For those in the know Redlands Distillery has been quietly building up a name for itself as one to watch on the Tasmanian whisky distilling scene from the time it started operations in 2012. Since moving to its current home in Dysart House in Kempton (about 40 minutes out of Hobart) in 2015, the distillery has gone from strength to strength; having recently planted its first barley crop since the move, Redlands is soon to resume its status as Australia's only paddock to bottle single malt whisky distillery. Whisky enthusiasts often lament how difficult it is to lay their hands on Redlands' whisky releases, such is its limited availability that you can only taste and buy them at the cellar door. So we thought, if Mohammed can't get to the mountain, we'll bring the mountain aka the Redlands cellar door to Mohammed! Luckily for us, head distiller Dean Jackson and brand ambassador Robbie Gilligan happened to be doing a rare trip up to Sydney so on a balmy Tuesday evening in October at Kingston Public Bar and Kitchen in Newtown, we hosted a full house of enthuasiasts who were all there to drink, chat and discover the story behind Redlands.
To kick things off, guests were treated to a welcome drink on arrival, a refreshing take on the whisky and soda but this one made with Redlands apple schnapps, topped with ginger ale and garnished with a slice of the very apple that sits in each schnapps jar. Unlike most garnishes and as one member put it, that apple slice would have had enough potent spirit in it to make up a standard drink on its own!
Cocktail in hand, it was time to settle into the Chesterfield couches out the back of the bar and make like we were in the front room of Dysart House. As a surprise, Robbie brought along a sample of Redlands' malt spirit for everyone to try, before we moved on to sample the apple schnapps, the Paddock to Bottle whisky (aged in tokay barrels), the Old Stables whisky and the limited edition XO Brandy, all served up with a side of historical information on the casks and distillery itself as well as some practical tips from Dean on how they decide when the whisky is good enough to bottle. The highlight in the lineup for most was the whiskies, with people being pleasantly surprised to find out the Old Stables was bottled at Redlands from Sullivans Cove stock, more precisely barrel HH545, which is a close sister cask to Sullivans Cove's World Whisky Award winning HH525 barrel. Given the unicorn status of the latter, the Old Stables was a unique opportunity for many to sample a whisky bearing similar characteristics to its sibling world beater (minus the price tag!). Despite the pedigree of the Old Stables and such is the diversity of our palates, some drinkers preferred Redlands' very own paddock to bottle tokay matured whisky which for one member, had more subtle complexity on the palate.
To accompany the tasting, Kingston Public served up platters of cold meats and cheeses, but not just any cheese; bar owner Gigi had specially procured cheeses from Grandvewe in Tasmania, which some readers may recognise as also being home to Hartshorn vodka that was itself featured in our vodka evening some months back. We thought it particularly fitting to feature Tasmanian cheeses as the Redlands cellar door and cafe is a big supporter of local produce, featuring goodies from around the local area where they can.
To finish, we had a sample of the lavender malt, made by infusing Redlands' own new make spirit with lavender grown in their garden - whilst there's a touch of sugar added, it isn't as sickly sweet as some liqueurs and the lavender comes through subtly and not quite as potpourri heavy as one might expect. We normally cap things off with a cocktail but for this one, we decided to do something different and make an edible cocktail. Inspired by a conversation we had on our Tassie visit with our cellar door guide Vanessa who mentioned that a customer had used it to bake lavender scones, we turned our minds to coming up with a cocktail that you could eat and drink at the same time! In this, we also took inspiration from one of our cocktail friends from across the globe, one cocktail Instagrammer by the name of @thefermentedalaskan who had created a cocktail cupcake based on the classic gin cocktail the Aviation.
Putting it all together resulted in the "Taking Tea with Lavinia Grey" - consisting of an Earl Grey and Tasmanian wildflower honey cupcake base, Four Pillars barrel aged gin and Redlands lavender malt frosting topped with a chocolate teacup. Each guest was also presented with a vial containing the Lavinia Grey liquid cocktail, itself a twist on the classic Bees Knees cocktail and made with Four Pillars barrel aged gin, a special SCC blend of 58 Gin (read about how we came up with this gin here), Redlands lavender malt and the same Tasmanian wildflower honey syrup. The cocktail was poured into the chocolate teacup and drunk from it directly before the whole thing could be eaten. We'd like to think that as the cake and cocktail was being consumed, guests were transported to the courtyard of Redlands and could imagine themselves taking tea in the surrounds of the imposing structure of Dysart House!
A special thanks has to go to SCC member May Lawrence, whose baking skills helped the cupcake base come alive, and to Matt Wooler of Dramnation who took many of the photos seen here. And of course, to Kingston Public and not least to both Dean and Robbie from Redlands for making the night what it was!
If you are thinking of visiting the distillery, we can highly recommend it! Read what we thought here