Having been constantly told over the years that no other place in the world can produce as good single malt whiskies as Scotland, David Baker, a former food scientist, was irked so much, that he began distilling whisky from 1999. He thought if one could understand the process of whisky making at a molecular level, it might be possible to replicate some of the best single malts from Scotland. With that in mind, he followed the traditional procedures which have been practiced for centuries now, and acquired equipment from some of the leading engineering firms from UK. Since he believes that the most important part of the distillery is the still, and that every dimension in the still influences the flavor, aroma, and the character of the whisky, he took great effort in designing the stills. That is how Bakery Hill distillery was born in Victoria, Australia.
Since then, the distillery has developed rapidly, gaining reputation as one of the finest single malt producing distilleries across geographies, also winning the prestigious title of “The Best Small Distillery of the Year,” awarded by Jim Murray in 2005.
As with most classic malts, Bakery Hill uses malted barley, yeast, and water to stay true to the traditional single cask expression, and bring out its flavor and aroma. But unlike many, Bakery Hill does not add caramel to enhance the appearance, because Baker thinks it dulls the natural flavor of the whisky. While the distillery initially commenced production using Franklin Malt, they soon shifted to using Schooner barley, as they were facing supply and consistency issues. However, they continue to import malt from the UK, only for their peated malt whisky range.
David Baker matures most of his spirit in American oak casks previously used in maturing Jack Daniels. Only for their double wood style malts do they make use of French oak casks. He prefers 50 litre, 100 litre, and 200 litre barrels only, because he thinks that these are the ideal sizes for maturing malts in Melbourne's diverse climate. Since warm weather makes the cask expand and the cold makes it contract, the rate of oxidation and oak exposure of the whisky increases, resulting in accelerated maturation.
While a lot depends on the good quality of natural resources which Australia is abundantly blessed with, Baker believes, it is the wonderful climate that gives their whisky a distinct, complex character. Constant temperature fluctuations, and low humidity increase the speed of maturation. This ensures that even some of their moderately younger whiskies are robust and complex in character.
Take for example the Bakery Hill Cask Strength Peated Single Malt Whisky. Since Victorian environmental law prohibits the burning of peat, this whisky is made using peated barley which is imported from the UK. This gives the malt a nose that is strong and spicy, with hints of baked apples, pear, and fudge. A small amount of water while toning down the spice, also opens up aromas of vanilla and cocoa. At natural strength, this peated single malt brings an assortment of fruits on the palate, and gives a long, and smoky finish. Bakery Hill single malts embodies the true spirit of Australia, that of individuality, complexity, and strength.
Since the distillery is still very small, and has limited manpower, it is not always open to the public. However, selected dates and time are announced for conducting their 90 minute tour which includes walking around the distillery, meeting the team of skilled craftsmen, and understanding how Bakery Hill produces their malts. The tour usually ends with tasting the Bakery Hill range and a chance to buy a bottle or two at a discounted price. But if nothing else, take a trip to Bakery Hill, just to imbibe the breathtaking beauty and cultural diversity of Victoria.