A new player has entered the Tasmanian artisan spirits industry

As Willie Smith's expands its range with rare apple brandy

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Willie Smith's still with barrels at the apple shed

Willie Smith's still with barrels at the apple shed

Willie Smith's Organic Cider - The Apple Shed
Willie Smith's Alembic still


A new chapter is being written in Tasmania's artisan spirit story.  Huon Valley cider producer Willie Smith's has officially commissioned Australia's first Australia-built Alembic Still that will be used to make apple brandy, or Calvados.

It's a $200,000 investment to further value-add to the Tasmanian apple industry and build on Willie Smith's reputation as an innovative producer of quality hand-craftedbeverages.

Approximately 180 people attended the official launch at The Apple Shed in Grove on Tuesday 19th April, conducted by the `godfather' of Tasmania's whisky and spirits industry, Bill Lark.

The event included a barrel filling ceremony, with Mr Lark filling the first 100L Sherry barrel - a product that will be released in three years' time.

Mr Lark commented; "The extension of their already successful cider production is a smart business move, and the production of a high quality Tasmanian Apple Brandy can only serve to strengthen our industry which has already gained high international accolades for its whiskies and gins. The Tasmanian spirits industry is now growing rapidly and I know that the very supportive attitude of the industry welcomes and congratulates Willie Smith’s on this exciting development."

Willie Smith’s Head Cider Maker and now Distiller, Dr Tim Jones, was extremely pleased with the initial spirit run stating"‘the spirit is smooth and fine, with creamy complexity and apple aroma – it expresses the characteristics of the cider we produce for this spirit and is also the result of this wonderfully designed and built still."

People will be able to get their hands on Willie Smith’s yet to be named 3-year old apple brandy that was distilled at Redlands Estate at Whisky Live in Hobart in July.

"Guests tasted the first spirit run from the new still - a very clean apple based spirit that still exhibited strong Willie Smith’s characteristics - and the overwhelming feedback was positive with everyone excited to see how it will mature over the next three years, which is the requirement for Calvados in France. "It's a process of patience but we think it will be well worth the wait!"

In the shorter-term Willie Smith’s is already selling Apple Schnapps and will be releasing Pear and Cherry Schnapps made with the still in the next couple of months.

Peter Bailly from Knapp Lewer Contracting created the stunning copper still in Tasmania. It's the first purpose-built Alembic Copper still in Tasmania and potentially Australia.

"It is lovingly hand crafted with the pre-heater dome, taking one person two weeks to hand beat out of copper,'' Mr Reid said. He went on to say it was expected to become another element in the state's boutique spirit scene - taking the number of distilleries in Tasmania to 15."

"We feel that this will be another boost for tourism in the Huon Valley and Southern Tasmania and give people even more of a reason to visit our great region," he said

"There are viewing windows from where you can watch the still in operation along with tours at set times planned for the future."

The Charentais alembic still was designed in the early 16th Century in the Cognac region of France where it is still used for fine Cognac production. To this day it is the preferred still of choice for Calvados producers in Normandy in France, hence why the team at Willie Smith’s commissioned it.

So, you ask, how does it work?

Cider is placed in the alembic pot, and also in the dome shaped pre-heater.  The pot is heated and alcohol enriched vapour passes through the alembic onion and out through the swan neck.  The swan neck passes through the pre-heater, and the hot vapour running through the swan neck heats the next batch of cider that is sitting in the preheater.  The vapour then passes through a condenser where it condenses into a liquid distillate known as the “broullis".  When the distillation of the cider in the pot is finished, the pre-heated cider is placed in the pot for another distillation run.

The "broullis" is collected and then placed into the distillation pot for a second distillation.  This second distillation produces the "bonne chauffe" which has an alcohol content of around 60% alcohol by volume.  This spirit is then placed in oak casks for 3 years or more aging.  The aged spirit is then blended carefully to produce a fine spirit.



  • Huon and Channel (TAS)

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April 23rd, 2016
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