Taste Test – Timboon Railway Shed Distillery’s Smoky 1881 single malt Australian peated whisky
This Taste Test travels to one of the most recognisable coastlines in Australia for a sip of something rare: a peated Australian single malt whisky. This is Timboon Distillery’s Smoky 1881.
About Timboon Railway Shed Distillery
Just up the road from the Twelve Apostles in Victoria, owner-distiller Josh Walker has been crafting superb single malt whisky from his beautiful distillery since 2014.
Timboon Railway Shed Distillery makes two other iterations of its whisky; its flagship Port Expression Single Malt and the Christie’s Cut cask-strength as well as a range of liqueurs and a limited-release gin.
All spirits here are, as you’d expect, carefully hand-crafted and meticulously tested to bring the best flavours to the bottle.
About the bottle
Timboon's Smoky 1881 Australian single malt whisky. There’s a lot to unpack in the name of this whisky that gives us clues about what’s in the bottle.
First of all – and perhaps most importantly – is it’s an Australian single malt whisky. This means Josh has used, as with all his whiskies, only one type of malted grain - Australian grown barley -for this spirit.
It’s called Smoky; that’s because the malted barley has also been roasted over smouldering peat in the same process used in places like Islay in Scotland to produce that iconic smoked flavour.
Finally, 1881 is a reference to Tom Delaney, one of the most notorious distillers in the region over 140 years ago.
Records show that 1881 was when Tom first began his forays into the then shady world of crafting Australian spirits.
This whisky is a nod to Tom’s legacy and the fascinating story of his gambits at evading the lawman DI John Christie, who was hellbent on putting a stop to his distilling.
Grain and barrel
Taking inspiration from traditional Scottish distilling techniques, all Timboon’s whisky is made using malted Australian barley and nothing else. The barley for the Smoky 1881 is also roasted over peat, which imparts a gentle smokiness.
From the two magnificent copper stills, whisky is moved to barrels, coopered in-house at the distillery.
These are predominantly heavily charred American and French oak casks that once held tawny port.
The whisky stays in here for at least three years and up to 10 to age and develop the signature flavours of a true Timboon Railway Shed Distillery single malt.
At first, you don’t get a lot of peat. On the nose, there’s that lovely customary grain-led funk that Aussie whisky all seems to have and then a bold, powerful chocolate candy and burnt sugar note.
You can tell it’s a great whisky, but what’s happened to the smoke?
Well, it all happens after you add a few drops of water. Then things go crazy.
The peat noses the door open and puts its arm round you. It’s not the punch-in-the-face Islay style peat though. It’s an inflection that adds to rather than leads the flavours of this single malt.
It brings out a silkiness and spiciness that lean on the sweet candy notes, and the whole ensemble pushes you back into your armchair and whispers: ‘relax, put your feet up and let me tell you a story.’
Simply with that touch of water, this whisky is so enjoyable. It somehow manages to comfort and challenge you at the same time.
However, this whisky also pairs beautifully with all kinds of food.
It’s bold enough to handle a steak, it’s got sweetness to match up with spicy dishes, it has the astringency that pulls through the fattiness of a cheeseboard and even goes up against desserts well.
I imagine a tot of Smoky 1881 with a slice of hot cherry pie and vanilla ice cream for an opulent end to an excellent meal.