Australia: Day 5 – Modern Melbourne

I spent a lot of time on Monday and Tuesday visiting wineries in the Yarra, having fantastic lunches, putting in a few orders, and locating some new producers for us to import, but you can read all about that stuff over at On the Trail. In the meantime, let's talk about Melboune's modern approach to spirits.

What is Melbourne? It's tough to say having only spent one day here so far. But here are my snapshot observations: it's like San Francisco, but with fashion and art. It's like the Mission before it was gentrified. Before women started wearing nothing but Lululemon. Before hipsters stopped caring. Before everyone started looking at a small illuminated screen in the palm of their hands 24/7. 

Sure: there are yoga mats, bicycles, ironic pizza advertisements, and plenty of the same modern developments we see on a daily basis in the Bay Area, but there's still an element of fun here. I don't get the impression that Melbourne takes itself anywhere near as seriously. Example number one? Jason Chan.

Jason not only runs one of the coolest bars I've ever been to called Hats & Tatts, he's part owner of West Winds; a small boutique gin distillery that has a line of Aussie-influenced expressions coming out of Margaret River. His American-themed watering hole had me in stitches. They have two retro arcade machines (NBA Jam and Street Fighter II), plus posters of "Big Trouble in Little China" as well as Tom Cruise's "Cocktail" on the interior. There's no pretense here, folks. You're here to drink.

I tasted through the entire line-up of West Winds, as well as a number of other local distillates. Jason is a great guide to the spirits scene in Melbourne, and he also has a friend who's making outstanding glassware. Denver Liely's unique and hand-blown editions made tasting spirits that much better. I snagged the whisky glass to bring home with me. I was impressed. 

After meeting with Jason, it was over to Starward: Melbourne's single malt distillery and a rising star in the world of micro-spirits. 

I'll go into more detail in a later post, but there's a lot to be excited about here. Three year old single malt aged in Aussie wine casks and bottled via a solera system for a reasonable price? Yes, please.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll