CRADLE MOUNTAIN WHISKY
Cradle Mountain Whisky founders Brian & Fay Poke begin their whisky journey by setting up the business and attracting initial shareholders.
The Cradle Mountain Whisky team of Brian Poke and David Cameron set a vision to develop a high-quality Australian whisky. Poke and Cameron applied for and received a government grant to use a Darwin laboratory to begin the experimentation and development of a single malt whisky and to continue the production of other liquor products.
Cradle Mountain Whisky production continued using "pure stream water as it was straight from the hills," said Poke.
Brian Poke and Don Cameron start production in a new location near Ulverstone, Tasmania, with Brian Poke as Master Distiller.
The company moved to larger premises "The Potato Shed" in Preston, Tasmania and the company changed the name to the 'Franklin Distillery'. The distillery was designed using sizeable converted dairy vats.
The company was selected to commercially pilot the use of the locally grown Franklin barley. Franklin barley was created in the mid-'80s by plant breeder Dr Wayne Vertigan of Tasmanian's Primary Production and Fisheries. The barley's reputation as a strain of high yielding malting barley gained considerable attention from international brewers and maltsters.
The Franklin Distillery was the recipient of a grant from the Grain Research Development Corporation. This grant allowed Poke and Cameron to invest in more equipment and to continue production of Cradle Mountain Whisky using local barley.
By 1994 the company had grown to 16 shareholders including David MacLennan an ex-math and science teacher appointed as the company Chairman, dentist David Abbott, local businessman Andrew Morrison, along with several other business associates. With the addition of these shareholders, the company changed its name to The Small Concern Whisky Distillery.
Andrew Morrison visited Scotland with a sample bottle of the 15-month-old Cradle Mountain Whisky. He brought it to the attention of independent bottler William Cadenheads, the marketing arm of Springbank Distillery to get a perspective on the quality of the whisky. Springbank Distillery was so impressed they ordered seven barrels, which in the early days was a considerable achievement for the company, the whisky industry, and Tasmania. This coup received a substantial amount of media attention, both locally and internationally.
Orders began trickling in from Japan, the UK and the United States.
In March the Distillery received a call from the Australian Prime Minister’s office. Prime Minister John Howard had heard about the particularly good malt whisky. He hoped to purchase a bottle or two to give to Jim Bolger, the then Prime Minister of New Zealand. To ensure they were received on time, the whisky was bottled into earthenware crocks.
April saw the company bottle one of the first barrels made under the Franklin Distillery in 1993. Three hundred bottles were released all signed by the distiller Brian Poke and encased in blackwood presentation boxes. The new expression was launched by the Tasmanian State Premier Mr Tony Rundle at the Ulverstone Civic Centre. The bottles were sold to local buyers as well as buyers from New Zealand, the UK and Kenya.
The Small Concern Whisky Distillery secured several export orders including 500 bottles to Taiwan, Vietnam and Hong Kong.
2002 to 2014:
The Small Concern Whisky Distillery while looking for investors continued to bottle and sell their early production while ageing the last barrels to 17 years. It was also the time when the Tasmanian whisky industry began to achieve some international recognition and overseas sales.
Cradle Mountain Whisky was purchased "lock stock and barrel" by the Lahra Family. A chance tasting of the 17-year-old Single Malt whisky on an overseas trip tweaked the interest of Joe Lahra who claimed: "The whisky was so good we had to buy the company!"
Rebranded as Cradle Mountain Whisky, the new owners prepared for whisky production. With a love of wood and its effects on the ageing process, Joe designed and branded a new barrel concept called Sol' lahra barrel. The innovative stave combinations of these handcrafted casks create a unique method of ageing Cradle Mountain Whisky to produce flavour complexity and a mosaic of aromas.
The barrel is coopered with different stave types, for example, ex-Sherry, Port, Virgin Oak, Bourbon, and Muscat. The ratio of staves is determined by precise surface area calculations based on the flavour profiles and the complexity targets of the distillation formula, the size of barrels and planned maturation.
Brian Poke the founding father of Cradle Mountain Whisky completes the intensive handover training to the Lahra family and assists with the development of the whisky formula.
Cradle Mountain Whisky begins production of three additional new makes. These are left to mature in Sol' lahra and ex-Sherry, Port, Virgin Oak, and Bourbon barrels of differing charr levels. Some of the legacy stock is also further aged with a target to release a 21-year-old whisky.
Cradle Mountain Whisky continues to fill barrels and develops 'The Cradle Glass' a whisky glass that changes the way whisky is nosed and tasted. Handblown using traditional glass-blowing methods, the glass by way of its shape effectively reduces alcohol fumes, thus enhancing the taste of whisky.
Plans for a new distillery and home for Cradle Mountain Whisky get underway. Located in the Tamar Valley Region, water will continue to be sourced from the foothills of Cradle Mountain for production and cutting.
Cradle Mountain Whisky turns 30, and the distillery transition is finally complete. The first run through the new 2000L wash and 600L spirit stills was officiated by the Lahra family with the guidance of Brian Poke.
Cadenheads release the 7th and final cask of Cradle Mountain Whisky - "Cradle Mountain from the Small Concern Whisky Distillery, Aged 23 Years".
In celebration of 30 years of whisky production Cradle Mountain Whisky aims to release two new expressions; its limited 21-year-old Cradle Mountain Whisky, and 'The Long Trek' - 30 Year Anniversary.