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Tasmania’s Stories

Whisky pioneer a ‘global icon’

Edition 198_PatrickMaguire

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:

screen shot - Sullivans Cove
Watch video on YouTube


12 September 2018, Edition 198

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Facts about Tasmania


Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.


Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012–13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to Europe and many other regions.


Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km.


The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of the main island’s land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.


About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.


Twice named ‘Best Temperate Island in the World’ by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons.


In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.

Annual Rainfall

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

Annual Rainfall

Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.


The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of kunanyi / Mount Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania.

Capital City

Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.

Land Formation

Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff and Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.


Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago.


Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King’s holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.


Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.


The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.


The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.

History and Heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 35,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania’s predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.


A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology.


Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world’s biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.


The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.


Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging.


Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber.


The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.


Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.


The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the State’s gross product in 2010–11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

Getting to Tasmania

Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.

This site has been produced by the Brand Tasmania Council © 2014

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