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December 5, 2017
Habits

Making whisky in-house with NOLA

Tucked behind the bar at NOLA are three whiskies you won't find anywhere else in the world.

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  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Andre Castellucci

Behind the bar at NOLA, sit three 16-litre barrels.

Each has been coopered from former Seppeltsfield port barrels, and each contains a different whisky that can only be found at the venue.

In collaboration with The Exchange, they’ve created a Scottish whisky, blending spirits from Auchentoshan, Laphroaig and Bowmore. The second barrel contains an American whiskey, combining wheated bourbon, rye whiskey and barrel strength bourbons in a barrel washed with Laphroaig.

And the top-shelf barrel is a collaboration with McLaren Vale Distillery’s John Rochfort, who provided a new-make spirit that venue co-owner, Oliver Brown, hopes will age in the venue for the next two years.

Oliver pours a dram to demonstrate how far the spirit has come since it was filled on August 10. It’s dark caramel in colour and smells surprisingly sweet.

“Looking at it after four months, I’m expecting something pretty special. I reckon it will be really rich, a lot of that port coming through, and I think it’ll be a pretty world-class single malt,” he says.

This image: Johnny von Einem

It’s not only the particular blends and reuse of Seppeltsfield wine barrels that makes each of the whiskies unique, the venue itself will play a role in how they develop – everything from the music that’s played to the amount of people contributing body heat to the bar will affect the final product.

“People have been playing with how whisky ages and what effects it – temperature, and people have been playing music and sonic sounds to vibrate the whisky, so it has different contact with the wood and ages faster,” Oliver says.

“It’s our way of capturing the entire environment into a whisky in South Australian barrels, that then people can come and drink and can only get here.”

The American blend has been aging since April 27, and has just been bottled in 200ml portions, available for purchase at the bar, to be consumed in-house. The barrel will soon be refilled, completing the first cycle of NOLA’s whisky program.

“We’ll continue to roll them through, and we’ll do them to taste, as the barrel’s still giving influence, and if they’re still tasting good, we’ll keep filling them,” Oliver says.

“There’ll be a bit of influence with everything that was in it before it, into the next whisky.”

Primarily, this venture is about offering NOLA punters something that can’t be found anywhere else, but Oliver was also determined to use the barrels as a way to pay respect to the burgeoning Australian whisky industry.

When the venue opened two years ago, NOLA strictly stocked Australian and American whiskies. They’ve since broadened, but Oliver still sees their duty as shining a spotlight on the producers here at home.

Oliver Brown

“We do really want to be a home for Australian whisky, and to bridge people from the ones they know,” he says.

“[People] do really consider boutique spirits from Australia and South Australia as being high quality and desirable… Being able to bridge people over to new world spirits and to Australian spirits, and have them see that we are competing on that level is pretty special, and something we want to keep focussing on here.”

While NOLA’s Australian whisky might still be a year or so away from release, if you do decide to grab a 200ml bottle of their American blend and sit at the bar long enough, you might just make a lasting impression on it.

 

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