Lark’s Latest Whisky Has Taken Nearly Two Decades To Perfect

14/05/ 2021
Lark’s Latest Whisky Has Taken Nearly Two Decades To Perfect

The iconic Tasmanian whisky brand has released two rare whiskies 19 years in the making.

While the 30th anniversary of Lark Distillery is still a year away, founder Bill Lark is celebrating early. Lark are releasing Legacy: two of the rarest and oldest single malts ever to come out of Bill’s decades of experience pioneering the spirit in Australia, crafted during his tenure as Head Distiller at a renowned neighbouring Tasmanian distillery.

Legacy Cask One (HHF582B) is a single cask expression; a celebration of not just pure Tasmanian ingredients and makers, but of the importance of cask selection and the magic oak can produce. Legacy Cask Two (HHF585A) is a marriage made in heaven; an exciting example of the artistry illustrated at every stage of the whisky-making process.

For nearly two decades these precious spirits were nurtured, soaking up complexity and history under the careful watch of Bill before finding their permanent homes in the Lark bond store.

Chris Thomson, Lark’s current Head of Spirit Production, has been tending to the casks for the last seven years, readying them to be bottled and enjoyed. “The longer ageing process allows new flavours to form, creating an experience you'll find in very few Tasmanian whiskies,” he says.

It all started over 30 years ago with a dram of Scottish whisky and a pair of fly fishing rods careening over a Tasmanian lake. When Bill Lark posed the question to his father-in-law, “Why is no one making whisky in Tasmania?”

Lark soon found out one of the reasons was Australia’s restrictive distilling laws dating back 150 years made it impossible for small-batch alcohol to be distilled. So, he worked with his local member of Parliament to reverse the archaic rules and amend the legislation, so he could experiment with small stills. “Luckily, he was a chap that enjoyed an odd dram of whisky,” jokes Lark.

Given the go ahead, he and his wife Lyn started distilling Tasmanian bush liqueur, made from the native pepper berry, in their home in Kingston. Today, Lark is a publicly-traded company perched on five-acres of Tasmanian soil with close to 50 employees. Their gross revenue is up +95 percent year on year to $7.5m, and for the first time, they’re hitting an EBIT profit of +$1.3 million turnaround year on year to $611k.

Over the years, they’ve stayed innovative, creating a variety of other products from XO Brandy to Quiet Cannon Rum to Forty Spotted Gin. But their whisky steals the show—literally. Their Classic Cask, Sherry Cask and Cask Strength, to name a few, have sent them a slew of international and domestic awards. But for Lark, none is more meaningful than his 2015 induction into the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame.

Legacy is an aptly-named bookend to Lark’s decades-long influence and mark on the world of Australian spirits, earning him the title of “Godfather of Australian Whisky.”

“I don't think in his wildest dreams did Bill think we’d be able to taste a Tasmanian 19-year-old single malt when he first started,” says Thomson. “This is a true time capsule into the Tasmanian whisky industry. They are a testament to the success of our industry as much as anything.”

While Lark is no stranger to limited releases — from their dessert-driven Tokay Tokay to their dark and fruity Double Tawny to their syrupy Oloroso — Legacy is truly rare, with just 538 bottles between the two different casks being released.

Cask 1 conjures up the aromas of, “...Medjool dates, fig, green olive, and gingerbread dough are bolstered by sweet, earthy undertones, reminiscent of pipe tobacco and perfectly-seared steak.” Cask 2 hits the nose like, “An old attic filled with nostalgic memories of salted caramels, liquorice, peppermint ice-cream, and chica cherry cola.”

As Thomson notes, “What makes these whiskies so different is what the age has done. It is both soft but powerful, lifted but full-bodied, with fortified balance off American oak. It all just comes together into an experience unlike any other Tasmanian whisky I have ever had.”

Once Cask 2 hits the palate you’ll taste a warm buttery caramel mixed with espresso eclairs and Chinotto, followed by a finish of dark chocolate, nougat, nutmeg and coffee. It’s an ideal after-dinner drink in lieu of a sweet dessert (or on top of one).

Cask 1 is a bit more savoury and complex, with notes of green apple, pink peppercorns and cherry with the taste of fresh tobacco following. The finish is fresh tobacco with subtle notes of coconut, toasted walnut and clove, perfect for a chilly winter night.

Thomson advises the best way to enjoy a dram of Legacy is on its own. “Each cask has a rich story to tell and we wanted to preserve this for people to enjoy in their own way,” he says. But if you have to pair it with something, he suggests a piece of dark chocolate.

Legacy truly is a collectors item; a rich testament to the care and craftsmanship of Bill Lark that captures the spirit of his original pioneering vision, a Tasmanian legacy that will endure for years to come.