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There was a time -- a time not long ago,
in fact -- when whisky was the domain
of the British Isles. Where the spirit's
strong taste and acerbic scent was the
province of middle-class, middle-aged
But times have quickly changed, according to spirit
importer Doug van Tienen -- and he's happily raising
a toast to the global whisky revolution.
"You've got the powerhouses of Ireland, Scotland
and America," van Tienen says.
happening in the last five years, you've now got India
-- they produce one of the finest in the world -- and
one thing that we're the first in the world to import is
Kavalan from Taiwan."
Finland, Switzerland, France, Denmark -- the
traditional whisky producers have been swept up in
a worldwide tidal wave of single malts and double
shots, and Australia has been pulled along with the
tide, itself producing a number of award-winning
"We're not a whisky drinking nation, but in the last
year, 14 whisky bars have opened in Australia," van
Tienen says. "So there's some dramatic developments
Whisky-mania has also reached the capital, it
seems, with Canberrans choosing to make it Suntory
time on an increasingly regular basis. The Sydney-
based van Tienen started hosting Whisky Club
evenings in Canberra last year, a chance for people to
get together every couple of months and learn about
the fine science of whisky tasting.
"The taste profile of whisky is extraordinarily
complex, it all depends on how you drink it and how
you match it with food," van Tienen says, adding that
this challenging spectrum of flavour has attracted
Canberra's well-informed population.
"Society is becoming more intellectual," he opines.
"People are starting to read the internet, read about
whisky and matching with food, and want to know
more about it."
From doctrinal methods of smelling and tasting, to
the desired dilution level, to the best type of whisky
for digestion, van Tienen shows club visitors the how
and rye of the timeless spirit.
As the global whisky market has expanded, so too
has its appeal, with the majority of Canberra Whisky
Club's attendees aged between 25 and 40, men and
"The one thing that did really surprise me at Whisky
Club [in Canberra] ... you'll get business people,
entrepreneurs, politicians, plumbers, whatever, in
the same room," he says. "To my surprise, no-one
talks politics, no-one talks business -- everyone was
talking on the same playing field. It's an amazing
Van Tienen says the thirst for Whisky Club evenings
in Canberra is "sensational".
"It's pulling me apart, because it's actually going a
bit too well -- the interest level is so high," he laughs.
"My father actually grew up where today the
Ketel Number One vodka is produced [in Holland]
-- the actual still used to be my father's bedroom. "I
come from a family of gin distillers -- my great-great
grandfather was a gin distiller. That's where the
bloodline comes from."
Even so, it was not until just over a decade ago that
van Tienen began walking in his family's footsteps.
"I was working here in Australia as a technician in
a laboratory, got bored with it, met up with a good
mate of mine and we decided to import some wine
and spirits. And it just grew," he says.
The venture has now grown to take in Whisky Live,
an international whisky festival that will be making
its debut in Canberra in July. As ever, van Tienen is
excited to be exposing his most beloved drink to a
whole new audience.
"If you hold your hands a foot apart, that's the
profile of wine. If you go four times that, that's the
flavour profile of whisky," he says. "The one thing
that wines can't really do is go into the savoury and
the smokiness that whisky can."
Canberra Whisky Club
P: 0425 325 275
Whisky has continued to grow as the
drink of choice for people around
the world, and Canberra has been no
exception as DOUGLAS FRY discovers.
Whisky Live, staged in some 20 countries around
the world, is a holistic celebration of whisky
culture -- distillers, marketers, chefs and, of
course, the drink itself -- in a day-long expo for old
hands and new aficionados alike to enjoy.
Whisky Live Australia organiser Doug van Tienen
estimates about $2 million worth of whisky will
pour into Albert Hall for the day, with everything
from decades-old vintages to recent Australian
successes for attendees to sample.
Whisky Live patrons will be provided tasting notes
by e-mail in the days before the event and will
receive their own tasting glass on arrival at the
An array of locally-sourced food will accompany
the spectrum of whisky flavours, ranging from
freshly shucked Batemans Bay oysters to sharp
cheese from Tilba.
Whisky Live will host a six-course whisky
degustation dinner at the Hyatt Hotel the night
before, which will be overseen by global whisky
guru Martine Nouet.
Where: Albert Hall
Cost: $95 per person (event is 18+)
When: July 27. Session times
are 1.30-5pm and 6-9.30pm
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