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Old Kempton Distillery

Tasmanian Single Malt from a Bill Lark-inspired Hidden Gem

Established in 2012 by Peter and Elizabeth Hope and family, the operation began in the Derwent Valley as Redlands Estate. The aim was to produce a true paddock-to-bottle single malt whisky—a Tasmanian Kilchoman. Joining them as investors and consultants to help them achieve this were industry stalwarts, Bill and Lyn Lark. In 2015, the distillery took an opportunity to move to the heritage-listed Dysart House in Kempton, less than an hour north of Hobart. They renamed their distillery Old Kempton in honour of their new, old home. 

The man behind the still is distiller Rob Tyson. Tyson has worked in the Tasmanian Whisky trade since his Uni days, starting behind the bar at the Lark Distillery and staying with them for the next 10 years. During his tenure, Tyson worked in every facet of the business, from cellar door to operations, to distillation, before, at the request of Bill Lark himself, graduating to the role of Head Distiller at Old Kempton in early 2021.

Like the majority of Whisky producers in Tasmania, Old Kempton purchases their wash from a brewery. Unlike most, Tyson works very closely with the brewer—Last Rites in Cambridge, Tasmania (also the source for the Sullivan’s Cove wash)—and specifies grain selection, yeast selection and fermentation times. Significantly, Tyson is moving brewing in-house in the coming months, a decision made easier because his off-sider Nick has a brewing background in Brisbane (White Lies in QLD). This is an essential step for Old Kempton’s fermentation equals flavour ethos. Utilising local water and local barley and fermenting in-house will allow them to better “capture their time and place” and further refine the Old Kempton style. 

Old Kempton uses only Tasmanian-grown and malted barley and has what Tyson describes as a “fairly traditional approach” to distillation. Double distillation is in Knapp Lewer copper pot stills (one of Australia’s few makers of copper stills) that take through the heavy oils—a signature of the Old Kempton style—and maturation almost exclusively takes place, from start to finish, in the nominated cask, rather than just finishing. 

Until now, Old Kempton has remained something of a hidden gem on the Tassie Whisky scene. Frankly, their spirits are far too good not to reach a wider audience. The Old Stables recently brought home the award for Best Australian Small Batch Single Malt Whisky at the 2022 World Whisky Awards.

Tyson’s deep understanding of the need for different approaches for different cask programmes is central to the character and quality of Old Kempton Whiskies. The distilling team works closely with cooperages and winemakers to source the highest quality casks. The inventory is roughly one-third ex-Australian Tawny, one-third Bourbon and, unusually, one-third Pinot Noir, with some room for discretionary inclusion of Sherry, Rum and Tokay as they crop up. The Pinot Noir casks are primarily sourced from Stefano Lubiana and Frogmore Creek. Seppeltsfield and Yalumba provide the lion’s share of the Tawny casks, and it’s the usual suspects for the Bourbon casks; Jack Daniels, Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey, among others. Most of the barrels get a light shave, a medium toast and a heavy char before use. 

The Old Kempton Whisky range is all Single Malt. The Old Stables and the Cask Strength Coachhouse represent the house-style Whiskies, incorporating a range of different casks to highlight the rich malt character of the Old Kempton spirit. Then there is the Classic Range comprising Ex-Port and Ex-Pinot Noir cask Single Malts. And finally, there is the Solera Cask Single Malt, currently drawn from a 500-litre Portuguese Port cask.

Alongside the Whisky programme, Old Kempton also crafts a range of small-batch Gins, named after William Henry Ellis. Ellis was sent from England to Australia in 1825 following a conviction for embezzlement. He arrived in Tasmania, and by all accounts married rather well, going on to build the Dysart House that is now home to the Old Kempton Distillery. There are three Gins in the range: a London Dry style, a fruity summer style and a barrel-aged Gin. Finally, two delicious liqueurs—an apple and a lavender malt—are made from Tasmanian ingredients to perfectly capture seasonality and place.

Currently Available

Old Kempton The Old Stables Single Malt Whisky (500ml)
Bibendum Bar

Old Kempton The Old Stables Single Malt Whisky (500ml)

40.5% ABV. This is named after the old stables located on the Dysart Estate, now the home of the distillery. Old Kempton’s wash is 100% Tasmanian-grown and malted barley, made a short drive away at Cambridge. Distiller Rob Tyson works very closely with the brewer from the outset to ensure it is made to measure. Like all the Whiskies at this distillery, the wash was then double-distilled in squat Knapp Lewer copper pot stills (made in Hobart). The spirit was then aged for five to six years before blending and bottling (in a combination of ex-Australian Tawny (around 60%) and Apera casks (20%), with the balance composed of Pinot Noir, Bourbon and a small proportion of fortified Shiraz. Along with being the introduction to the Old Kempton story, this is also the fruitiest and most approachable in the range. The aromas are a lovely balance of raisin and citrus fruits, layered spice, green almond and hay notes. The palate opens up more of that malty character along with a graininess and just a whisper of cleansing medicinal touch. The texture is rich and buttery and it finishes dry and nutty, bursting with the flavour of pecan pie.

Along with being the introduction to the Old Kempton story, this is also the fruitiest and most approachable in the range. The aromas are a lovely balance of raisin and citrus fruits, layered spice, green almond and hay notes. The palate opens up more of that malty character along with a graininess and just a whisper of cleansing medicinal touch. The texture is rich and buttery and it finishes dry and nutty, bursting with the flavour of pecan pie.

Best Australian Small Batch Single Malt Whisky
2022 World Whisky Awards
Old Kempton The Old Stables Single Malt Whisky (500ml)
Bibendum Bar
Old Kempton Lavender Malt Liqueur
Bibendum Bar

Old Kempton Lavender Malt Liqueur

Old Kempton Distillery’s home of Dysart House is surrounded by lavender during the summer months, and the heady fragrance and vibrant colour during this time inspired this Lavender Malt Liqueur. It's produced from flowers from the Port Arthur Lavender Farm, the heads steeped in Old Kempton malt spirit (the same as the Whisky base pre-cask). It is sweetened with sugar and coloured with butterfly pea flower before bottling. It’s an excellent addition to bubbles, cocktails or mixed with the Embezzler Gin to make a lavender version of an Aviation cocktail. 

Consumers Choice Award
SIP Awards 2021
Double Gold - Liqueur
SIP Awards 2021
Old Kempton Lavender Malt Liqueur
Bibendum Bar
Old Kempton Lavender Malt Liqueur (350ml)
Bibendum Bar

Old Kempton Lavender Malt Liqueur (350ml)

Old Kempton Distillery’s home of Dysart House is surrounded by lavender during the summer months, and the heady fragrance and vibrant colour during this time inspired this Lavender Malt Liqueur. It's produced from flowers from the Port Arthur Lavender Farm, the heads steeped in Old Kempton malt spirit (the same as the Whisky base pre-cask). It is sweetened with sugar and coloured with butterfly pea flower before bottling. It’s an excellent addition to bubbles, cocktails or mixed with the Embezzler Gin to make a lavender version of an Aviation cocktail.

Consumers Choice Award
SIP Awards 2021
Double Gold - Liqueur
SIP Awards 2021
Old Kempton Lavender Malt Liqueur (350ml)
Bibendum Bar
Old Kempton 10th Anniversary Single Malt Whisky (500ml)
Bibendum Bar

Old Kempton 10th Anniversary Single Malt Whisky (500ml)

2022 marks the 10th anniversary of Old Kempton Distillery, and to celebrate the occasion Head Distiller Rob Tyson has crafted a special 500-litre batch, from which Bibendum Bar has managed to secure a very small allocation.Tyson was deliberate and careful in his cask selections for this Whisky, ensuring he chose spirits that represented Old Kempton’s past, present and future. Half the blend was distilled at the original site (Redlands Estate) and the other half was distilled at the current location in Dysart House, Kempton. A range of cask types were used (Pinot Noir, Bourbon and Port) and it was bottled at 50% ABV to both ensure approachability and help preserve the sheer depth and complexity of each component. 

Old Kempton 10th Anniversary Single Malt Whisky (500ml)
Bibendum Bar
Old Kempton Solera Cask Single Malt Whisky (500ml)
Bibendum Bar

Old Kempton Solera Cask Single Malt Whisky (500ml)

Old Kempton’s solera was started in 2017, and this release is batch number four. The system currently consists of just one 500L Portuguese Port cask, which is drawn from and topped with 250 litres of stylistically similar spirit from the cask program every six to nine months. Distiller Rob Tyson has plans to expand the solera, with the aim being to introduce 30-plus-year-old 500L Yalumba Muscat casks to the system incrementally over the next few years. Like all Old Kempton Whiskies, the base spirit started life as a 100% Tasmanian barley wash, and was double-distilled in the distillery’s copper pot stills. It’s a rich and deeply complex Whisky, opening with slightly more delicate oak than the rest of the range, allowing bright fruit and florals to offset the headier vanilla, spice and nutty elements. Although subtle on the nose, it’s a titan on the palate; a decadent, winter-themed single malt, with shortbread, dark fruit nut chocolate and spice flavours, followed by mountains of molten caramel to close.

It’s a rich and deeply complex Whisky, opening with slightly more delicate oak than the rest of the range, allowing bright fruit and florals to offset the headier vanilla, spice and nutty elements. Although subtle on the nose, it’s a titan on the palate; a decadent, winter-themed single malt, with shortbread, dark fruit nut chocolate and spice flavours, followed by mountains of molten caramel to close.

Australian Whisky - GOLD
SIP Awards 2021
Old Kempton Solera Cask Single Malt Whisky (500ml)
Bibendum Bar
Old Kempton The Old Stables Single Malt Whisky (50ml)
Bibendum Bar

Old Kempton The Old Stables Single Malt Whisky (50ml)

This is named after the old stables located on the Dysart Estate, now the home of the distillery. Old Kempton’s wash is 100% Tasmanian-grown and malted barley, made a short drive away at Cambridge. Distiller Rob Tyson works very closely with the brewer from the outset to ensure it is made to measure. Like all the Whiskies at this distillery, the wash was then double-distilled in squat Knapp Lewer copper pot stills (made in Hobart). The spirit was then aged for five to six years before blending and bottling (in a combination of ex-Australian Tawny (around 60%) and Apera casks (20%), with the balance composed of Pinot Noir, Bourbon and a small proportion of fortified Shiraz. Along with being the introduction to the Old Kempton story, this is also the most approachable in the range. It's a rich and powerful Whisky, with lovely intensity and balance. 

Best Australian Small Batch Single Malt Whisky
2022 World Whisky Awards
Old Kempton The Old Stables Single Malt Whisky (50ml)
Bibendum Bar
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Best Australian Small Batch Single Malt Whisky, 2022 World Whisky Awards

Country

Australia

Primary Region

Tasmania

Availability

National

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