Prohibition in the U.S. lasted only 13 years, but in Tasmania, Australia, distilling was illegal from 1838 to 1991. Australian whisky pioneer Bill Lark successfully urged lawmakers to reconsider, and now his Lark Distillery leads the charge in a revival of Tasmanian distilling operations.
Tasmanian whisky producers may be new to the scene, but they’re making a bold entrance. Without global name recognition or the kind of tradition that builds expertise over generations, one might expect them to have a few kinks to work out. But then again, you’d be kidding yourself if you didn’t think more than a few tinkerers were distilling for friends and neighbors in their basements. All it took was a tipsy legislator or two to throw open the floodgates.
What that means for whisky lovers is that instead of drinking from bottles marketed to look like they were made in a cellar, here we have access to the real deal. Tasmania’s professional distillers haven’t yet had the time or resources to turn their handicraft over to mass production. So when Casey Overeem tells you that his whisky is made in a backyard shed, that’s because it’s made in a backyard shed.
In fact, Overeem started tinkering with whisky after watching his Norwegian relatives make small batches in their cellar back in the 80s, inspiring him to try his hand at home. By 2005, he was taking his hobby more seriously: he procured a distilling license and traveled through Scotland to pick up a few tips.
Today, Overeem produces only about 8,000 bottles per year, all single-malts aged in port, bourbon, or sherry casks and sold in either 60% abv (cask strength) or 43% abv. Overeem’s success has been remarkable, creating far more demand than the homegrown operation can satisfy. When your new releases break the Internet without even the promise of nude celebrities, you must be doing something right.
Tasting Notes: Overeem Sherry Cask Matured Whisky
Vital Stats: 86 proof. 100% malted barley. Aged at least five years. Prices vary widely if you’re lucky enough to find a bottle for sale. Expect to pay at least $200.
Appearance: An orange tint, slightly hazy.
Nose: Spiced apple sauce spiked with red wine. Quite soft and inviting.
Palate: The first impression is luscious creaminess. By mid-palate, the spirit proves darker and earthier than it smells—lots of cinnamon and fig, but without smoke except in the way that, say, a kalamata olive delivers a vague sense of smokiness. The finish is even spicier as the flavors accumulate. The sherry cask’s influence is clear in the wine and olive flavors.
I suppose one buys a bottle like this because it’s unique and rare. But Overeem Single Cask is a rich, complex, and intriguing spirit no matter its exotic source or price tag.
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Mark is a poet, writer, editor, and cheese monger. He’s also a real trip on karaoke nights. After leaving a career as an English professor, he started a small business at ParagraphDoctor.com and moved to Portland. Now he’s all about birds, bourbon, and breweries. His ridiculous birding blog can be...