Any Video Game Would Be A Good Pairing With Lark Whisky

Any Video Game Would Be A Good Pairing With Lark Whisky
Image: Kotaku Australia

If you’re going to grab something to sip on while you game, it might as well be Australian, and it might as well be world class.

We’ve covered a range of things in the Australian edition of Snacktaku, trying to honour the broad range of snacks, drinks and food that’s available in this wonderful melting pot of a country.

Now, normally — or if Sydney could have gotten its shit together a few months ago — there would be a wide range of wonderful food, local markets and things that I could show you. Maybe Lav could have chimed in with the wonderful creations available down in Melbourne, or Leah could have taken us on a burger tour.

But nobody’s going out anywhere right now. So ordering in, and ordering in a stiff drink, is generally the safest option for a lot of people. And fortunately, Australia has some superb options in the whisky and spirits department.

lark whisky
Image: Buy Something Tasmanian

If you haven’t heard of Lark Distillery before, then chances are you haven’t had much Australian whisky — because they’re one of the biggest names going around. The Tasmanian distillery was founded by the Lark family back in 1992, after changes to local distillation licenses and a good amount of curiosity led them to create the first Australian malt spirit for almost 150 years. Australia’s distillation acts meant you had to have minimum stills of at least 2,700 litres and mandatory ageing regulations for dark spirits, making it economically impossible for craft spirits to emerge like we have today. Some large scale operations did emerge, notably Corio Distillery. That was built in 1928 and would go on to produce 2.3 million litres of whisky annually only 12 months later. It was owned by Distillers Company Ltd, a firm that would later rebrand as Diageo, which was the world’s biggest spirits producer until 2017 when it was overtaken by Chinese distiller Kweichow Moutai.

Diageo had the money and funds to produce whisky at a national scale, but few else did. So it wasn’t until a campaign from Bill Lark and his family in the early ’90s that Australia’s distilling got back on track. Unsurprisingly, Lark’s presence and expertise meant other distilleries soon opened in Tasmania — notably Sullivan’s Cove, a distillery that would eventually gain global recognition in 2014 for the world’s best single malt whisky.

But Sullivan’s Cove has always had a very close rival — friendly competition, perhaps — in Lark’s creations. Given that Australia’s modern distilling culture basically owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Bill Lark, it’s unsurprising that their whiskies (and gins, but more on that later) are very, very good.

lark whisky
Image: Kotaku Australia

Lark has always had gift packs and options available, but for this year’s Father’s Day the company put together three new 100mL offerings. A single 100mL with tasting dram sets you back $89.99; 2x 200mL will cost $99.99 while a pack of three will set you back $159.99.

The pack of two is actually pretty good value, keeping in mind a) Tasmania’s absurd excises, where spirits made from grain are taxed $88 per litres of pure alcohol and b) just how much it costs to get a bottle of Lark. A 500mL of their Classic Cask, a 43% drop that’s surprisingly delicate, but well-rounded and bounces around the mouth in a lovely way that reminds me of an Ichiro whisky Brian Ashcraft once pointed me to in Japan, is $170 in Australia. A 500mL bottle of the 58% cask strength retails for $249.99 from Lark directly, although Whisky Loot have it available for $199 at the time of writing.

The triple gift pack, as seen above, gives you a good mix of Lark’s bread and butter. Along with the 43% and 58% classic varieties, there’s the Symphony No. 1, a lighter drop at 40.2% that echoes some vanilla, barley and more tropical fruits over time. The Symphony is probably the most interesting of the pack, but also the least Tasmanian in a way — it’s so gentle to almost be unrecognisable, with a lightness that almost feels like it will disappear in your mouth. It’s a drop that’s actually really well suited for a highball, although I can imagine plenty of people would baulk at pairing a drop that pricey with anything at all.

The 43% and 58% have much more punch, with either one making for an excellent “fireside” whisky as a former Australian editor to Business Insider Australia — who had a long career with Good Food and Wine before our paths crossed — often liked to describe. The softer 43% has almost a bit of a Christmas take with a scent of clove, nutmeg and cinnamon, but you also have that Tasmanian smoked peat that follows. That characteristic sweetness is there in the stronger 58% Classic Cask as well, but there’s a much bigger peppery hit of that peat on the nose and the taste. There’s an almost maple and vanilla warmth as the peat settles in, leaving you with a really intense taste in the mouth long after you’re done sipping.

I ended up preferring the 58% for that lingering punch, while my partner preferred the roundness of the 43% Classic Cask. But everyone will have their preferences, which is what’s great about having a gift pack like this. You don’t want to invest a decent amount of money in a particular whisky if its characteristics, the smell, or the way it lingers in the mouth isn’t to your taking. That’s why — at least in the pre-COVID days — it was always good value to have a small nip of something at a bar first.

But we can’t do that, at least not for a little while. Fortunately, Australians can still enjoy some of the world-class creations we have here. When we started dabbling with Australian contributions to Mikey’s long-running Snacktaku column, I wanted it to reflect the things Australians — and Australian gamers — would enjoy and appreciate.

Many Australians enjoy a drink with their games, and there is a special pleasure in having a nice sip of something profoundly complex as you work through a piece of great interactive storytelling, or even as you grind away at the quests in a mammoth open-world adventure. It’s hard not to appreciate Lark’s creations when you consider just how world class they are. That said, if the price is a bit much to stomach, it’s worth noting that Lark’s Forty Spotted gin is some of the best well priced — and versatile — local white spirits you can get.

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