For such an established spirit, Whiskey has earned a somewhat confused reputation in Australia. Sometimes lauded, sometimes reviled, often the product of huge operations in far off, exotic lands. But in a small factory space in East Perth, the good people over at Whipper Snapper Distillery are making strides in both Australian and International whiskey, all the while putting out a beautiful, approachable product and being transparent about their processes all the way. We stopped by Whipper Snapper to talk to distiller Tim Hosken about the logistics of creating a uniquely Australian Whiskey.
Whipper Snapper manage every aspect of production in house, from sourcing grains and corn from around Western Australia, to mashing, distilling and bottling. They hit the market with Crazy Uncle Moonshine, a white grain spirit made of whiskey before it is aged in oak barrels. Tim told us that the decision to release was, foremost, it made sense when intending to make a smooth Whiskey, that the pre-barrelled spirit should be smooth and approachable itself. Beyond this, it helped the young distillery get their name and product out during the two-year period their whiskey would need to sit in barrels. Whipper Snapper were amongst the first Australian distilleries to put out a moonshine, but since Crazy Uncle debuted in 2014 the product has begun appearing in more and more distilleries, both as a versatile cocktail ingredient, and an interesting look into whiskey stripped of the influence of oak barrels.
Their first Whiskey, Upshot, is a divergence from many Australian and international whiskies, more similar in style to American bourbon than to Blended or Single Malt Scotch. The decision to include corn in their mash has resulted in a product which is less familiar, but more robust and better suited to Perth’s climate- which is remarkably different to Scotland’s.
How To Make Whiskey
Making Whiskey looks like a complex process, but breaks down into a series of more digestible processes. The staff at Whipper Snapper are very transparent about their process, and offer tours showing and talking customers through the process.
To make Upshot Whiskey and Crazy Uncle Moonshine, a combination of local grains and corn are crushed up in what is essentially a giant coffee grinder, and then boiled and fermented to create a beer-like Mash. The Mash is run through their still— a copper column still bought second hand from a distillery in America.
As it comes out of the still, the ‘heart’ of the spirit is separated from the ‘heads’ and ‘tails’: the less palatable spirit which runs at the start and then toward the end of the run, respectively. This remaining heart of the spirit is run through the still a second time, then the resulting spirit, over 90% alcohol, is cut down to 43% and let to set in oak barrels for two years to make Upshot Whiskey, or cut down to 43% to make Crazy Uncle Moonshine.
Whipper Snapper are in 139 Kensington Street, East Perth. Open every day as a cellar door and able to book tours daily.
Rob Gherardi’s is a small operation, the winemaking aspect of which extends barely outside of his own family. And so the same question inevitably comes up, from where is the silhouetted character in film noir garb in front of the the white alps on their label? Who is Mr. Barval?
Mr. Barval wines join Rob’s experience in Margaret River in famous wineries including Moss Wood and Cullens, his winemaking tenure in Barolo and discovery of old world winemaking, and his Italian heritage, growing up in Valtellina. Mr. Barval represents, in both name and winemaking, these three influences, creating the amalgamation of Margaret River, BARolo and VALtellina.
Rob was immediately likeable and incredibly down to earth. When I met him, after a brief introduction that I would be writing about him, he immediately began asking me about the blog, photographs, and writing. It was only through conscious effort that I was able to turn the tables and get Rob to talk about himself.
But once I did get Rob talking about himself he proved himself a fascinating wealth of both information and stories from his wine journey to his surprising year, which involves an endless summer between winemaking in Margaret River and guiding Day Tours of Wineries in Italy:
While working as a winemaker in Italy for a low wage despite a prestigious position, Rob and his wife brainstormed ideas to supplement their income. Realising that, as Rob said, "the children from the winery I worked for were all friends with the children from other prestigious wineries", Rob was able to capitalise on this wealth of contacts to start a company for personal, intimate wine tours. Rob credits this job with supplementing his family’s late summers in Italy for between one and three months a year. It is not all as romantic as it appears, as Rob suggests, “Being a tour guide, much like a winemaker, sounds a lot more luxurious than the reality of the job really is.”
The hands on approach, use of small batches, and wild ferment with no additives could very easily place Mr. Barval wines amongst the Natural Wines camp which has generated a lot of buzz of late, but whilst his motivation is similar, Rob finds his approach sits much more comfortable under the banner of ‘Old World’ winemaking, and the difference, whilst subtle, is readily apparent in his wines which Rob describes as “Acid focused, elegance over power, delicacy over forcefulness” and "I want my wines to get you salivating, making you want to eat food with them, which, in turn, further enhances the drinking experience”
Mr. Barval are certainly the most ‘traditional’ wines we have seen thus far in the Grape To Glass series, but this is in no way to say that they’re not incredible wines. We begun the night tasting the Mistral, a Rhone Valley Blend in style comprised of Viognier and Marsanne, and named Mistral after the cold breeze which runs through the Rhone valleys. The Mistral was incredibly easy drinking whilst still complex and fascinating. The Chardonnay which followed was delicate and lovely. Chardonnay is a divisive variety, but Rob said that his care, delicacy and use of amazing fruit has been enough to change some people's minds.
Onto reds, we drank the Rosso blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot. The Rosso was our favourite, with bold, rich, intense flavours, but enough balance to be easy drinking without feeling ‘short’. Onto the Cabernet Merlot, a surprisingly subtle Bordeaux blend owed to Rob’s old world, European winemaking sensibilities. Rob mentioned that he wanted to combat the tendency for West Australian Cabernets to get "bigger and bigger” and this wine is testament to his philosophy. Rob brought along some of his extremely popular, and entirely sold out Nebbiolo. The Nebbiolo is also a deviation from Australian winemaking tendencies, rather than try to replicate the prestigious Barolo style of Italian wine, Rob decided he “Couldn’t make Barolo out of Karridale” but he could create a wine in the style of Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba. The wine is a labour of love, having been hand plunged every four hours for five days, and the simplicity and dedication has resonated with a lot of people, resulting in a very popular wine.
Grape To Glass
Budburst were excellent hosts and the crowd once again upheld wonderful and fascinating conversation. We loved matching the wines with provided cheese and antipasto.The event space this week was more open, which made for a convivial and exciting atmosphere, and beautiful wines were just the trick to get everyone in a great mood.
Pours in Grape To Glass are just a little over 75ml, which is a great amount to be able to get familiar with each wine without having your palette overwhelmed before the tastings are over. We’ve loved being able to compare wines across a winemakers range without feeling rushed as you often can in a wine tour. Giving us enough time to fall in love with the wine, which we think is great.
Flor, Spanish for Flower and Marché, French for Market, the name Flor Marché pays homage to owner and winemaker Elizabeth Reed’s winemaking background. Elizabeth started Flor Marché with one tonne of riesling and two barrels of shiraz from the Porongurup and Mount Barker sub-regions of the Great Southern in 2010. For the last 7 years, she has continued to source high quality, single vineyard grapes in small batches to craft her wines. Current varietals include; sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon from Wilyabrup, Margaret River; riesling, pinot noir and shiraz from the Great Southern; and grenache and trebbiano from the Swan Valley.
Flor Marché wines are considered, balanced and beautiful. Perhaps most interesting about them is that owner and winemaker Elizabeth Reed does not shy away from transparency. The event’s wine descriptions were detailed timelines of the wine’s coming into being. A refreshing take when so many wineries label their wines with hyperbole or forced impressions.
Elizabeth was lovely and massively informative. She mentioned that she would always find herself more comfortable back at the winery or vineyard than out promoting her wines in the city but this sentiment did not, however, come across in her conversation, both with us, and the crowd of Grape to Glass.
When telling us about her journey in winemaking Elizabeth made clear that central to her is the building and cultivating of relationships, both professionally and personally. Small batch winemaking can very often be glorified as a solo effort, but Elizabeth is forward and thankful to the range of people who have helped her along her journey as a winemaker.
The first of these influences was university professor Tom Stannage, an inspirational teacher who Elizabeth said “Made me look deep within to evaluate my career path going forwards,” and ultimately prompted her move from studying Arts to Viticulture & Oenology. Elizabeth feels that she has always been “Very split between the Arts and Sciences, and winemaking has been the perfect embodiment and expression of both.” She offered a quote from her favourite author, Tom Robbins, which she believed perfectly, embodied her beliefs that "The scientist keeps the romantic honest and the romantic keeps the scientist human”.
Further along her winemaking journey, Elizabeth credits winemakers Marco Capelli and Ricard Rofes for influence and inspiration. Elizabeth worked for Marco in Napa, California in 2002, Marco “…taught me to approach wine intuitively and trust my senses of smell and taste rather than rely on laboratory analysis. He remains one of my greatest inspirations to this day.’ Ricard, another winemaking influence, established the Can Blau project with Elizabeth in the Montsant DO of Spain in 2004. The project to select the best fruit from vineyards in the Masroig sub-region saw them working for a number of years to create a wine which has become internationally lauded. Elizabeth and Ricard continue to collaborate on projects, working together to produce wine from the Priorat DO for their Catalitzador wine label.
In her current winemaking for Flor Marché, Elizabeth credits the excellent growers from whom she sources fruit, including Eugenio Valenti, an 85-year-old grape grower based in the Swan Valley. Eugenio planted his grapes in 1958, which Elizabeth uses to make her grenache and trebbiano. Such old grapes are a rarity in WA, and Elizabeth is incredibly fond of both the vines and of Eugenio. She is also working with a local potter in Wilyabrup, who has invited her to set up a cellar door in his pottery and gallery space. The two are researching different local clays and techniques to craft locally made amphorae: clay vessels used for wine fermentation. This will be an exciting innovation as the majority of amphorae currently used in Australia are imported from Europe.
Flor Marché wines are approachable and beautiful, all in the same sentence. They are nuanced, exciting wines which I have no doubt would be crowd pleasing enough to bring to a party or housewarming without hesitation.
On top of the four wines included in the tasting, Elizabeth brought up three extra wines: ‘Rizzante’ a riesling Pet Nat, her new release trebbiano, and a naturally fortified grenache.
Between Elizabeth’s special additions, we tried her 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, a beautiful, balanced wine with extended skin contact which gave it chalky tannins. Following this the 2016 Grenache from Eugenio’s 60-year-old grape vines. The Grenache had been left on skins for three weeks after fermenting, and had no contact with oak, leaving an expression of just the fruit with nothing else in the way. The resulting wine felt fruity with a little bit of bite. We're told this isn't a tasting note, but to us the wine felt very 'Red'. We think Red is good.
We continued on to the 2014 Longley Pinot Noir, a crowd favourite which was balanced, and lively. We finished on our personal favourite, the 2015 Elsie Cabernet Sauvignon. Elizabeth tells us the Cabernet Sauvignon was given structure from a subtle use of French oak. It felt warm and inviting. A quintessential, elegant Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon.
Grape To Glass
Hauling over to North Fremantle, this Grape To Glass brought us for our first time to Habitué. A warm, cozy and welcoming refuge from the cool, rainy night.
We met a bunch of fascinating people. nibbled on beautiful appetisers and heard great stories and learned a lot about winemaking from Elizabeth. Again the wines showed up wonderfully in Riedel glasses which we were invited to take home, and in a beautiful touch, this time around the wines were poured by Elizabeth herself and by Neighbourhood Event Co.’s Josh Starick
In an unassuming shopfront just before Whatley Crescent intersects King William Street sits one of the prized possessions of Bayswater and one of my favourite specialty food stores: The Little Cheese Shop is demure in both name and dimension, but the knowledge and dedication of it’s staff, including owners Geoff and Emma, have found them remarkably well lauded. Backing up their great knowledge of cheese with a litany of events, tastings and collaborations, all of which which substantially size up the footprint of the cosy little store. We got together with Geoff to talk about the Little Cheese Shop’s philosophies, cheese, and Perth’s ever changing food scene.
“Before we first opened we were local to Bayswater and could see potential in it. Maylands had the structure plan and Bayswater was next. We thought we could set up and be ready as the area starts to find it’s feet in the way Maylands and Bassendean have. Bayswater is a little bit out of the way, but we love that, it means that people who want to come and see us, will come and see us. And so far they have.”
Geoff stepped into cheese after a long stint as a chef. He spent the next eight years at Blue Cow, selling cheese to other chefs and during this time noticed that retail spaces were increasingly desiring the sorts of cheeses which could be found on restaurant cheese boards, but the channels to deliver these products were not yet available to them. “I was selling cheese to Chefs during my time at Blue Cow,” said Geoff, "but those products weren’t necessarily able to go out into retail spaces. We saw people were loving the cheeses, but wanted to be able to enjoy and share them outside of a restaurant setting.”
Moving on from Blue Cow, Geoff is now able to bring his years of experience not only to his customers, but his network of relationships enable the Little Cheese Shop to source unique cheeses, some of which can’t be found elsewhere. “There are a few products we have which other shops sell, but then there are cheeses we source which are unique and different, and many of which Perth and even Australia have never seen before.” Said Geoff, “The currency of the Little Cheese shop is our expertise and our ability to source new and different products. We’ve built a lot of relationships with eight years in the cheese industry and twenty years as a chef, combining them we’ve found that we can source and offer something really unique. We’re at the point now where no one else in Perth is able to offer our level of expertise”
Whilst Geoff’s world is surrounded by cheese, he understands that to most of his customers he is still selling a specialty ingredient, which is why Geoff and his staff understand that their own opinions and expertise are as valuable to the company as their incredible cheeses. Said Geoff, “A lot of people go straight to the cheese, and kind of freak out. Even though it’s a tiny fridge with perhaps forty or fifty cheeses, they’re unlike a lot of what you’ll find in Perth, so those people usually come over to the counter and ask us to talk them through it all. People will come and say, ‘I have a dinner party,’ or ‘I want to cook something for my partner and finish it with cheese, even ‘We’re going to just sit on the balcony and drink a bottle of sparkling, and eat some cheese.’ And we’re more than happy to have that conversation with them”
“We have a pretty even split between people who just want a nice cheese with their glass of wine on a thursday night, and people who want say, a platter or a tower— Probably once a week, we’ll have someone come in and ask how we’re doing, say ‘I wouldn’t have thought a cheese shop in bayswater could survive.’ But three years in, we don’t really care— We’ve found our market in the people who are happy to open themselves to something different and unique, and we have such amazing customers, every one of our customers is amazing,”
We’re featuring the Neighbourhood Event Co. roaming winemaker series Grape To Glass, a series of pop up cellar doors in a ton of different small bars and restaurants around Perth and Fremantle. The series runs every Thursday from the start of July until the end of August and last Thursday we kicked off at Queen Street’s The Flour Factory with Brave New Wine, a Denmark winery owned and run by winemakers Yoko and Andries.
Brave New Wine
Brave New Wine begun as a single barrel of skin contact riesling in 2013. Andries called it a passion project and also an antidote to some of the less inspiring winemaking he was performing in his day job as a commercial winemaker. Yoko and Andries continued making the sort of wine which excited them, and for years they made wine at home for friends, themselves, and family.
“We source organic fruit, we ferment naturally and we don’t add acid, enzymes or yeast, we don’t fine or filter our wines. I understand why big wineries work differently, there’s a lot which can go wrong in low intervention winemaking, but when they don’t you end up with a wine with a real life and vitality” said Andries.
Yoko mentioned that the push to take Brave New Wine to bars and bottleshops actually came sooner than they were expecting. When Andries was made redundant after the commercial winery he was working for was bought out. With two kids and a mortgage, the couple realised it was time to put everything they had into their own wines.
Since selling their first bottle in just January of last year, Yoko and Andries have gone on to win the Danger Zone award from Young Gun of Wine for their Wonderland Botanical Riesling.
Yoko and Andries
Yoko and Andries are unassuming and lovely, they were completely unpretentious about their winemaking process, both in it’s success and challenges— One such challenge being their relative isolation in the world of small batch winemaking. Yoko told me that one of the best benefits to winning a Young Gun of Wine award was the chance to check in with other likeminded winemakers.
During the Grape To Glass event they shared stories about many of the aspects of winemaking which would never occur otherwise: from the practical: that, whilst they are always looking to make the sort of wines which they enjoy, it gets progressively harder to turn off the internal critic when drinking their own wine; to the unexpected: how Andries’ hands go completely black during the harvest season; to the completely unexpected: Yoko asking to smell Andries’ legs during times when he’s come back from lengthy winemaking sessions.
We drank four of Yoko and Andries’ wines during the Grape To Glass event, and afterwards were invited downstairs to try some of this year’s Wonderland botanical riesling, pulled straight from the barrel on their way up.
Brave New Wine wines have a bite to them, there is a huge bouquet of acidity and flavour, which may well take you off guard. After this initial hit, their wines reveal themselves to be quietly beautiful, both easy to drink and fascinating. Several other guests at the night mentioned to me that Yoko and Andries had taken their favourite varietals, and made something completely unique with them. Andries’ use of the word ‘vitality’ certainly comes to mind.
The wines are given names as a statement of intention of sorts, the varietal itself taking second billing. As Yoko and Andries are new wave winemakers, they aren’t bound by any rules which state that a certain varietal must be made to taste a certain way, and with such a variety of winemaking techniques available to them, they felt that a name was a much better indication of how their wines would taste and feel, than simply labelling the varietal.
Nat Daddy, Petillant Naturel — A Petit Naturel or 'Pet Nat' is a wine predating champagne. Rather than adding more sugar and yeast after the first fermentation, this method involves bottling the wine before it has finished it’s first fermentation. This red blend was very much alive. Funky and fruity, with a tart sweetness and bright bubbles. This wine was bottled without any additives of sulphur and the yeast was not extracted, leaving some sediment toward the end of the bottle. This wine felt genuine and funky.
Klusterphunk, skin contact Chardonnay — This chardonnay was an ‘orange wine’, or basically a reverse rose: Where a rose is the product of putting red grapes through a white wine process, orange wine is the product of putting white grapes through a red wine process. In this case, whole bunches of grapes were fermented over a fortnight, then put into a basket press with their stalks. The red wine tannins make this wine heavy and chalky. They used only old oak barrels, leaving none of the chewiness from which Chardonnay has earned a divisive reputation. This wine felt delicate and beautiful, the red wine feel pairs wonderfully with the juicy chardonnay.
Pi Oui, Pinot Noir — From one of Yoko and Andries’ own managed vineyards, named ‘slim pickings’ after its very first vintage was decimated by crows. They call this wine their labour of love, and having spent four days hand plucking grapes off stems in order to fill a barrel with entirely unsquished, perfect grapes, they are certainly correct on the ‘labour’ part. This wine was an absolute crowd favourite, not too sweet, but bright and savoury and complex.
Schadenfreud, Shiraz — In the early days of Brave New Wine Yoko and Andries’ had access to a vineyard producing amazing fruit, but which was being used by it’s owner to make a reasonably unimpressive budget wine. The couple used this fruit to make their much lauded shiraz, and so earned the name ‘schadenfreud’ as a bit of a taunt. They now use grapes from a similarly located vineyard. This wine was the most familiar, it tasted dark, slightly wild, and delicate.
Wonderland, Botanical Riesling — Whilst the addition of native botanicals technically disqualifies this as a ‘wine’ this botanical riesling was like a gin martini in wine form. It felt like it was still lightly sparkling, although that may have been from the acidity. It felt incredibly ripe, bright and busy.
Grape To Glass
This Grape To Glass event was held at The Flour Factory on Queen Street in the Perth CBD. Afterwards the Flour Factory chef offered a paired degustation dinner, and Brave New Wine was made available by the glass and bottle. Their upstairs event space made for a lovely, intimate setting from which to taste and discuss these wonderful new wines.
We tried four great 75ml samples showing a range of Brave New Wine wines. After a brief introduction of themselves and their wine making, Yoko and Andries introduced each wine in what ranged from anecdotes and stories to intricate and interesting descriptions of their winemaking techniques and processes. We met plenty of lovely wine fans over the night, some die hard Brave New Wine followers, and some adventurous drinkers who just wanted to see what it was all about. The wines all showed up wonderfully in Riedel glasses, which we were invited to take home, and we may have gorged ourselves a little as The Flour Factory’s delightful staff came by with beautiful cheeses and snacks.