the straw remains on the ground, enriching the soil. Belgrove’s spirits portfolio is just as quirky as some of its production practices. Aside from grains and the occasional abandoned wine, Bignell is likely to distill just about anything else that isn’t nailed down. Among those ingredients is ginger beer, which he turns into a spirit called Ginger Hammer. He’s also converted grape pomace into barrel-aged grappa. Additionally, there’s the Calvados-like spirit he calls Apple Hatchet. “I call it that because it wasn’t aged for two years, which you have to do to call it brandy in Australia,” he notes. Then there’s the distillery’s other apple-based product, Belgrove Pommeau, which incorporates a bit of apple juice before it’s barrel-aged. Its flavor is closer to that of a liqueur, but there’s no sugar added beyond that already present in the fruit.
Some of the strangest of Bignell’s eaux de vie are his pear brandy and apricot liqueur. Those may sound fairly straightforward— until you notice that a few of the bottles have whole, full-grown fruit inside them. “I get all sorts of questions about how I get the fruit in the bottle and everyone’s always looking for cut marks on the glass,” Bignell says. “But it’s a bit of trick. The fruit is actually grown in the bottles because I put the bottles on the trees.” But the most popular product within Belgrove Distillery’s portfolio is Black Rye, a liqueur that combines unaged rye with coffee. “The coffee liqueur is the biggest seller of the lot, but it’s not really what I push,” he notes. “I really push the rye whisky.” But, he says, Black Rye enables him to further stand out from
his peers as the Australian craft distilling industry expands rapidly. When I visited the distillery in early 2015, Belgrove was one of only nine operating producers in Tasmania. Now, Bignell says, there are about 30 on the island— of nearly 250 across Australia. Many of those have turned to gin to enable immediate cash flow as they wait for their whiskies to mature. But Black Rye is doing most of that heavy lifting for Belgrove Distillery. “So I have that little cash cow, the coffee liqueur, instead of doing gin,” he says. “I’ve steered away from doing what everyone else is doing.” An understatement if there ever was one.
Belgrove Distillery is located in Kempton, Tasmania, Australia. Visit www.belgrovedistillery.com.au for more information.
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