DiscoverDrinks Adventures - Wine, beer, whisky, gin & more with James Atkinson
Drinks Adventures - Wine, beer, whisky, gin & more with James Atkinson

Drinks Adventures - Wine, beer, whisky, gin & more with James Atkinson

Author: Drinks Adventures

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Love wine or craft beer? Whisky, bourbon, cognac or rum? Or maybe it's gin or vodka or mezcal you're into? The Drinks Adventures podcast covers all these drinks and more: Japanese sake, cider, tequila, champagne, cocktails... we could go on!
Listen in as award-winning drinks writer James Atkinson interviews the world's biggest names in craft brewing, winemaking, distilling and mixology, along with sommeliers, mixologists, sake samurais, masters of wine and certified cicerones.
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In this final edition of the news for Season Ten:Mezcal boom raises ethical issues;A landmark moment for Australian whisky; andNon-alcoholic beer brand Sobah launches crowdfunding campaign.Theme music 'Devotion' by Silverlining. Purchase here.Follow Drinks Adventures at @drinksadventures_au and James Atkinson at @byjamesatkinson on Instagram.
Whisky in Australia has been destined for a shake-up as larger players enter the market with products designed to compete on price with some of the big international whisky brands.But of course, there will always be a place for smaller artisan distillers like Highwayman Whisky, the Byron Bay company that released its first spirit in 2020.Highwayman Whisky was founded by Dan Woolley, a longtime whisky industry professional. Most recently he was ambassador for the Beam Suntory portfolio of brands, which gave him a backstage pass to globally renowned distilleries throughout Scotland, Kentucky and Japan.Dan started to lay down his own spirit in his chosen casks back home in Australia starting in 2016, and the first Highwayman bottlings released last year sold out in minutes.Whisky is a hugely capital intensive spirit to make, so I asked Dan how he went about establishing his own brand despite having very limited resources at his disposal.
Brewing company Fermentum Group – parent company of craft beer heavyweights Stone & Wood – has announced its shock sale to Japanese-owned brewer Lion Australia.You are likely as shocked by this as I was. You know how committed Stone & Wood seemed to their independence back when we met the founders in this 2019 documentary.Soon after the news broke I published an opinion piece that expressed pretty clearly how I felt about their backflip, and the unfortunate knock-on effect for the independence movement:Stone & Wood’s multinational backflip costly for indie beerOn Friday I got hold of co-founder Ross Jurisich to try and make sense of the decision.Theme music 'Devotion' by Silverlining. Purchase here.Follow me on Instagram @drinksadventures_au and @byjamesatkinson.Sign up free of charge for my newsletter here.
Mezcal featured in Season 9 of the podcast when we met Grant Collins, who had recently opened the mezcal-focused bar and restaurant Cartel in Sydney.One of the mezcals I tasted with Grant during that interview was Quiquiriqi.And the more I read about Quiquiriqui, the more I thought it would be a grand idea to invite its London-based founder, Melanie Symonds, onto the show.With no background whatsoever in drinks or hospitality, Melanie's path to being a mezcal brand owner was unconventional, to say the least.She fell in love with the spirit on visiting Mexico in 2011 and returned to London with the pretty half-baked plan – I don’t think Melanie would mind me saying that – of opening a mezcal bar underneath a kebab shop in East London.Soon after came the Quiquiriqui Mezcal brand, which Melanie makes in direct partnership with families who have been producing mezcal traditionally in their communities for generations.But I’ll leave it to Melanie to tell you in her own words how Quiquiriqui came to be.
• Agave spirits potential huge in Australia, says ASX-listed Top Shelf;• Mighty Craft invests heavily in whisky; and• James Squire puts a new spin on zero alcohol beer.Theme music 'Devotion' by Silverlining. Purchase here.Follow Drinks Adventures at @drinksadventures_au and James Atkinson at @byjamesatkinson on Instagram.
In more than 40 years of writing about whisky, Charles Maclean has achieved global recognition and no shortage of accolades for his work.He’s a Master of the Quaich – the highest honour in the Scotch whisky industry – and a member of the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame. In fact, he was also its founding editor.Charles has written 18 books and counting on whisky. His magnum opus, Malt Whisky, was first published in 1997.It’s been translated into nine languages and was the recipient of a prestigious Glenfiddich award, and his 2003 book Scotch Whisky: A Liquid History won the James Beard Award for ‘Best Wine and Spirits Book.’And in June 2021 his services to Scotch whisky were further recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.Charles was appointed as an MBE – a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.So, stay with me this episode as Charles and I discuss some of his career highlights, his love/hate relationship with writing, and what it’s like to taste ultra-aged whiskies retailing at more than $100,000 a bottle.He shares his insights on the age-old debate of blends vs single malts, the resurrection of the legendary Brora and Port Ellen Scotch whisky distilleries, and his opinion on Tasmanian whisky, after visiting in 2019.
- Brewer Stone & Wood enters the burgeoning contemporary beer space;- Victorian winery Seppelt celebrates its 170th anniversary;- Nusa Cana Rum launches a Batavia Arrack; and- Ambitious craft beer venue Urban House of Brews on track for 2022 launch in Sydney.Theme music 'Devotion' by Silverlining. Purchase here.Follow Drinks Adventures at @drinksadventures_au and James Atkinson at @byjamesatkinson on Instagram.
Gin distiller Simon Brooke-Taylor (and yes, he is related to the late Tim Brooke-Taylor from 'The Goodies') founded Hurdle Creek Still in Milawa, North East Victoria, with his partner Wendy Williams in 2014.Hurdle Creek produces gin, genever, liqueurs and aperitifs that champion locally sourced ingredients.And it’s one of a handful of Australian distilleries that produces its own base spirit from scratch, in this case using locally sourced grain.Coming from a brewing background, Simon considers base spirit somewhat similarly to role malt plays in beer.In contrast to some of the distillers we’ve heard from previously on this podcast who say they need a completely neutral base spirit to show off the botanicals in their gin, Simon likes having a base with character that adds layers and texture to the flavour of his gin.He wants to educate drinkers that there is much more to gin than just the dry styles that currently dominate the market.First up though, Simon recounts his path from studying biochemistry and toxicology at university to becoming a master brewer, and the evolution of his distilling hobby into a professional career.
Winemaker Treasury Wine reports strong results;Craft brewer Mountain Culture's beer named among world’s best;Four Pillars Gin launches a single vineyard Bloody Shiraz in collaboration with neighbours Yarra Yering; andMorris Whisky’s John Casella reveals a premium brandy is on the cards.Theme music 'Devotion' by Silverlining. Available to purchase here.Follow Drinks Adventures at @drinksadventures_au and James Atkinson at @byjamesatkinson on Instagram.
Founded by Mona Museum owner David Walsh, Tasmania's Moo Brew continues to branch out from the uncompromising approach that characterised its early years. General manager Lauren Sheppard discusses the evolution.
Wine Australia is now focusing its efforts on other emerging markets in Asia, where Australian wine has a small share of the total wine market. That's according to general manager of marketing, Stuart Barclay, who addressed last week's Wine Export Diversification Webinar. In other news:· Australian winemakers confronting challenges in Japan· Australian craft spirits distributor Nip of Courage launches new wholesale and retail offerings; and· Melbourne’s Brick Lane Brewing creates amburana-aged beerFollow @drinksadventures_au and @byjamesatkinson on Instagram.
Whisky in Australia is highly fragmented, characterised by many small craft distilleries. Launched in 2021, Morris Whisky is one of few distilleries operating at a decent scale.When winemaker John Casella acquired Morris of Rutherglen in 2016, his sole aim was to save an Australian icon from liquidation.But then he saw the original hybrid copper still and the many barrels maturing Morris’s renowned fortified wines and saw an opportunity to make a uniquely Australian single malt whisky.Casella Family Brands set up a dedicated company, Copper and Grain Distilling, and lured Scotch whisky experts John McDougall and Dr. Jim Swan, to advise the business. Darren Peck, formerly of Diageo, was appointed head distiller.From the start, John was determined to compete with foreign imports, by creating the best possible whisky at an accessible price tag.In June 2021, Copper and Grain released two debut whiskies under the Morris label that have been extremely well-received, being awarded gold medals pre-release at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.You’ll hear two interviews within in this episode. The first is with John Casella and Michael Sergeant, who is head of strategy and innovation at Copper & Grain. I spoke separately to head distiller Darren Peck.
Wine, beer, whisky and sake news from Drinks Adventures:Wine's diversity problem,Tasmania whisky innovation,Craft brewer Good Drinks' ASX resultsNew Bentspoke Brewing label; andJapanese sake update.Theme music 'Devotion' by Silverlining. Purchase here.Follow Drinks Adventures at @drinksadventures_au and James Atkinson at @byjamesatkinson on Instagram.
Sommelier Wayne Shennen is a Certified Sommelier and the first New Zealander to achieve certification as an Advanced Sake Professional. Wayne has worked in hospitality in Australia and New Zealand since 2002. And in 2019, Wayne and his Japanese wife, Makie, relocated to Japan to open a sake and wine bar, Rangitoto Tokyo.The venture seemed well timed to capitalise on the Rugby World Cup and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, but Wayne and Makie could never have predicted that ‘other’ global event.Wayne is also the author of the e-book, Demystifying Sake, which you can find on Amazon, and he has worked in sake breweries in Ishikawa, Saga, and Gifu prefectures.On a mission to get more New Zealand and Australian wines into the hands of Japanese wine buffs, Wayne is also passionate about raising sake’s undervalued reputation as the stuff of dodgy Hollywood binges (Tom Cruise has a lot to answer for).I asked him how Japanese sake piqued his interest such that he came to devote his career to the beverage.
Winemaker Samantha Connew launched her own label Stargazer Wines in 2013 by purchasing a parcel of grapes on her credit card.The bootstrapped operation has since grown into one of Tasmania’s most exciting boutique wineries.In 2016, Sam purchased a small riesling and pinot noir vineyard in the Coal River Valley that she has supplemented by planting new clones of pinot noir and chardonnay, along with some more Riesling, and gamay soon to come.In this episode of Drinks Adventures, Sam shares her somewhat unusual path into winemaking that began with a student job in a Christchurch wine bar.Seizing an opportunity to work her first vintage in Oregon, USA, Sam was hooked immediately. Her wine career since has included additional overseas vintages in Italy and Spain, and back in Australia, lengthy stints in McLaren Vale and the Hunter Valley.A highly respected wine judge who has been a panel chair at many regional and capital city wine shows, Sam was appointed Chair of Judges at the Sydney Royal Wine Show in 2014.She was the first female and the youngest judge to achieve that position, but it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.In fact, Sam says her decision to launch Stargazer was due in part to the blatant sexism she’s dealt with throughout her career.First up though, Sam recounts how she transitioned from law student to winemaker.
Wine appreciation has taken hold in the NBA. Basketball writer Baxter Holmes joins us this episode to discuss this surprising trend.Sportswriters don’t generally win a James Beard culinary award. It’s like Lionel Messi winning an Oscar.But that’s exactly what Baxter Holmes has done. In fact, he’s the only sportswriter, thus far, to have achieved this singular honour, for his article about the humble peanut butter & jelly sandwich and its unlikely rise to pre-match secret weapon for the NBA.Baxter is the senior national NBA writer for ESPN, focusing on features, projects and anything else of interest in the world of basketball.Recently, he has found himself becoming increasingly fascinated with what the players do away from the court.In the process, he unearthed a fantastic story about the NBA’s growing obsession with wine.Players, it seems, have moved beyond the usual trappings of wealth – houses, cars, bling etcetera – and are instead turning their attention (and sizeable incomes) to a more unusual pursuit. Wine.Surprisingly, this is not merely a story of bragging rights over who can buy the most expensive bottle.These NBA stars, including LeBron James, have developed a genuine interest in wine. They want to know about it intimately, develop their palates and be able to speak knowledgeably about wine. Some have even taken a giant leap and purchased their own vineyards.So, stay with me on Drinks Adventures as Baxter reveals how he embarked on his investigation into the NBA’s burgeoning wine obsession.
Back in Season One of this podcast I took you to Tasmania for the Huon Valley Mid-Winter Festival, an event quite like anything else I’ve ever attended.Organiser Willie Smith’s Cider recently announced the festival is returning on July 16 & 17, 2021.I figured this would be a great opportunity to re-introduce the documentary we produced on the festival back in 2018 as we have a lot of new listeners who may not have taken the time to go back and listen to every episode from the very beginning.First up though, we meet Willie Smith’s general manager Tim Hodgkinson, who is in the middle of planning the 2021 edition of this exciting event.
Craft beer company Hop Nation Brewing was founded in Footscray, Melbourne in 2014 by winemaking friends Sam Hambour and Duncan Gibson.While the brewery started out making hoppy beers, Sam and Duncan have continued to expand into new and intriguing territories.They have a side label for sour beers, Site Fermentation Project; and they’ve returned to winemaking with an affiliated brand, Site Wine.Hop Nation is also one of many craft breweries to have diversified into alcoholic seltzer, with the creation of another new brand, Ray, in 2020.While in Melbourne for Good Beer Week a few weeks ago I dropped by Hop Nation’s original site in Footscray for a long overdue interview with Sam.Our catch-up turned out to be well-timed, as Hop Nation dominated proceedings at the Australian International Beer Awards the following night.The company picked up a remarkable four trophies including one of the major awards, Champion Medium Australian Brewery, and Best Pilsner for Rattenhund, which you’ll hear me discuss with Sam in this interview.These achievements follow Hop Nation’s recent expansion into a new production brewery in Mornington, which has enabled the company to fine tune its beers.So there was plenty to talk about with Sam, and that’s without even mentioning the 2021 release of The Kalash, their bourbon barrel aged imperial stout that drops on June 3, around the time this episode goes to air.Same as in 2020, there’s a second version of The Kalash coming out this year, which you heard foreshadowed by David Baker of Victoria’s Bakery Hill Distillery, back in Season Three of this podcast.And perhaps you can expect even more barrel-aged beers from Hop Nation, which Sam reveals will soon begin distilling whisky, gin and brandy as the latest additions to its impressive beverage portfolio.
Grant Collins is an award-winning mixologist who has collaborated and consulted with leading bars and hotels across the world.Since 2017 he’s been working with the Kensington Street hospitality precinct in Chippendale, Sydney, where he founded Gin Lane, Blossom Bar and in 2021, a third venue, Cartel.Cartel is a modern Aztec & Latin restaurant with a drinks offering that is heavily focused on agave spirits.You’ve heard a bit about tequila previously on this podcast with none other than Julio Bermejo, the man who invented the Tommy’s Margarita cocktail, back in Season 4.This time, Grant shares with you his recent experience introducing Cartel’s patrons to mezcal, a lesser known relative of tequila.Grant introduced me to some pretty delicious and interesting mezcals during our chat, which I've listed here for interested parties:Quiquriqui ArtisenalQuiquriqui PechugaEl Jorigio TobalaEl Jorigio AroquenaThis interview was originally scheduled for March 2020. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how that panned out.So when we finally caught up over a year later, I asked Grant first up how he’s been coping in recent times, running a hospitality business during a global pandemic.
Australian wine has few companies as revered as Henschke Wines, best known for single vineyard shiraz wines Hill of Grace and Mount Edelstone.Henschke produces these iconic red wines from some of the world's oldest vines at its estate in Eden Valley, South Australia.We're joined this episode by viticulturist Prue Henschke, who has worked with her husband Stephen in the family wine business since 1980.The occasion is the recent launch of the 2016 Henschke single vineyard shirazes, an appropriate juncture to discuss the evolution of these wines under Prue and Stephen's stewardship.Most Australian wine drinkers are likely familiar with the style of Barossa Valley shiraz, but I think Eden Valley is possibly less well understood.I started the episode by asking Prue about the fundamental differences between the wines from these two neighbouring regions.
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