William McHenry & Sons Distillery is the most southerly distillery in the world. Based in Port Arthur, Tasmania, William and his team produce vodka, gin and whisky. I am a big fan of this Classic Dry Gin and couldn’t wait to cross the Tasman to see the distillery.
William told me that the plan to become a distiller involved something of a tree change for him and his family.
“I was part of the corporate world for a long time even spending 5 years in Manhattan before returning to Australia and basing ourselves in Sydney. A few years of working for a company flying back and forth from Perth on a weekly basis made me question “is this it”? Then after a particularly stressful day, I drove home with my mind full of that day’s business and ran a red light, narrowly escaping an accident. It shook me up enough to make me realise that I wanted to do something else with my life”.
Chatting with a friend at a barbecue, William shared his desire to change direction. His friend replied “With a name like William McHenry, you should be making whisky!”.
William says it was like a light coming on and he and his wife Alison began scoping property locations in Tasmania.
The property in Port Arthur piqued William’s interest on two levels. Firstly, he loved the area, but secondly the property had natural springs, with extremely pure water, an essential ingredient in distilling.
The McHenry copper still was manufactured in Tasmania by the same company that made Stone Pine Distillery’s still. At 500 litres, it is also a similar size. Visitors are welcome to visit during distillation and William even sets up lunch for guests in front of the still.
William loves showing off the area to its fullest potential and has built a ‘bothy’ close to the distillery where visitors can enjoy lunch and tastings of his spirits, while gazing out over the stunning views.
One of the highlights of my visit to meet William and find out more about McHenry and Sons, was foraging for sloes for his acclaimed sloe gin. These are all picked by hand and are tricky little suckers as the bushes they grow on are covered in sharp thorns. I tasted one or two and they are sweet and juicy, but the tannin in the skins stripped my mouth of moisture in no time!
There are 4 styles of gin in the McHenry range: sloe, barrel-aged, London Dry style and Navy Strength (over-proof). William showed me the solera system used for making his barrel-aged gin, and allowed me to sample some from the first barrel. Delicious!
I was also invited to make my own gin under Williams’ expert guidance, which was an amazing experience, one I’ll be sharing on another post. William offers these workshops through Bespoke Tasmania and you can book via the link below. If you are visiting Tasmania, I highly recommend making sure a visit to McHenry and Sons is on your itinerary!
(With grateful thanks to William and the distillery team for giving up their time to share this wonderful distillery with me)