One of the country's newest whisky distilleries is already one of the most decorated. Despite its name, Old Hobart Distillery began production only in 2007 and released its first commercial brands late last year. Last month, Overeem Port Cask whisky starred at two competitions.
It received the ''highest scoring'' Australian whisky of 2012 from the Malt Whisky Society of Australia and a couple of weeks later was awarded ''overall winner'' of the Australian section at the World of Whisky event in Sydney. The field for the latter was rather select with 24 entries but the dominance of the Overeem whiskies was undeniable - Overeem Sherry Cask was runner-up in the single malt category, while the cask strength port topped the cask strength section.
The owner-director, Casey Overeem, has cemented his spot in the burgeoning local whisky scene.
''The whiskies [on the market] are five years old and came from the first 10 barrels we filled in 2007,'' he says. ''The distillery was meant to be my retirement hobby but it's a full-time job at the moment.''
His interest in the industry was sparked while visiting a relative in Norway in the early 1980s. ''Many people had micro-distilleries in their cellars,'' he says. ''So I started experimenting when I got home.''
A fitter and turner by trade, Overeem more recently ran his own business supplying equipment to the surveying industry which, indirectly, led him to meet Tasmanian whisky pioneer Bill Lark, also a former surveyor.
Inspired by Lark's example, Overeem applied for a distiller's licence and commissioned his still from the same Hobart manufacturer as Lark's. ''It's much the same design with some slight variations,'' says Overeem, who housed the equipment in a purpose-built shed on acreage surrounding his home at Blackmans Bay, south of Hobart. Maturing barrels are stored at a separate bonded warehouse nearby.
''Because we're pretty small, Lark's make our wash [fermented, unhopped beer] for us,'' Overeem says. ''We have our own equipment at their factory and they make it to our specifications. Every Monday morning I go and pick up the wash.''
He distills about 40 ''runs'' a year, with most of the whisky stored in 100-litre or so-called quarter casks, which he sources from South Australian Cooperage.
''They are French oak casks which are ex-sherry and -port barrels and we them have cut down to the smaller size. Some of them contained premium port which was 50 years old or even older,'' he says.
The Old Hobart Distillery is a family affair where Overeem has recently been joined by his 25-year-old daughter, Jane, a marketing graduate, to handle the operation's sales and marketing.
''We're getting plenty of offers to distribute our whisky but we want to do the distribution ourselves,'' Overeem says. ''It's important to hold lots of tastings with staff.''
Stockists include Oak Barrell, World of Whisky, Shirt Bar and Concord Village Cellars.
OVEREEM PORT CASK (43 per cent) Deep gold. Nose: vanilla slice, cinnamon sticks, cedar, rosewater and orange zest. Palate: hints of creme brulee, nougat, sandalwood, allspice, bitter orange marmalade and gingersnap. Overall: richly complex, yet elegant. $120/700ml.
OVEREEM SHERRY CASK (43 per cent) Rich gold. Nose: dried apricot, honeycomb, maple syrup and citrus zest notes. Palate: multi-layered and intense with hints of marzipan, hazelnuts, creme caramel, ginger and candied peel. Overall: a refined and well-integrated single malt. $120/700ml.
OVEREEM CASK STRENGTH SHERRY CASK (60 per cent)
Deep, old gold. Nose: initial blast of juicy-sweet malt, then hints of vanilla bean, toffee, dried peaches, almonds and crisp green pear. Palate: rich peaches and cream characters, zingy spice/white pepper, malt biscuit, tangerine, with lively lime juice/fruitiness underneath. Overall: stunningly complex. $160/ 700ml.