Home brewed hooch
Picture: Iain Gillespie

You don't have to venture to the Highlands of Scotland or America's deep south to find an uplifting spirit - there are world beaters in our own backyard.

Albany's pioneering Great Southern Distilling Company is fast making an international name for itself, with Limeburners its flagship whisky.

Founded by commercial lawyer Cameron Syme in 2004, the company has collected medals each of the past seven years at London's prestigious International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC).

This July, three different expressions (as whisky vintages are called) of Limeburners Single Malt Whisky won silver medals, and a whisky liqueur won Silver Medal Outstanding.

Great Southern Distilling also makes gin, brandy, vodka and absinthe but whisky is Mr Syme's passion.

He's expanding his geographic horizons, too, with a distillery set to open next year in Margaret River.

At the other end of the State, the Hoochery Distillery in Kununurra has been producing top-quality rum since the mid-1990s and in March it won top prize in its class at the Melbourne Fine Foods Awards.

It was the first award for the Hoochery's rum but then owner-founder Raymond "Spike" Dessert is not a big fan of competitions.

"We put the rum together and make it taste good and if other people want to give us awards for it, well, thank you," he said. "But we're not out there tailoring it and chasing those awards."

Mr Dessert said traditional production methods, plus the Caribbean-like climate of the Kimberley, helped make his product taste so good.

Rum is not the only spirit the Hoochery makes. There's a Columbian-inspired rum flavoured with locally grown aniseed that tastes like ouzo; the Kimberley Cane Spirit, a mixture of cane spirit, chocolate and coffee; and Oria Gold - a spiced mango liqueur.

WA's newest distillery, Whipper Snapper in East Perth, won't be producing anything other than whiskey, according to Alasdair Malloch.

Mr Malloch's partner in the venture is his brother-in-law Jimmy McKeown.

"Our passion is for whiskey," Mr Malloch said. "We wouldn't be doing vodka or gin or anything else."

Whipper Snapper is so new it hasn't even had its official opening (that's later this month) but it already has one spirit on the market with another soon to make an appearance.

In Australia, whiskey must spend two years in barrels before it can be sold as whiskey, and the Whipper Snapper's first expression is not due to be released until May 2016.

To fill the gap, the distillery has released Crazy Uncle's Moonshine.

"It's essentially our whisky spirit that hasn't been put in the cask," Mr Malloch said. "It's got a lot of different flavours from the whiskey which obviously gets a lot from the barrel.

"Crazy Uncle's Slightly Aged Moonshine with only a couple of months in a barrel will be released imminently."

Another distillery yet to sell its first whisky is The Grove Experience which started life in 1995 in Margaret River as a winery before diversifying into liqueurs and beer.

Owner Steven Hughes said the idea was to establish a point of difference with the region's wineries.

"Currently we're doing a gin, an absinthe, a spiced rum and two sorts of American-style spirits because we're not allowed to call it bourbon," Mr Hughes said.

"Our first single-malt whisky will be out in March next year."

Meanwhile, Wild Swan Distilling Company in Henley Brook is undergoing a major transformation under new owner James Young, who has a background in advertising and marketing.

Mr Young has big plans for the company, including an expansion of the cellar door and a new line of vodkas.

Next year would see the launch of a new gin he promised would be "phenomenal".

With so many newcomers offering new tastes, it's an exciting time for lovers of local spirits.

The West Australian

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