Single Malt Whisky - All Your Questions Answered
The release of our Single Malt Whisky has been years in the making. Here’s a run-down of everything you need to know, and everything you’ve asked so far.
What inspired Archie Rose when choosing the grains for your Single Malt Whisky?
Our vision for whisky has always been to speak of our experience as Australians. We want to craft a distinct, charming and flavoursome spirit which showcases the regional character of the malts it’s made up of, complemented by great-quality oak.
Grain is the fundamental building block of whisky, it’s the foundation on which all whisky is based. A successful fermentation, distillation or maturation can only happen because the grain you start with is fit for purpose. It’s vital to our role as distillers to give this critical raw material a voice.
When we began making our whisky back in 2014, we started with a traditional brewer’s malt and a distiller’s malt (a very typical “Australian Single Malt Whisky” mash bill). But then we thought, why only use one or two malts when brewers are using all these other interesting specialty malts?
Australia provides the world with an enormous amount of malting grade barley. It’s grown right here in our backyard in conditions unlike any other and with varieties that aren’t used anywhere else on Earth. We’re tapping into that wherever possible and really want to highlight the incredible quality and diversity of these malts.
Why is it called 'Single Malt Whisky' if there are there six different malts used?
The definition of Single Malt Whisky is a malt whisky from a single distillery, using only one type of malt (nearly always barley), rather than the number of malts used in the mash bill.
Can you tell us more about which malts are used in Archie Rose Single Malt Whisky, and why?
What we landed on for our Single Malt Whisky is six malts, each with a unique profile and character. Our six malt mash bill produces an extremely low-yielding spirit – a small sacrifice for a rich and expressive flavour, full of distinct regional character.
More traditional whiskies can be quite cask-forward, but our aim at Archie Rose is to strike a better balance. We want to showcase the individual character of each malt and complement that with the influence of the cask, instead of relying on the cask to supply the backbone of flavour.
Our six specialty malts are:
AUSTRALIAN PALE MALT
This really speaks of the Australian land from which it was grown, delivering herbal and slightly floral accents.
Peat provides a subtle touch of earthy smoke that complements richly flavoured roasted malts.
AUSTRALIAN AMBER MALT
An assertive biscuity character brings nuance and depth.
Just like its name suggests, this malt delivers the aroma of caramel fudge and mild fruitiness.
AROMATIC ROASTED MALT
Offers a deep and complex array of flavours including fig, raisin and Amaretto.
LOCAL NSW CHOCOLATE MALT
Made from a low-yielding single field in NSW and roasted in small batches, this malt provides rich and intense flavours of coffee and chocolate.
How about casks, what type do you use and why?
We’ve matured our Single Malt Whisky predominantly in 100, 200 and 300-litre Australian apera (sherry) casks, complemented by a selection of ex-bourbon and Archie Rose’s own first fill, 36-month air-dried ex-rye casks. Each have been coopered with a specific balance of both char and toast - with the latter being unusual in the realm of distilling where the lower heat and longer duration toasting process penetrates further into the oak of the cask and offers an entirely different level of complexity than casks that only feature a more traditional char.
The natural sweetness of these casks complements the savoury charisma of the spirit, revealing fresh herbs, shortbread biscuits, raisins, toffee and dark chocolate on the nose. Meanwhile, the palate is luscious with well-integrated flavours of sticky date pudding and Amaretto with a final note of espresso.
Do you add any colouring agents?
No, the colour of our whiskies comes from the oak casks they were matured in.
How did you arrive at the price for your whiskies?
We've endeavoured to bring our malt whiskies in at the most accessible and sustainable price point possible, given the current state of Australian excise duty, the extremely low yielding, and wherever possible, local malts we use (which we've started growing ourselves when they're not available), and the quality, uniqueness and scarcity of the casks we procure.
What’s the difference between your Single Malt Whisky batches?
Our aim is to deliver consistency, which delivers the same hallmark flavours repeatedly.
We believe in transparency and authenticity. Part of that is to arm the drinker (that’s you) with as much (and typically more) information than they could possibly want. We accomplish this in part by using our Spirit Data platform to give you all the details of how that whisky comes to life. To do that, we were keen to attribute a batch code to each release, instead of an age statement on our bottles. The first three releases will be obviously marked sequentially (i.e 1st Batch, 2nd Batch and 3rd Batch).
This allows you access to all of the details of the casks that went into the blend, including their age, cask type etc.
We also believe that no matter how hard you try there is an infinitely small difference in the batches of any spirit. We believe that the very small variation should be acknowledged in an authentic and real way. Disclosing the batch number is therefore all about providing insight and transparency.
The batch numbers allow us to future proof the release, packaging and material. For example, as the whisky evolves, the average age of the liquid will get older with more larger format casks used. By allowing the information to be clearly visible on Spirit Data, we’re open and transparent about that transition.
How long has Archie Rose Single Malt Whisky been matured for?
With summer days that reach well over 40 degrees, our whisky matures significantly faster than in Europe (on average around three years), so rather than fight against the natural climate, we ensure to produce a flavoursome but clean spirit that doesn’t require decades to reach maturity. Furthermore, we keep a close eye on maturation to ensure the balance between the malt, spirit and cask.
WHAT DO YOU GET IN AN 18 YEAR OLD WHISKY THAT YOU DON’T GET FROM AN ARCHIE ROSE WHISKY?
Ageing is obviously an extremely important and defining characteristic for all whiskies, but it is often mischaracterised as simply a waiting game whereby the older the whisky, the better it is. This couldn't be further from the truth, as whisky, like wine, cannot simply remain in cask indefinitely without proper management or it will become critically over-oaked, tannic, and fundamentally flawed.
We don't aim for an age, but rather monitor our spirit and bottle it when we feel it is at its absolute peak. In Australia, this almost always means bottling a younger spirit as the environmental impacts of the Australian climate accelerate maturation by (very approximately) 3-5 times that experienced in most areas of the UK and Europe.
In summary, there are outstanding whiskies produced at three years of age (ours and a couple of others have been awarded "World's Best") and there are outstanding whiskies released at 30, 40 or >50 years of age. Both young and old can be as good (or as bad) as each other. It all comes down to the skill, experience and dedication of the distillery to manage the maturation of the whisky appropriately, considering the spirit, environmental conditions, cask size, cask type, bond store location, and a number of other factors. If this is done correctly, and the distiller is committed to bottling the spirit when it is at its absolute peak, rather than aiming for a predetermined "age", the best expression of that spirit will result.
Why don’t you have an age statement on your whisky?
Rather than an age statement, we allow access to all of the details of the casks that went into the blend, including their age, cask type, cask treatment, filling and decanting dates via the Spirit Data section on our website. The batch numbers allow us to future-proof the release, packaging and material. For example, as the whisky evolves, the average age of the liquid will get older with more larger format casks used. By allowing the information to be clearly visible on Spirit Data we’re open and transparent about that transition.
Why did you choose 46% ABV?
Our experience drinking whisky has proven that 46% offers a great balance of spirit character and intensity. The higher strength allows only a cursory filtration to take place, ensuring mouthfeel, complexity and delicate aromas are preserved. We’ve balanced this with as competitive a price point as possible given the exceptionally high rate of tax on Australian spirits.
Is Archie Rose Single Malt Whisky chill filtered?
Yes, it is chill filtered. We hold a strong belief that all forms of filtration are simply another production technique to be utilised when appropriate, and we have released whiskies that are completely unfiltered (containing both flocculant and fine cask char) right up to whiskies that are traditionally chill-filtered depending on the style of the whisky, ABV and goals of our production team. We feel to commit to only one form of filtration, whether that be none, ambient, or chill-filtration across all whiskies is too simplistic and not respecting the nuanced nature and production demands of differing styles of whisky, and hence we aim to make an informed decision as to style of filtration we adopt for each of our whisky releases.
Why do whiskies produced in different distilleries vary so much in flavour?
There are several reasons for this:
The distillery – including location, quality of the water source and skills of the distillers.
The grain – including the quality and treatment of the grain. At Archie Rose, we believe malt provides a potent and vital contribution to the final flavour profile of our whisky. Some of our grains produce an extremely low-yielding spirit – a small sacrifice for a rich and expressive flavour. This is in addition to the terroir from which the grain originates (soil type, aspect, unique environment contexts, farming practices and the grain’s specific growth habitat), along with the specific variety of each grain used.
Fermentation – including the yeast strains used and the fermentation time.
Stills – the type of still used and the number of times the spirit is distilled will also produce different flavours. In addition, the energy source powering the stills, the speed of running the stills and the cut points (fores and feints) will have an impact on spirit character.
Casks – The size of the casks, cask treatment (e.g toast and char levels) and the previous contents (e.g Sherry or Bourbon). Additionally, some whiskies may be matured in multiple cask types and vatted, or finished for a shorter period in a different type of cask than which it has spent most of its life.
Maturation – the climate and natural environment that casks are matured in will have a significant impact on flavour and rate of maturation - temperature, humidity and elevation all have an impact - plus the period of maturation.
Distillery philosophy (of production) – encompassing much of the above - but coming down to one key question - what sort of spirit does the distillery want to make?
Style – Different distilleries aim to make spirits in a certain style or character to reflect their philosophy, history or ethos.
People – distilling is very much a blend of art meets science, and the human factor is not to be underestimated in having influence over all of the factors above.
ABV – cask entry strength prior to ageing and bottling strength will impact flavour.