Updated: May 29
Do you know the story behind the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery? No? Well, we look forward to welcoming you and sharing our story.
I grew up in and around Timboon where I went to school. At the age of seventeen I established my own agriculture contracting business in Brucknell servicing the local farming community. After nine years in the business, I had to make a call to either invest heavily and stay in the industry or sell the business while I had good equity in my equipment. I chose to sell and begin a new challenge.
After back packing around Central America in 2014 with my now wife Caitlin, we moved on to bourbon country in Kentucky. I could see the craft brewing industry had exploded and reached capacity in these areas. Many brewers were distilling their beer and making it into Bourbon. Identifying that Australia often follows the trends of the stars and stripes eventually, I started thinking about brewing/distilling myself and we hatched a plan (and as we all know, the best plans are always hatched when you are on holidays). Craft brewing had already taking off in Australia, and no longer was Tassie the only state producing good whisky!
In 2014 there were 22 registered distilleries in Australia, in 2023 there are over 450.
We knew that the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery was on the market and had already made some initial inquires. Having witnessed what was happening in the United States, linking it with my passion for whisky and knowing that there was a worldwide trend of consumers moving to drinking premium spirits, we made the decision to jump headfirst into this rapidly expanding industry. Caitlin and I agreed to purchase the distillery and negotiated the sale from the other side of the world whilst we were travelling, all from an internet café!
On returning home, we got on the Australian small craft distillery loop and watched / followed small distillers around, learning their stories and listening to them explain where they had come from, how they started etc.
Once our commitment began, I spent a lot of time with the previous distiller, Tim Marwood who generously showed me the process in detail that he had followed since he began the Timboon Railway Shed Distillery in 2007. Tim originally learnt his craft from one of the most respected industry icons, Bill Lark from Lark Distillery in Tasmania.
The same tradition continues today at the distillery; we use Voyager craft malt and do all the mashing ourselves, we double distill at the distillery and then age our new spirit in wooden oak casks for a minimum of three years in our bond store. All our casks are heavily charred by our own Cooper, Heath Mason who works out of @abeckettscreekcooperage, located right next to the bond store in Timboon.
The rest is history in the making. #boomboomtimboon
Distillery Opened after the shed was extensively renovated by Tim Marwood and Caroline Simmons (Timboon Fine Ice Cream). Tim began distilling Single Malt Whisky.
First ‘made on site’ single malt whisky released.
Jim Murray Whisky Bible: awarded 96/100 for Port Expression & again in 2013
Josh & Caitlin purchased The Timboon Railway Shed Distillery
Josh doubles production; Jim Murray Whisky Bible: awarded 96/100 for our Port Expression.
Approx. 2000 litres of pure spirit produced
We exported a special batch of Bourbon Expression into Singapore.
Christies Cut is introduced as our second permanent line and is awarded an RASV Bronze Award;
We appointed Nip Of Courage as our exclusive national distributor to take our whisky lines across Australia.
Jim Murray Whisky Bible: awarded 96/100 for Port Expression; 90.5 for Christie’s Cut
Restructured the business to have a greater focus on whisky and spirit production turning inside into a whisky space and halving our restaurant capacity.
A new Concept introduced to change the business demographic & operation.
Established ABecketts’ Creek Cooperage
Our second, much larger new still arrives in middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic shutdown: we made hand sanitiser 24/7 for several months. Inside was remodelled to accommodate the new still and to create a more welcoming tasting space.
Smoky 1881 introduced as our third permanent line.
At Christmas, our fourth line in the portfolio, Tom’s Surrender was released (not to wholesale market)
Moved all our mashing/production from Brucknell into Timboon.
Release Salted Caramel Whisky Liqueur.
Established ‘Barrel House’ in Port Campbell for Summer season.
Production output approx.: Whisky 10,000 litres, Rum 10,000 litres + liqueurs
In the next 12-24 months expect: Rum release, Apple Brandy/Wine Brandy and Limited Whisky Releases.
THE RAILWAY LINE
The railway line which ran from Camperdown (an arterial from the Port Fairy Line) to Timboon was 35.92 kms long. It was opened in 1892 and closed in 1986. There were six stations on the line.
Tim Marwood and Caroline Simmons restored the old rail shed where we are today (there are some old photos of the site above the front door). The rail trail is now well utilised and funding came through in 2021 to extend the trail all the way to Port Campbell which will be fantastic!
WHAT WE DO
An overview of our distillery operation
The Timboon Railway Shed Distillery is a small, boutique distillery. In 2016 we produced around 2000lts of pure spirit; in 2017 around 3800lts, 2018 4800lts and aiming for around 7000 Plus in 2019*. Increasing production but remaining small (in whisky production world terms), is one of our major business goals. *10,000 + litres in 2021
Our focus will always be our Single Malt whisky. All our production is aimed at premium product and as well as whisky includes, vodka, schnapps, Limoncello & a wine-based coffee liqueur. All spirit is produced on site in our copper stills, the small still, used for second distillation is a Knapp Lewer still made in Hobart, the larger still was made by Burns Fabrication NSW to our design. After double distillation, new make spirit is transferred to our bonded store warehouse located in Timboon for ageing and eventually, hand bottling, labelling and packaging. It’s a family affair.
Our larger copper wash still has an immersed electric element. This still was commissioned in 2020 and has a 1600 litre capacity. Made in NSW by Burns Fabrication.
Our smaller copper spirit still is our original commissioned in 2007. It has under still electric elements and a 600-litre capacity. Made in Tasmania
Now that we have our new make spirit to work with, I make the decision on how to best use it. 90% of our new make spirit will go into barrels and age to create Single Malt Whisky. The remaining spirit we will use for making vodka and limoncello.
To create a registered Single Malt Whisky in Australia, it must be aged in an oak barrel for a minimum of two years.
Where I believe we come into our own, is that I place a huge emphasis on barrel choice. We use ex-port barrels (mainly American oak, but also French oak) which have been very heavily charred on the inside of the barrel (known as a crocodile char). It is not so much about the age of the whisky as it is all about the barrel in which the whisky has been aged.
The lingering faints of port in the barrel wood, the smoke from the heavy char and size of the barrel combine to create a very smooth, sweet and slightly smoky whisky. Consumers love our whisky mainly because of its ease to drink, particularly the Port Expression signature line.
Our whisky will sit in the barrels for anywhere between 4 - 10 years. Consumers often ask why we do not age for longer. There are two main reasons, we use very small barrels which expediates ageing time from a shear sizing perspective, and secondly, because our location is a unique and ideal climate for wonderful maturation. We have hot summers and cold winters which means we get extreme expansion and contraction in our barrels in the bond store. This helps grab all that natural flavour from the barrel a lot quicker than in a more constant environment (like Scotland being quite cold a lot of the year)
After careful consideration we taste and sample many barrels to see which one we should decant next for bottling. I’m always looking for strong fruit and smoke notes along with a finish that has a full mouth feel without a raw alcohol taste. Once we have found the right barrel, we will empty it into a large plastic vessel and CUT it back with purified water to 40-44% abv for our Signature PORT EXPRESSION, 47% abv for our SMOKY 1881, 50% abv for TOM’S SURRENDER and 60% abv for CHRISTIE’S CUT, described as a cask strength single malt.
Josh’s parents, Matthew and Glenda, will now move it into another more suitable pouring container and decanter into bottles. We hand bottle, hand label and hand write on every whisky bottle that is produced. The whisky labels contain Josh’s signature and the whole whisky making process is a Walker family affair. We have recently installed a bottling machine which saves a lot of heavy lifting and quickens the process up.
As chill or plate filtering is not a part of our process, our whisky will sometimes have sediment or suspended like translucent tufts in it. This is known as flocking and is a normal, natural flavour and colour component of the whisky. Flocking occurs when the whisky is stored at low temperatures resulting in some of the particles ‘falling out’ of suspension. If the whisky is brought to room temperature and shaken, the particles go back into suspension and disappear. The presence of flocking is an indication you have a genuine, full flavoured and naturally produced single malt whisky of the highest quality. We love flocking!
Single Malt Whisky PORT EXPRESSION @ 40-44% abv. Our original and award-winning single malt. Having been produced at the distillery since November 2007, consumers now know and love us for this line and it has become our Signature whisky, i.e.: the whisky that says most of what we are all about. Aged in ex-port American oak, heavily charred barrels. It’s designed to be a slightly sweet and easy drinking whisky for anyone, anytime!
Single Malt Whisky SMOKY 1881 @ 47% abv. Introduced as our third permanent line in 2021. With a little bit of Scottish peat used to give our barley a smoky taint, this whisky has been aged in second fill American oak, ex tawny port barrels. The balanced whisky peat gets sent to the back or your palate whilst you develop a slightly savoury/cinnamon mouth feel. On the nose get tawny cask florals, apricot & fruit cake aromas. Then your palate will find slightly salty & earthy tones. Classic, slightly Scottish heritage finish of wispy smoke and spice.
Single Malt Whisky TOM’S SURRENDER @ 50% abv. Our fourth portfolio line released post-Christmas 2021. Aged in ex Sherry barrels, it’s a smoothy!
Single Malt Whisky CHRISTIES CUT @ 60% abv. Was our second permanent line, Christies Cut is a cask strength whisky straight from the barrel (slightly cut with water). Its named after the Detective Inspector John Christie who at the turn of the 19th century tracked and captured Tom Delaney, who was an illicit distiller in this area. Like Christie himself, this whisky is a big and bold, has a deep character and full flavoured finish.
SNAKE TRACK VANILLA VODKA @ 40% abv: our vodka is based on our new make spirit, but instead of the spirit going into barrels to make whisky we ‘clean it up’ using a charcoal filter, cut it down with purified water and put it straight into a plastic drum ready for bottling. The spirit itself is quite bland, so we add an Australian grown vanilla bean which adds colour, flavour and a unique vanilla aroma. Not sweet at all, our Vanilla vodka is great over ice or in any cocktail.
LIMONCELLO @ 25% abv: a classic Italian digestive/aperitif, we painstakingly hand peal local lemons and freeze. When I am ready to make the spirit, I place the peel into a big plastic vessel, add our plain vodka spirit and let the peel steep for up to 3 months. The lemon peel fuses all its flavour into the spirit over time. When I am happy with the steeped spirit, I extract it into a different plastic vessel discarding most of the peel. I sweeten to taste using raw sugar, let a small amount of peel back into the mix and blend the product. This creates the slight cloudiness in the Limoncello which is a personal preference of mine. This spirit will freeze as it is low in abv and has real lemon peel in it. It is ideal served on ice, sensational in cocktails or a long drink and is beneficial as a digestive after a big meal!
JIM LOVE STRAWBERRY SCHNAPPS @ 21% abv: our strawberry schnapps is a wine-based liqueur. We use a similar process to distil the product as we do with our whisky wash and this process fortifies the wine base. Once we have achieved the desired result, we steep frozen Timboon Strawberries into it and let them ferment for around 6 weeks. As with the Limoncello, I sweeten to taste and then bottle. This product is great on ice, in a long drink with lemonade or soda, for cocktails, in champagne, over ice cream, mixed with our coffee cream and chef’s love to cook with it. JAMES LOVE whom the schnapps in named after, was involved with Tom Delaney in the making of illicit whisky in the area.
BAXTER’S COFFEE CREAM @ 16% abv: one of our most popular products. This awesome liqueur is created with our wine base spirit too. I add a coffee extract and a little hazelnut syrup. This product is the best one to finish a tasting with. This product sells well and often consumers find it to be better than they were expecting! It has complexity and whilst sweet, is not sickly so: It’s a winner!
SALTED CARAMEL WHISKY LIQUEUR @ 34% abv: Our Port Expression single malt has been infused with salted caramel and burnt sugar. Straight up, over ice or let your cocktail making ideas run wild. 375ml bottle.
The DISTILLER’S final note:
I personally love French Oak casks as I find the wood spice adds to the finish and rounds out higher abv whisky beautifully. American Oak bottlings are generally easier to drink and are often slightly sweeter. Having said that, I love trying all sorts of barrels though, including Bourbon barrels, sherry cask and more!
Overall, I just love distilling and making products for people to enjoy. In 2023 we have a great crew in place (production, distillery & sales) and am focused on taking the distillery business to new levels, increasing production, dramatically increasing our Australian distribution and aiming for our single malts to sit comfortably on the WORLD BEST, craft whisky stage.