Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Around The Whisk(e)y World In 7 Days - Wednesday - Day 3

Distillery: Bakery Hill
Located: Melbourne, Australia 
By: John Totsidis


                      The history of Bakery Hill Distillery is brief compared to the distilleries of Scotland but it is just as colorful nonetheless. It is the brainchild of David Baker who began his career as an organic chemist in a large scale food processing plant. I'm quite sure many of you are aware of the Aussie icon, Vegemite. Well, David was a research and developer of that brand which meant that he had a great knowledge of yeast and all its attributes; a great starting point in the production of whisky. It is obvious that David has a fascinating story to tell so I visited him on a Friday morning at the Bakery Hill distillery in the east of Melbourne to discover how he managed to not only challenge the existing wisdom about whisky production in Australia, but also thrive.

Andrew Baker & John, inside the Bakery Hill Warehouse
                      This was not my first visit to Bakery Hill, as I had previously visited David months earlier when I reached out to him and he was kind enough to show me around Bakery Hill. When I went to the distillery the first time I was privileged to witness David and his wife Lynne testing their different batches of whisky so they could blend them to as close a consistency as possible. It was obvious then that David strives for consistency and I think they have the family recipe down pat. On my recent visit to conduct this interview it was so pleasing to see their son Andrew also now involved in the family business. It is certainly a family affair at Bakery Hill, which makes the whole business seem that little bit more special.

With the master himself, David Baker
             David was never a whisky drinker but preferred to brew his own beer. His experience as an organic chemist lead him naturally into teaching chemistry until he then turned his attention to whisky. When his fascination for whisky production first kicked in he decided to research and find out all he could about the process. David makes it clear that he met plenty of resistance, and was often simply laughed at, but this only lead to his overarching motivation; that everyone told him that it could not be done here in Australia and that he was going to prove them wrong. The conventional wisdom was that the harsher climate and no fresh water sources were all supposed to prevent whisky of the quality of Scotland from being produced. David, seeing this as "nonsense", forged on nonetheless and in the year 2000 began the process of distilling his own whisky. He had no set plan to work off; rather he would monitor and modify the process until he found out what the best outcome was for the brand of whisky that he wanted to produce. It was this results driven philosophy that becomes very clear in all that David has and continues to do.

                      In terms of raw ingredients, David uses local barley for the unpeated whisky, but for the peated whisky David uses barley imported from Scotland, some of which would detour through New Zealand to be peated at 20 ppm since no local peat could be sourced. The fermentation time is five days (120 hours) which is rather long compared to most but once again it was achieved through trial and error and honed by David himself. Another example of the result driven philosophy of Bakery Hill, and David's willingness to test and change traditional methods. For those who have visited Melbourne, you will know it is renowned for the quality of water and that the tap water available is the best in the world. It is this water which is the main water source for production at the distillery. The distillery has 2 washbacks which serve a 1000 litre still, producing approximately 5000 litres of pure alcohol per annum. The distillery is also doing its bit for the environment by recycling waste as stock feed and fertilizer which is supplied to local farmers. A week at the Bakery Hill distillery starts with milling on Monday, followed by brewing on Tuesday. Wednesday is a cleanup of the distillery, and Thursday and Friday are filled with dispatching internet sales, meeting clients and general administration of the company.

The setup at the Bakery Hill Distillery - Not huge but making some great whisky

                       After the distillation process is completed, the newly made spirit is placed into small American Oak barrels which contained Jack Daniels bourbon. David explains to me about how the smaller barrels and the varying Melbourne climate meant that the oak and the spirit interacted on a far greater scale, seemingly speeding up the aging process. At 7 to 8 years of maturation, the spirit can quite easily be compared to a 12 year old. David does not provide age statement on Bakery Hill whiskys, because he believes the whiskys should be judged as they are, regardless of age, and that age is only one in many factors that contribute to the quality of the product. He also makes a point that he is keen to educate people and customers on all things whisky, with particular interest on not succumbing to the established views on Australian whisky but to explore his products with an open mind and to judge them as they are.


All of this has lead to five core expressions developed by David at Bakery Hill. These include:

The Bakery Hill range

1. Classic Single Malt ~46%
2. Peated Malt ~46%
3. Double Wood Malt ~46% (combination of American Oak and French Oak)
4. Cask Strength Classic Single Malt ~60%
5. Cask Strength Peated Malt ~60%

The only new expressions are expected to be a more heavily peated spirit, around 50 ppm.


                      A design for a bigger still is in the planning stages. This will mean a move to a bigger premises as the current plant has nearly reached its capacity. David is adamant that the quality of the spirit will not be compromised. The integrity of the brand and the whisky’s is far more important to him than the profits that can be achieved by over production and selling younger spirits. After chatting to David, I am left with no doubt in my mind that Bakery Hill will continue to produce whisky which only meets his strict demands for quality over all else.


                      The distillery has had outstanding reviews from around the world and has been reviewed in books by some of the aficionados of whisky. If anyone has any doubts about the quality of Bakery Hill whisky just check the recent reviews by Jim Murray in his whisky bible. Jim awarded all the Bakery Hill expressions scores in the 90s! It was even voted "The best small distillery of the year 2005" by Jim.

TASTING NOTES – Bakery Hill. The "Classic" Single Malt 46%

The tasting notes listed here have been provided by David himself.

Color: Light translucent gold.

Nose: A complex sweet multi layering of green apples, spiced honey with just a hint of cider.

Palate: The flavour ramps up kaleidoscopically from nutmeg through spiced honey to a firm cereal with heaps of malty richness layered on as a finale.

Finish: Mouth filling, smooth and lingering, leaving a satisfying glow of inner warmth. Inspection of the glass reveals amazingly long luscious clinging beads of this superb malt whisky.

To learn more about Bakery Hill Distillery, check out their website here



John Totsidis (To the Left)
I currently live in Melbourne Australia and I am 55 years old. My preferred tipple used to be ouzo but I started to get into whisky about 10 years ago. I started drinking Glenlivet 12 with a touch of coke and quickly started to appreciate it neat. At the time there was not a lot of variety but the boom in whisky in Australia delivered a much wider range. I soon discovered Glenmorangie and was quickly a big fan. The easy drinking made it my favourite and it still is, but as you can see from my instagram account I have expanded my tastes and I am slowly getting into the peated whiskys as well.

Instagram: @johntots2


We would like to thanks John Totsidis for his participation in this project. 

Make sure to check back in tomorrow, where we are heading to Lazy Guy Distillery in Kennesaw, Georgia. USA with Seth Brown  

 Want to read our previously distillery visits? Click below!