Sydney’s booming high-end whisky scene

Whisky bars have taken off in Sydney. (Photo: Martin Newman)

Sydney is in the midst of a whisky boom as more distillers target drinkers with better, and often more expensive, products.

Major Scottish distillers, such as Balvenie and Glenfiddich, are employing full-time brand ambassadors to attract both bars and consumers to their high-end tipples.

At the same time firms from the US and Japan and boutique local whiskey-makers, like Lark and Sullivan’s Cove, are also cashing in on the fast evolving scene.

“Whisky is definitely seeing an increase in popularity. Over the past five to six years we have really seen an influx in premium whisky venues in and around Sydney, showcasing the best from Scotland, Ireland, USA and here at home,” said Luke Sanderson, Glenfiddich’s Brand Ambassador.

“Sydney now has some of the best dedicated whisky bar’s in the world. Year-on-year we are seeing more open and stay open. That’s the important part.

“We have moved away from the nightclubs and into the small bars with whisky on our minds.”

Drinking establishments like The Wild Rover and Tokyo Bird, in Surry Hills, and The Baxter Inn and Ramblin’ Rascal, in the City, are the tip of a very lucrative ice berg, that has transformed Sydney’s inner city from a pub to a premium bar town.

From tastings with experts flown from the Scottish Highlands to audiobooks – whiskey-makers are adapting to the rapidly changing needs of Sydney consumers and capitalising.

Last week Balvenie, a Speyside distiller from Dufftown, Scotland, launched its ‘Stories’ range of whisky in a cheeky nod to social media.

Their main objective being to show the story behind the production of different drops and add depth and meaning to the product.

The three Stories whiskys – Sweet Toast of American Oak, Week of Peat and Day of Dark Barley – are all marketed using tales of the ordinary characters engaged in producing them back in Scotland.

“It’s so important to tell stories about what we do at the distillery, and not just about how we make the whisky but what we do there,” Brand Ambassador, Ross Blainey told Hatch.

“If you’re buying something, you want to relate to it in a genuine way. For us, it helps people realise there’s a human aspect to our whisky and people can relate to that.”

Sanderson added that modern consumers were more educated and seeking out products of higher quality.

“Here in Sydney we can see an array of micro-producers stepping forward and rattling the cages of the big players with a lot of community support,” said Sanderson.

“The consumer is a lot more educated than prior years, with health and wellbeing so front of mind we really are seeing people drinking smarter and better quality products, which is fantastic for the world of whisky,” he continued.

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