Food and beverage stories
Whisky pioneer a ‘global icon’
A pioneer of Tasmania’s whisky industry has been officially declared an ‘icon’ by being honoured with one of the highest international accolades.
Patrick Maguire, the head distiller at Sullivans Cove, has just been inducted into the Icons of Whisky Hall of Fame.
And, it is lofty company.
He joins 50 other luminaries in the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame: legendary figures such as Johnnie Walker master blender, Dr Jim Beveridge; former Suntory head blender, Dr Koichi Inatomi; and famed whisky writer, Michael Jackson.
“It’s humbling to be included in such an incredible group of people from the world of whisky. When we were playing around with stills and barrels in the early days, I never would have imagined that I’d end up here,” Maguire says.
Maguire also joins one other Australian so honoured: fellow Tasmanian whisky pioneer, and old mate, Bill Lark.
“I got an email this morning from a very well-known British whisky writer who pointed out that the volume of whisky produced in Tasmania is just a drop in the ocean when compared to the amount of whisky one Scottish distillery would produce in a month,” he adds.
“So, he said, the fact that two of us from Tasmania are now in the Hall of Fame is pretty incredible.”
Patrick Maguire and Bill Lark first crossed paths in the early 1980s, at the Tasmanian ski resort of Ben Lomond.
They ended up building the mountain pub together, and it was there – over glasses of Glenfiddich – that Bill hatched the novel idea of distilling whisky in Tasmania.
“I thought the Scots do a pretty good job making whisky, so why on earth would we want to do it here as well,” Maguire says.
However, the idea persisted, and Maguire fondly recalls the formative days of Tasmania’s whisky industry.
“I remember Bill had a little second-hand 10-litre still, and we would fire it up on his kitchen sink. He also managed to get a 25-litre oak barrel from somewhere,” Maguire explains.
“A group would all get together, have a BBQ and a few beers, and then try our whisky.
“We didn’t know what we were doing, but it was a good bit of fun.”
They certainly know what they are doing now.
Bill Lark went on to set-up Tasmania’s first distillery – Lark Distillery – in 1992, which has since won a raft of international awards.
Maguire, meantime, found acclaim at Sullivans Cove which he joined in 1999, where he quickly rose to become head distiller.
“Bill really was the founder of Tasmania’s whisky industry – after all, it was his idea that started the whole thing in the first place,” Maguire says.
“But together, we really did put in a lot of work to create this industry, and in the space of just 25 years our whisky is now regarded as amongst the finest anywhere.
“To be part of creating something like that is a pretty amazing achievement.”
Under Maguire’s watch, whiskies from Sullivans Cove have been named as the best in the world – twice.
In 2014, French Oak Cask HH0351 was judged World’s Best Single Malt Whisky at the World Whiskies Awards. Earlier this year, American Oak Cask HH0351 became World’s Best Single Cask Malt Whisky at the same awards.
At the time Maguire told us: “It blows my mind that our tiny little distillery at the end of the world can win awards like that."
Today Tasmania is seen as a serious whisky player, with 35 distilleries across the island carefully crafting the liquid gold that is now giving the Scots a run for their money.
However, much of that magic lies in the land itself: the purest water flowing down from Tasmania’s mountains; rich fields of barley; and a perfect cool climate.
“Tasmania could become the Scotland of the southern hemisphere without a doubt,” Maguire predicts.
Article Image courtesy of Natalie Mendham Photography
What the video interview with Patrick Maguire when he won world's best single malt whisky:
12 September 2018, Edition 198