Thirsty? Here are six of the best Tasmanian distilleries

LARK DISTILLERY

Tasmania's modern-day distillery scene launched only 25 years ago, but is already sophisticated and internationally award-winning. The pioneer was Bill Lark, who saw the parallel between the pure waters, barley, peat bogs and bracing climates of Tasmania and Scotland. Lark's distillery isn't open to visitors, so its cellar door on Hobart's Constitution Dock is the place to knock back some of its lightly-peated, smoky whisky (or a satisfying range of other spirits) to the sounds of country and bluegrass bands. You can taste whisky at each stage of its development, and see how the flavour emerges. See larkdistillery.com

SHENE ESTATE

Shene Estate

Shene Estate Photo: Samuel Shelley/Tasmania Tourism

This 200-year-old estate 30 minutes north of Hobart presents repurposed Gothic Revival stables and a barn in glowing sandstone. The contemporary distillery building has a split-timber exterior in a nod to history, but its interior of gleaming stainless steel and copper equipment offers a striking visual contrast. Take a tour by appointment on weekends to find out how both its English-style dry gin (Poltergeist) and elegant, caramel-note whisky (Mackey) are produced – the whisky is the only one in Tasmania that is triple-distilled. Otherwise, look out for the pop-up bar that appears by the roadside on weekends. See shene.com.au

OLD KEMPTON DISTILLERY

Gins at Old Kempton Distillery

Gins at Old Kempton Distillery Photo: Old Kempton Distillery

The colonial-era town of Kempton, snuggled in countryside north of Hobart, makes you feel as if you've slipped between the scenes of a Jane Austen novel. The utterly charming distillery was once a coaching inn on the Hobart-Launceston road, and just misses being Georgian by a decade. The tasting room and café are in the main house, while the stills occupy the stable block. Daily tours at 11am or 1.30pm fill you in on the whisky-distilling process and are followed by a tasting. Whisky also pops up in the café's meat pies and steak sauce. See oldkemptondistillery.com.au

SOUTHERN WILD DISTILLERY

Southern Wild Distillery

Southern Wild Distillery Photo: S Group

Tasmania's north has fewer distilleries, but this one is conveniently located in downtown Devonport. Its cellar door and bar features industrial chic softened by hanging plants. Southern Wild produces rather accomplished Dasher + Fisher gin, notable not just for floral ingredients such as rose petal, lavender and jasmine, but for bolder flavours including coriander, pepperberry and liquorice too. Book in for a weekend tasting that matches the distillery's various gins (which are inspired by mountains, meadow and ocean) with gourmet nibbles, accompanied by an informative run-through of the gin creation process. See southernwilddistillery.com

HELLYERS ROAD DISTILLERY

Hellyers Road Distillery

Hellyers Road Distillery Photo: Supplied

This distillery, inland from Burnie on the north-west coast, sits in the gentle, cow-chewed hils  of the Emu Valley. Hellyers is an unusual cooperative of some 30 dairy farmers and Tasmania's largest whisky producer, but what it lacks in boutique intimacy and charm it makes up for with a well-rounded visitor experience and onsite restaurant. The 40-minute tour takes you from raw ingredients to finished product in the cask, which you can bottle yourself as a souvenir. It's worth comparing the flavours of whiskies matured in different pre-loved barrels that once held port, bourbon or pinot noir. See hellyersroaddistillery.com.au

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INSTITUT POLAIRE

This is, despite appearances, technically a cellar door, since Institut Polaire (just a block back from Hobart's harbour) produces its own dry gin called Süd Polaire, though it has none of the cobwebby barrels and rusticity you associate with regular cellar doors. This is, in fact, an uber-chic bar with a white-and-grey interior and light fixtures that look like ice cubes. Kick back and tuck into squid-ink pasta or sashimi as you run through a gin tasting or a martini masterclass, which will tell you all you need to know about producing the ultimate martini. See institutpolaire.com.au

Brian Johnston travelled at his own expense.

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