Here's to value adding Focus on barley

Distiller Mr Brian Poke toasts Franklin whisky.

Ground Cover 4 introduced readers to Tasmania's Brian Poke and his vision for a home - grown single-malt whisky, developed with GRDC support. Southern Region correspondent Denys Slee recently caught up with Brian Poke and reports progress.

In a dank bond store in Hobart is closeted a very precious barrel, kept under lock and key by Customs. The barrel was put there 19 months ago and will stay in bond for another five while its contents further mature.

The contents: high-quality, singlemalt, pot-still, hand-made, charcoal-mellowed whisky, developed from Tasmania's very own Franklin barley by Ulverstone distiller Brian Poke.

The barrel holds 200 litres of this unique commodity — or rather 199.25 litres, because Mr Poke and his fellow directors of the Small Concern Whisky Distillery were allowed a few weeks ago to draw 750 mL from it and to do some tasting. The verdict — "beautiful".

"It was hinted to us that Franklin might be the highest sugar-yielding barley in the world so we distilled some and we found it had a gorgeous honey top note," Mr Poke said. "Now every bugger and his dog wants Franklin. One tonne in the paddock here is worth $160 — on the shelves in Japan it will be worth $50,000.

"It won't be Scotch, it won't be bourbon, this will be uniquely Tasmanian whisky," Mr Poke said. "Right down to the fact that we will be linking bottles to the farmers' paddocks in which the Franklin barley is grown."

(Ed note : Ground Cover editors and contributors have so far sought in vain to report on a taste test.)