Rugged coastlines, ancient rainforests, and tranquil rivers: northwest Tasmania is home to a diverse and wild Landscape blessed with the cleanest air in the world. Home also to pristine produce and locals with an appreciation for craft in their blood, it’s a perfect place to make whisky; a secret that Australia’s oldest operating whisky distillery is now ready to share.
The story of Hellyers Road began with an unlikely group of would-be distillers who were making a buck in the dairy business close to Burnie in Tasmania’s northwest. Already accustomed to building, growing creating local produce, these innovative farmers knew their environment was perfect for sourcing ingredients of purity and quality.
In the late 1990s, they thought it might be an excellent place to build a distillery. They chose to name the distillery after Henry Hellyer, an explorer and iconic figure in the establishment of Tasmania. Brought over by the Van Diemen’s Land Company in 1827, his job was to survey the region. One of the original exploration roads winds its way straight through the Hellyers Road property in Northwest Tasmania. Hellyer’s characteristics of courage, curiosity, tenacity and resilience resonated with the newly formed group of brave and imaginative distillers.
It turns out the group’s vision was ahead of the time, and now, thanks to their own tenacity and resilience, the Hellyers Road Distillery is the oldest in Tasmania. Their bond store houses casks with an unbroken line of provenance for every one of their releases dating back to 2001. Like Henry Hellyer, the owners understood what it takes to build a legacy across generations and while they wish they’d put down more, Hellyers Road is one of the few distilleries on the island with genuine aged stock now able to offer 18-year-old (and older) Tasmanian whisky to fans around the world. This can be put down to a policy of riding out the tough times and “not selling the silver to pay for the dinner.” Their greatest challenge, however, is how to let the world know. This part of Tasmania is also known for its restrained modesty and a quiet pursuit of excellence. This year the brand has undergone a complete packaging refresh, both the bottle and the label, clearly stating the age statements for some of the range and better communicating the premium quality of the liquid inside, emphasising that Hellyers Road is Australia’s home for rare and aged whiskies.
Until recently this has been Australian whisky’s best kept secret. That is until Hellyers Road was named the Best Australian Single Malt Whisky at the 2021 World Whisky Awards for its Henry’s Legacy Freestone Cove. The cat was out of the bag, and it was no fluke. The following year Hellyers Road won again, this time in the 13-20 year old category with the 15 Year Old Slightly Peated American Oak Whisky. And when you investigate further, the brand has been winning awards right back to 2012, best retold with a visit to their website under a section aptly named “Awards”. There are plenty.
Henrys Legacy Freestone Cove has been awarded the prestigious World Whiskies Awards Best Australian Single Malt 2021.
Judges described both whiskies as “Brilliant” in their tasting notes.
“I agree! They are brilliant! And it repeats the success of previous years. Hellyers Road were category winners in 2020 and 2019. Typical of the team here, no fuss or fanfare they just move on to creating the next brilliant whisky. It’s like the best kept secret in town!”
Freestone Cove is nestled between Table Cape and Fossil Bluff at Wynyard on the North West Coast.