Portrait of an artist
Artist Penny Casey has spent her entire life in the South Pacific, but…
Perched on the side of Mount Arthur, William McHenry and Sons Distillery is a rustic set-up in one of the most beautiful spots on the Tasman Peninsula. Some years ago, Bill McHenry fled his big city job to set up this small family-run whisky distillery. Whisky takes a long time to mature, so now he also makes some good gin and teaches others its secrets.
I’m one of seven enthusiasts who have signed up for a four-hour workshop on how to distill our own gin. It’s a cross between a cooking demo and a chemistry class but more fun. I’m juggling funnels, measuring jugs and burners and also deciding which botanicals or flavourings I like. I add my chosen ingredients – juniper, cardamom, star anise and orange peel – to the bubbling alcohol and it doesn’t take long before I have my own Devil’s Brew in a bottle.
If the weather is fine, there’s a gin-themed lunch (organised by the exuberant Kim Dudson of Bespoke Tasmania Tours) on the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, it’s quite blowy so we eat inside.
Later Bill loads us into two vehicles and we travel further up Mount Arthur to see why he set up in such a remote location. He shows us the secret natural spring oozing up through the rocks, the source of the pure water that he believes gives his whisky its special taste.
Bill is one of several locals who have had to use their ingenuity to recover from Tasmania’s 2013 bushfires and turn the Tasman Peninsula region, about 90 minutes from Hobart and best known for the Port Arthur Historic Site, into a gourmet destination.
Read the full story in the RACV’s Royal Auto magazine, March 2016.