history

Lady Jane Franklin is mostly remembered as being one of Australia’s earliest pioneers and explorers. But if you ask a Tasmanian whisky-lover, you’ll discover that the good lady has a lot to answer for.

"I would prefer barley be fed to pigs than it be used to turn men into swine."

Lady Jane Franklin
1838

That simple phrase, spoken by Lady Jane Franklin in 1838, changed the course of Tasmanian whisky. It was enough to convince her husband, Governor John Franklin, to outlaw the distilling of spirits in Tasmania.

Before this, Tasmanian whisky was a thriving enterprise. 16 legal distilleries dotted the island, along with plenty of illegal ones. But after the lady’s plea, the distilleries were forced to shut up shop. And so, for the next 150-or-so years, Tasmania was without any whisky makers – besides the odd moonshiner.

Luckily in 1991, somebody finally realised what the world was missing out on.

Bill Lark was fishing in the Highlands when he noticed something; with its clean water and superb growing conditions, Tasmania was just about perfect for making whisky. After making an application to open a distillery, he discovered Lady Franklin’s law was still in place, making the manufacturing of whisky impossible.

Instead of giving up, Bill decided to fight the law. He got in contact with his local representative, Duncan Kerr, to see what could be done about overturning the law. The two men got to chatting, and Kerr took the matter to Barry Jones, the Federal customs minister. Pretty soon the law was overturned, allowing Bill and his wife, Lyn, to found Tasmania’s first legal distillery in over 150 years.

Over the next two decades, other Tasmanians started distilling whisky, each with their own passion, hard work, unique methods and ingredients. Today, Tasmania’s home to nine whisky distilleries, with more on the way. Some are small and bespoke, while others are international stars that export to the world and regularly clean up at international award shows. Each of them uses the state’s pure ingredients to make something unique and special.

And unfortunately for Lady Jane Franklin, it looks like these Tasmanian whiskies are here to stay.

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The Tasmanian Whisky Trail © 2016