Trainee Site Operations Manager for Diageo, which comprised multiple leadership roles at distilleries including Talisker, Cardhu and Mannochmore.Most recently, he spent five years at William Grant and Sons, where he led the operations of the Balvenie and Kininvie distilleries for 18 months before moving to the flagship Glenfiddich Distillery. But whisky was kind of in George’s blood from the very beginning.He’s from Islay, for starters. And his first project for Mighty Craft led him to experience a very different kind of island life, leading the expansion of the Kangaroo Island Spirits distillery and helping establish its whisky program.You’re going to hear all about George’s adventures downunder in this episode, which was produced in partnership with Mighty Craft.Click here to open episode in your podcast player.
Cape Byron Single Malt Whisky is undoubtedly one of the highest profile Australian whisky launches of 2022.This is in no small part due to the involvement of an absolute legend of Scotch whisky, Jim McEwan, previously of the Bowmore, Bruichladdich and Ardnahoe distilleries on Islay.Coming up, you’re going to hear how Jim connected with Australian Eddie Brook, who founded Cape Byron Distillery on his family’s farm in the Byron Bay hinterland in 2016.You might have already come across the Brookie’s Byron Dry Gin that’s been on the market a few years now.And you’re about to be hearing a lot more about its whiskies. Distilled by Eddie with oversight from Jim, the first batch was released in September, and the duo have big plans for their unique expression of Australian single malt.Click here to open episode in your podcast player.
Scarborough Wines was founded by Ian and Merralea Scarborough in the Hunter Valley in 1987.While the Hunter’s regional flagships are clearly semillon and shiraz, Scarborough made its name on chardonnay.Chardonnay is at the fore one again for Scarborough, as the next generation of the family launch a new wine range called Keepers of the Flame.Winemaker Jerome Scarborough and his wife, the renowned viticulturist Liz Riley, are with us this episode of Drinks Adventures.Together with Jerome’s sister, Sally Scarborough – the company’s national sales and marketing manager – they have simultaneously released three chardonnays under the new label from the 2019, 2020 and 2021 vintages.Small parcel releases commanding a price point of $100 a bottle, these wines are a pretty major departure from how the family has done things in the past.The range will showcase distinctive vineyards, different clones, oak treatment, giving the trio freedom to experiment and create something outside of Scarborough house style.I asked Jerome first up how the project was conceived.Click here to open episode in your podcast player.
Earlier this year I had whisky expert Luke McCarthy on the show, to talk about Oz Whisky Review‘s Top Ten Whiskies of the year.Also in that episode, we discussed some exciting news at St Agnes Distillery.We’d both heard that the celebrated producer of fine Australian brandy had some single malt whiskies in the pipeline.Camborne Single Malt Whisky has since been revealed as the brand identity, and the debut releases have quietly been launched on the St Agnes website.There’s four single cask expressions that celebrate the Angove family’s rich heritage in wine and spirits: Brandy Cask, Sherry Cask, Tawny Cask and Shiraz Cask.Stay with me this episode as we meet St Agnes managing director Richard Angove.It’s a brilliant discussion about the latest chapter for St Agnes, a true icon of Australian spirits.Click here to open episode in your podcast player.
It’s been almost exactly three years since Balter Brewing announced its sale to Carlton & United Breweries.What happens after a buyout like this is always a bit of an unknown.But by all accounts, Balter has been going gangbusters under the new regime.Stirling Howland and Scott Hargrave of Balter are with us this episode of Drinks Adventures.You’re going to hear how CUB’s ownership has introduced Balter’s hop-forward beers to some unlikely venues, with surprising results.But we also explore some of the other contributors to its success. Like the ‘measure twice, cut once’ philosophy that underpins its approach to packaged beer.I'll weigh in with some opinions of my own on that topic, too. And Scott tells us why the ‘haze craze’ is not really a craze, but the latest evolution of the India Pale Ale style.And speaking of style evolutions, I get their thoughts on the Aussie Wheat Ale initiative, which we explored a few episodes ago on this podcast with the participating CUB craft breweries.First up, I asked Stirling whether we’d heard correctly in that episode, that Balter’s Currumbin brewery is struggling to keep up with the popularity of its beers.  
You couldn’t find bigger shoes to fill in the Scotch whisky industry than those of Dr Jim Beveridge OBE.Jim retired at the end of 2021 after more than 40 years at Diageo, 20 of which he spent as Master Blender of the world's best-selling Scotch whisky, Johnnie Walker.As previously reported on Drinks Adventures, Jim’s successor is Dr Emma Walker – no relation to Johnnie Walker – who is the first female master blender in the brand’s history.Emma joined Diageo 13 years ago and has worked extensively on Johnnie Walker for the last six years on projects such as the Blue Label Ghost and Rare series and Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker.I’m excited to share this interview with you that I recorded with Emma while she was in Sydney recently.Click here to open episode in your podcast player.
Historic Yarra Valley winery St Huberts has recently had a relaunch.There’s some exciting new wine styles, and a long overdue packaging overhaul.And what was previously a very basic cellar door – in a building affectionately known as ‘the toilet block’ – has been completely redeveloped.St Huberts’ owner Treasury Wine Estates partnered with Ryan Hospitality Group to create its new home comprising a Modern Australian and European-inspired restaurant called Quarters, the Hubert Gallery of Art – which showcases works by Indigenous artists – and of course the revamped St Hubert’s Cellar Door.St Huberts chief winemaker Greg Jarratt joins us on the Drinks Adventures podcast to discuss these exciting changes, and its latest crop of wines including some serious expressions of the regional flagships, pinot noir and chardonnay.There’s also some lesser seen varieties – pinot blanc and pinot meunier ­– and a stellar blanc de noirs sparkling rose from the 2015 vintage.This is a special episode of Drinks Adventures, produced in partnership with St Huberts.I must confess to not knowing a huge amount about the winery’s back story.So first up, I asked Greg for a potted history, and some insight on what makes St Huberts’ wine style unique.Click here to open episode in your podcast player.
Sydney’s Archie Rose Distilling Company has launched an entirely new range of spirits that aims to offer a more accessible alternative to the mainstream brands that dominate the Australian market.Head distiller Dave Withers returns to the Drinks Adventures podcast to tell us about the new Fundamental Spirits offering.It includes True Cut Vodka, Straight Dry Gin and Double Malt Whisky. They’re designed to be a spirits base for your favourite mixed drinks, and they’re priced at between $55 and $85 each for a 700ml bottle.I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that this is pretty sharp pricing for Aussie spirits.This is a special episode of Drinks Adventures, produced in partnership with Archie Rose.First up, Dave explains what inspired the company’s ambitious move to take on the imported products that still account for more than 90 per cent of these spirit categories in Australia.Click here to open episode in your preferred podcast player.
Did you know that India is the largest consumer of whisky in the world?There is a caveat on that though. It’s not all whisky as you know it.Mostly it’s what is known as IMFL, or Indian Made Foreign Liquor.In India, there’s very little regulation about what can be put in a bottle and labelled ‘whisky’, particularly for blended whiskies.IMFL is essentially a neutral spirit tinted with caramel colouring and supplemented with something like two to 40 per cent single malt, depending on the price tag. Unsurprisingly, Indian whisky hasn’t been held in the highest regard.But that’s starting to change, thanks two distilleries in particular: Amrut, and Goa-based Paul John.Launched in 2012, Paul John produces close to 1.2 million litres a year of single malt whisky, which would place it comfortably in Australia’s top five producers in volume terms.Paul John master distiller Michael D’Souza was in Sydney recently. We sat down for this interview about the exciting evolution of Indian whisky.Click here to open episode in your podcast player.
Melburnian Simone Maynard, aka the Sake Mistress, is the fourth Australian to be awarded the prestigious title of Sake Samurai.Just 70 Sake Samurais worldwide have been inducted by the Japan Sake Brewers Association since the program was introduced in 2005.There are no classes or exams. The award is given to people who champion the culture and identity of sake in Japan and global markets.Simone’s passion for Japanese culture grew from an early love of art and anime, but it was another Australian sake samurai, restaurateur Andre Bishop, who ignited her sake journey at his Melbourne venue Nihonshu in the mid-2000s.Before COVID hit, Simone had made sake a full-time job running events and training sessions for consumers and hospitality staff.In a pandemic pivot, she launched Taste With The Toji, a hugely successful series of online events that connected folks in lockdown with brewers overseas.Soon, drinkers were logging in from Australia, Europe, the United States and other parts of Asia to bond with brewers and learn more about sake.She joins us now to share some unique insights on the Japanese sake industry.You’ll also hear about Simone’s own sake preferences, and get a run down on the Australian sake scene, including some of the top quality examples available locally, and where to find them.
Have you had a chance to try an Aussie Wheat Ale yet?It's going to be the hottest new beer style in Australia this summer – that's if Carlton & United Breweries and retailer Endeavour Group have anything to do with it.Five breweries owned by CUB's craft beer division – Fire & Earth Ventures – have created their own version of what an Australian wheat beer could look like.When I say wheat beer, more than likely you're thinking of a Belgian witbier like Hoegaarden, or a German hefeweizen like Weihenstephaner.And that's part of the problem. By and large, Australians have had an uneasy relationship with these European wheat beer styles that owe much of their flavour and aroma to particular yeasts that produce phenolic characters, which can be quite polarising.Aussie Wheat Ale promises to be something different. The parameters are still very broad, but the crux of it is a new beer style celebrating Australian-grown wheat as its core ingredient, and a more neutral yeast that doesn't get in the way of the hop aromas and flavours that we're more accustomed to.This is a special episode of the Drinks Adventures podcast, produced in partnership with Fire & Earth Ventures.We're joined by Fire & Earth's head of marketing, Andy Vance, and Tina Panoutsos, who is CUB's senior manager of beer knowledge. You might remember I interviewed Tina back in season five of the show.You're also going to hear from all five breweries involved in the project: Matilda Bay, Mountain Goat, Pirate Life, Green Beacon and 4 Pines.First up though, I asked Andy how the project was originally conceived.
Fords Gin was founded in 2012 by drinks industry veteran Simon Ford, on the premise of creating the ultimate gin for use in cocktails.Now when I initially heard about that concept, my reaction was, how is that different to other gins already on the market?Aren’t they all designed for mixing?It felt like saying you’ve created the ultimate frankfurt for use in hot dogs.Simon sets me straight this episode as he explains the serious R&D that went into Fords Gin using 150 bartender mates as a consultation panel.Working with 11th-generation distiller Charles Maxwell to balance the botanical recipe, Simon had the bartenders involved in every step, from the liquid to the shape of the bottle.In doing so, they sought to reverse engineer the most practical and versatile cocktail gin in the business.Many of those same bartenders – including King Cocktail himself, the legendary Dale DeGroff – effectively became ambassadors for Fords when they invested their life savings into the company to get it off the ground.Fords Gin was sold to Jack Daniel’s owner Brown-Forman in 2019, but there were plenty of moments where Simon questioned his decision to leave a cushy job at Pernod Ricard for the risky pursuit of spirits entrepreneur.It’s an unglamorous tale of sleeping on couches, indirect budget flights, constantly running out of money and – at one stage – almost losing the business altogether.This is a special episode of Drinks Adventures, created in partnership with Fords Gin.Settle in as we hear about Simon’s exhilarating and exhausting journey, plus his insights on the cocktail renaissance and gin’s crazy evolution over the last decade.Click here to open episode in your podcast player.
Master distiller John McDougall is one of very few people who has made whisky in every one of Scotland’s distilling regions – that’s Campbeltown, Islay, Highland, Speyside and Lowland — for iconic brands like Laphroaig, Balvenie and Springbank.More recently, he’s had a hand in the Australian whisky industry, helping winemaker John Casella set up the production of Morris Whisky in Victoria, which we talked about on the podcast in 2021 with John Casella, Michael Sergeant and Darren Peck of Morris.The Morris project brought John McDougall back to Australia recently and I managed to get some time with him to record this interview about his distinguished 60-year career.This episode coincides with the launch of a third whisky in Morris’s core range, Morris Sherry Cask. I conducted a separate interview with Michael Sergeant about the new product, and I’ve linked to that article from the show notes.We’ll come to Morris a bit later on in this interview, a front-row account of the renaissance of single malt, as seen by one man from literally every corner of Scotland.
2020 was a vintage from hell for Mount Pleasant chief winemaker, Adrian Sparks.On January 7 he made the tough decision not to make any wine from that year’s crop, due to widespread smoke taint.The next day, he found out parent company McWilliam’s was going into administration.Going on three years later, Adrian joins us on the Drinks Adventures podcast with nothing but good news from Mount Pleasant.You heard from the Calabria family last season why they didn’t want to take on Mount Pleasant as part of their acquisition of McWilliam’s Wines.The companies went separate ways after 80 years, and the Hunter Valley winery now has a new lease of life under the ownership of investment group Medich Family Office.The Mediches have gone all in to revitalise the brand, funding a renovation for the cellar door, new viticulture equipment and an optical berry sorter that most winemakers can only dream of. Even the labels have had a revamp, with founder Maurice O’Shea’s family crest back on the bottle. I started by asking Adrian to fill in the gaps since I last reported on Mount Pleasant in my 2020 podcast documentary on The Rise and Fall of McWilliam’s Wines.
Melbourne brewery Mountain Goat sold its first bottle of beer on October 4, 1997, which means the company is currently celebrating its 25th birthday. That first beer was Hightail Ale. And a few years back, when I put together a list of the most formative beers in modern Australian brewing history, it was right at the top of my ten selections. I’ve republished that article on the Drinks Adventures website here. A hell of a lot has changed in the last 25 years since Dave Bonighton and Cam Hines made what was – at the time – a pretty crazy move: Launching full-flavoured craft beers for an Australian public that weren’t really ready for them yet. This is a special episode of the Drinks Adventures podcast, produced in partnership with Mountain Goat. In 2015, the company has acquired by Asahi, which today trades locally as Carlton & United Breweries. Dave and Cam are no longer in the picture so our guest this episode is Alana Rees, head brewer, who is a veteran of the company – she’s been there since before the sale. Much of our discussion surrounds the evolution of craft beer in Australia, and of the product mix at Mountain Goat. Hightail Ale is no longer in its core range, having made way for some beers that are a little more in keeping with current trends. But I asked Alana first up what Goat has planned to mark its 25th anniversary.
Adam Wadewitz joined Shaw + Smith as senior winemaker in 2013, with a strong pedigree that included stints at Seppelt and Best’s Great Western.Coming up to his 10th anniversary, Adam is now a partner and joint CEO, a role he shares with David LeMire, and he’s helped drive Shaw + Smith’s evolution into one of Australia’s most exciting wine companies.Shortly before Adam joined, Shaw + Smith founders Martin Shaw and Michael Hill-Smith purchased one of Tasmania’s top sites for chardonnay and pinot noir, the Tolpuddle Vineyard.And in 2015, the group started The Other Wine Co. as a vehicle for experimenting with some different varieties and wine styles.Shaw + Smith is currently celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Tolpuddle wines, and its expansion into the McLaren Vale region, with the acquisition of an esteemed vineyard in the Blewitt Springs sub-region.They’ve titled it MMAD – that’s M-M-A-D – an acronym of Martin, Michael, Adam and David. It’s planted to grenache, shiraz and chenin, and the debut wines have just hit the market.That’s coming up later in the interview. But given Adam is originally from McLaren Vale, I asked him how he came to spend most of his winemaking career working in cooler climate regions.
Our guest this episode is Trent Fraser, who is heading up the groundbreaking Australian Agave Project for Top Shelf International.When we spoke in early September, Trent was getting ready to unveil the brand identity for the project, which has since been revealed as Act of Treason Australian Agave Spirit.It’s the first agave spirit produced at scale in Australia, and the largest agave spirit project outside Mexico.Top Shelf — the ASX-listed company behind Ned Whisky and Grainshaker Vodka — has planted more than 500,000 blue weber agaves at its Eden Lassie farm in Far North Queensland, with one million to be planted by the end of 2024.It was the project that lured Trent home after 20-plus years in New York, where he worked for LVMH — Moét Hennessy Louis Vuitton — first on Dom Perignon Champagne, and then the Volcan Tequila brand, which he helped build from scratch.So this isn’t Trent’s first rodeo. And coming up, you'll hear why he’s so confident about the prospects for an Australian product that isn’t trying to be tequila or mezcal, but rather our own regional expression of agave, a spirit category that is currently booming worldwide.
You probably know by now that Fever-Tree are big supporters of Drinks Adventures.In fact I can say without any exaggeration that I would not be sitting here talking to you if it hadn’t been for their support over the last few years, so thanks very much to Andy and Caroline at Fever-Tree Australia.Given this relationship I reckon it’s overdue that we get Fever-Tree ambassador Trish Brew on for a short chat about one of their new mixers.And this is a product I’m personally excited about, Fever-Tree Distillers Cola.I do enjoy my dark spirits and it’s surely time we had a cola that was purpose built for mixing with the premium products we’re drinking these days.Fever-Tree Distillers Cola is made up of Caribbean Kola Nuts, Tahitian Limes, and a selection of distilled botanicals and spices, resulting in a deliciously rich and balanced mixer for your favourite dark spirits. With no artificial sweeteners or colours, Distillers Cola allows the ingredients to speak for themselves with top notes of refreshing lime, complex spices and a hint of vanilla to finish.Where leading cola brands use their strong flavour profiles to mask the flavour of spirits, Distillers Cola has been designed to complement and elevate the flavour of whiskies from the finest distilleries around the world. With whisky and cola making up 28 per cent of all mixed drinks, Distillers Cola fits perfectly into the Fever-Tree range to accommodate dark spirits drinkers who want to mix with the best.
China drinks expert Ian Ford previously joined us on Drinks Adventures in June 2020.The plan was to get his insights about the pandemic’s likely impact on the drinks industry, but it turned into a really interesting discussion about wine, spirits and beer consumption trends in China, more generally.This is another update on the dynamic Chinese drinks market, including moves by spirits giants Diageo and Pernod Ricard to establish single malt distilleries there, and the opportunities Ian can see for Australian distillers.First off though, we get Ian’s thoughts on the news that Australian icon Penfolds is set to make wine in China.It’s a bid to circumvent the punitive Chinese tariffs implemented on Australian wine imports in August 2021.I started by asking Ian whether he was surprised at the severity of those tariffs, and the ripple effect for the global wine market.
It’s not every day one of the Blues Brothers serenades you down the phone line.But that’s how things play out in the opening episode of Season 14 of Drinks Adventures, as we head to Ontario, Canada, to talk with actor, musician and comedian Dan Aykroyd.Dan is on the show primarily to talk about vodka, specifically Crystal Head Vodka, the brand he founded in 2008, long before the recent groundswell of Hollywood actors getting into the distilling business.We also get an update on his business interests in Canadian wine, and the challenges of launching the new Ghostbusters film during the pandemic.And I took the opportunity to ask Dan his thoughts on Belushi, the documentary on his late friend and collaborator, John Belushi, released in 2020.
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