We recently got the chance to visit East Perth's Whipper Snapper Distillery to try the new cask strength release of their Upshot Whiskey. We spoke to co-founder and head distiller Jimmy McKeown about the path from their humble Moonshine through to their newest seasonal release.
Turbo charged Upshot
"We designed Upshot to be really approachable, even to be a gateway into drinking whiskey for a lot of people. I think we’ve achieved that, it’s sweet, nicely balanced. It’s not too much of a shock.” said Jimmy, “But there are a lot of whiskey drinkers, myself included, who want something with a bit more heat and a little more depth, that’s where the cask strength comes in.”
While just as sweet and balanced as the standard Upshot, the cask release turns everything up. To us it felt more complex, powerful, and benefited from a strong but very slow burn. We love drinking Upshot on long summer afternoons, but it’s bolder cousin feels better suited to keeping cold, dark nights in check.
"It’s much more volatile, in a way it matures faster, and the oak breaks down more quickly. At two years it wasn’t exactly where we wanted it, even though it was the exact same spirit as the Upshot. Being higher ABV, it needed extra time to develop and mellow out a bit of harshness.” said Jimmy.
Crafting a seasonal release
"I tried the Upshot recipe back when I was in the US. We tested it and liked it. A lot of the stuff coming out these days involves a bit more educated guessing."
The standard Upshot is diluted to 43% ABV before ageing in new oak barrels, and receives no further dilution at the bottling stage. The process gives more oak character to the whiskey, and ultimately requires much more barrel space and a lower yield than the industry standard of barrelling at a higher percentage and diluting later. This also meant that the barrel strength release could not simply be taken from existing Upshot barrels. A new set of barrels had to be reserved exclusively to age the new release at its 64% ABV.
"We went with a traditional ABV, we went to Scotland and asked what was traditional there, where, as a rule of thumb, it’s casked at 63.5% which for us became 64% by the time it had finished ageing.”
As the distillery steadily grows and becomes more familiar with their core range, so arises more opportunity to create special releases which exemplify West Australian agriculture and providence.
"We’re here to make good whiskey as number one. Now that Upshot is out and doing well, we want to make sure our special releases all have enough time and no financial restraints to get the product out. There's wheat whiskey, the Quinoa project, the single malt on their way too. It’s all about getting the flavour right."
Upshot Cask Strength comes out this Saturday at the Whipper Snapper Distillery, 139 Kensington St, East Perth.