Archie Rose Distillery Tour –
Rye Malt Whisky
Single Malt Whisky
The Whiskies: Archie Rose Rye Malt Whisky (Cellar Door Handfill, 52% abv), Single Malt Whisky (Batch 1), White Rye (50% abv)
Country of Origin: Australia (Sydney)
The Location: Archie Rose Distillery and Bar, Roseberry, Australia
The past few years has seen a lot of new distilleries start up and it’s been great to see a few local whisky distilleries appear. This has been a really positive development for the local whisky community and a reflection of how much of a following whisky has in Sydney and Australia more widely.
Archie Rose is a great example of a young (founded in 2014) distillery, operating out of a refurbished warehouse in the middle of an industrial district in the heart of Australia’s most populous city.
It took me longer than most to catch onto how great Archie Rose’s spirits were and their gins were my gateway into the brand. Like with many start up distilleries, Archie Rose looked to other products that didn’t require aging to get cash flow. Their range of gins are supremely good – their Native Spirits and Poormans Orange gins are two of the best I’ve had anywhere, both in quality of the spirit and in the use of unique ingredients.
But Archie Rose always planned to produce whisky and while their gins were gaining popularity their first whiskies were quietly aging. They’ve released several to date, including a Chocolate Rye Malt, Sandigo Heritage Rye Malt, Ironbark Smoked Rye Malt and more recently the multi award winning Rye Malt and their Single Malt. In particular the Rye quickly accumulated a number of accolades and praise within the whisky community – locally and further abroad taking out the world’s best Rye in the World Whisky Awards.
Rye whisky isn’t something I’ve had a lot of, mostly because what I have has was harsh, overly spicy and inferior to an equivalent priced scotch, Irish, Japanese or even bourbon and that had turned me off delving further into the style. I’d deliberately steered clear of Rye for a while, only occasionally dipping back in to be disappointed.
But with the favorable reviews, awards and building fervor I knew I needed to get some Archie Rose whisky into me.
D, K and I took advantage of a reduction in Covid restrictions that fortunately coincided with an open day at the Archie Rose distillery to do a tour and tasting.
The space, the tour and the Archie Rose staff
We were taken through Archie Rose’s distilling processes and equipment by Jonathon, Archie Rose’s Venue Manager and one of the founders of the Archie Rose venture. One of the wonderful thing about the size of most distilleries in Australia is that you’re usually doing tastings and tours by people who have thrown their hearts into making the whisky, people who have a long standing and deep connection to the brand and product.
The tour was great and engaging – pitched to comfortable cover those on their first distillery tour and to those of us that have done a few before. Although the space we were in, and the equipment we were being shown is the same equipment made to produce Archie Rose’s spirits to date they are currently in the process of moving to a new premises (nearby) and commissioning upgraded and expanded equipment. Another great sign that Archie Rose isn’t taking the foot off the gas and is moving onto bigger and better things to combat their supply bottleneck by expanding production. Aside of increased capacity the new facility will allow for distilling spirit from each of the grains (in the current mash bill) separately rather than together as is currently done. This will allow for easier tweaking and my guess is some single grain expressions down the track – as they’ve done previously with the limited Sandigo Heritage Rye Malt and the Chocolate Rye Malt expressions they’ve previously launched.
With that it was time to grab a glass and taste some whisky.
For this review we’ll cover two whiskies (a Rye and a Single Malt) and also Archie Rose’s Rye new make. Let’s start with the new make, or as Archie Rose call’s it – their ‘White Rye’.
White Rye: This is un-aged, un-oaked, double distilled spirit, the core of the Archie Rose Rye Whisky – i.e. ‘new make. And let’s be clear, new make isn’t whisky, but it gives you an idea of the character of the spirit before any wood influence.
The nose is grain dominant with some grass. It’s got a vibrant intensity reminiscent of white rum.
The palate is spicy and bready, and some cocoa. There’s plenty of heat in the back of the throat but it’s an intense warmth rather than a bonfire.
The finish is so short it’s not worth talking about.
What does it remind me of?
It does have a white rum/vodka like characteristic, especially a spiced or flavored rum or vodka but with a very cereal, bready core flavor. It’s also a bit Anejo tequila-ish – similar heat to a decent Anejo, similar vanilla influence from the casks and similar spices. I wouldn’t choose this over most good white rums or tequilas, but after a couple of years in a barrel I can see this becoming quite drinkable (see below!) and can see it working in a cocktail. But, as you’ll read below, the extra time in the barrel is certainly worth it and produced something quite delicious.
What do I think?
I don’t drink new make for a reason but as far as new make goes it’s not too bad. The rye characters definitely come through and it’s interesting to get a perspective on a whisky by trying the liquid component while it’s still a baby. Not buying a bottle of it though.
Rye Whisky (Cellar Door Handfill):
This uses a combination of a local pale malt and a german sourced rye malt (both kiln dried). Archie is using a variety of char levels in their new american oak barrels – I believe the char level for the batch we were tasting was a char level #4. Maturation is a touch under 2 and a half years.
There’s vanilla and brown sugar on the nose. The vapors are heady but clean – these may blow off after a few minutes but we had a set time to work to so the whisky went straight down the hatch. The oak is balancing and with the cereal (rye dominant) notes it gets fairly savory.
See the end of this post of a list of awards the Rye has won.
The palate is deliciously spicy – some soft black pepper, coffee, a touch of anise. It’s chocolatey and bready – fresh toasted rye bread. The vanilla from the oak makes it like a mildly spiced chocolate cookie. The finish drys out with espresso and buffalo grass.
What does it remind me of?
As I said before I haven’t had many Rye Whiskeys and it’d be uncharitable to the Archie Rose Rye Malt to compare it to any of these – it’s definitely the best Rye whisky I’ve had to date and where as other forays into Rye turned me off this has definitely left me with a curiosity and a desire for more.
What do I think?
I think it’s great. Rye still isn’t up there as a style that I’m excited about but this was delicious. Given the awards it’s received I think a lot was lost on me but that’s on me, not on the whisky.
And…. That was it for the tour. One whisky and one new make. A surprise because one of the whiskies we’d come to try was the recently released single malt, but given the quality and popularity of Archie Rose’s other products (especially the accolades awarded to their Rye) the Single Malt sold out almost straight away and there wasn’t any available for tasting at the tour. We’d also hoped that some of the previous limited releases (the Sandigo Heritage the Ironbark Smoke Rye) would also be available to try to showcase more of the house style and the ‘experiments’ to date. A little odd for a tour of a whisky distillery, especially on an open day, but a great sign that Archie Rose is being well received by consumers (editorial note: at time of writing Single Malt batch 2 is available for sale).
Fortunately Jonathon let us know the bar definitely had the Single Malt – and other expressions – so we headed across to the well appointed bar and dining area.
Archie Rose Single Malt (Batch 1):
The single malt has six malted grains in the mash bill, a pale malt, amber malt, caramel malt, aromatic roasted malt, chocolate malt and a peated pale malt. How does a ‘single’ malt have 6 different malted grains in it? Look up the curly definition of a ‘single malt’ to understand this better.
The Single Malt Batch 1 was matured in mostly ex-Apera (Australian) casks with a little ex-bourbon and ex-rye (from Archie’s own Rye malt) casks in the mix.
See: https://archierose.com.au/spirit-data/single-malt-1st-Batch/ for the full details on grain selection and treatments, fermentation, distillation and maturation.
See the end of this post for a list of awards the Single Malt has won.
The nose is fruity with vanilla, dry herbs and caramalised sugar.
The palate is surprisingly silky at first but then becomes suddenly dry and hot with dry spices – especially a soft white pepper. There’s dusty oak, chocolate, milk coffee and a sweet dark grain flavor – like pumpernickle.
The finish is dry and herbacious – slightly oily and a teeny bit soapy. There’s the slightest wisp of smoke from the peated grains.
What does it remind me of?
I have to say this really reminded me of the Rye, but I think it’s more of the house style of grain led, subtler whisky. The experience is very much a melding of complimentary flavors with few really standing out. Although there’s some grain overlap between the Single Malt and Rye there’s not enough to make them similar. The maturation is different too. Being in the distillery I am wondering how much of the remnant aroma of grain may have affected my sensory experience so I’m keen to taste the Rye and Single malt again in a different setting. Just another example of how when and where you drink a whisky can potentially affect your experience of it! In any case a lot of the same characteristics come through for the Single Malt as did for the Rye. So this suggests to me that Archie Rose has a house style and that they’re able to achieve consistency.
Other than that I feel like this is a pretty unique style of single malt and avoids imitating any mainstream style so there’s nothing I’ve had that I’d immediately compare it to. That alone is pretty exciting to me.
What do I think?
It’s got good, although subtle character and is really well balanced.
It’s not rich -it’s a fairly savory whisky. I don’t think it’s quite distinctive enough or good enough to offer other single malts in it’s price band a run for their money, but it’s very good, very moreish and for an Australian single malt offers very good value. The single malt definitely feels quality and it nails the mouthfeel, controls heat and you can sense the complexity in there. I feel like a noisy bar with all the smells from the kitchen/distillery was a tough place to really get to know a subtler whisky and I’d love to spend more time with this and see what else it does so a bottle for the cabinet may be required when stock is available again.
Awards for the Archie Rose Rye Malt Whisky
- World’s Best Rye Whisky – World Whiskies Awards (London)
- World’s Best Rye Whisky – ADI Craft Spirit Awards (USA)
- World’s Best Rye Whisky – World Whisky Masters (London)
- Australia’s Best Rye Whisky – San Francisco World Spirits Competition (USA)
- Australia’s Best Rye Whisky – International Wine & Spirits Competition (London)
- Australia’s Best Rye Whisky – Los Angeles International Spirits Competition (USA)
- Australia’s Best Rye Whisky – SIP Awards (USA)
- Australia’s Best Rye Whisky – International Review of Spirits (USA)
Awards for the Archie Rose Single Malt Whisky
- Australia’s Best Single Malt Whisky – San Francisco World Spirits Competition (USA)
- Australia’s Best Single Malt Whisky – World Whisky Masters (London)
- Australia’s Best Single Malt Whisky – World Whiskies Awards (USA)
- Australia’s Best Single Malt Whisky – SIP Awards (USA)