Upshot has almost reached its 5th anniversary, and to say we are excited would be an understatement. In preparation, we decided to ruminate on the whiskey that is the driving force behind Whipper Snapper Distillery, and share a bit about how it’s made and why we love it. Upshot is our flagship whiskey, crafted with the aim of appealing to whiskey lovers of all backgrounds, at an affordable price.
On the 8th of July 2016, Upshot was finally released to the public, although as is the case with any aged spirit, there were years of work that led up to this momentous occasion. For any linguaphiles out there you may have recognised that “upshot” is the eventual outcome of a series of events. This connection is no mere coincidence, as that is exactly what Upshot is.
When co-founders Al and Jimmy first decided to open a distillery they travelled the world, venturing to two of the most prominent whiskey producing countries. In Scotland they met Frank, the former master distiller at Springbank Distillery. Under his expert mentorship Jimmy was instructed in traditional Scottish styles of distillation, and assisted in the creation of the Whipper Snapper Single Malt recipe, which is currently still aging.
From the United States, Jimmy gained the valuable tutelage of Coop, who had recently sold his craft distillery, “Colorado Gold”. The two hit it off immediately, with Coop helping to source our column reflux still. He also bestowed Jimmy with the recipe for his whiskey, which he had inherited from his grandfather. This served as the starting point for the Upshot recipe, which Jimmy adjusted further to suit the warm West Aussie climate.
A product is only as good as the resources used to make it, and whiskey is certainly no exception to this rule. We are proud to say that we source all of our grains from Western Australian farmers, ranging from Kununurra, Narrogin, and Bruce Rock. Our reasons for doing so are fairly simple. Firstly, we wanted a product that was as West Aussie as possible, that could showcase the quality of our homegrown resources. Secondly, why order from out of the state/country when we have some of the highest quality grains growing in our own backyard?
With this in mind we created a mash using a blended trifecta of grains; 80% corn, 10% wheat, and 10% malted barley. These grains pass through our gravity fed plate mill, where they are coarsely ground exposing more surface area, which enables the starches to be exposed faster as they cook. The milled grains are transferred to our mash kettle (imagine a giant thermomix), and mixed with water creating our mash. A steam jacket on the inside heats the mash, and a propeller ensures consistent blending. The malted barley is especially important, as it contains an enzyme that converts the starches into sugars.
The resulting sugary porridge is transferred to our fermentation tanks where the yeast is added. As the yeast consumes the sugar, it excrets ethanol, turning the sugary porridge into an 8% distiller’s beer. We chose an open-top, full grain fermentation method, as it enhances the flavour, producing fragrant, fruity characteristics.
The distiller’s beer is transferred to our reflux-column still, where it goes through a traditional stripping run (four levels of distillation). Essentially, the spirit is heated, which turns it into a vapour. This vapour passes through a plate, which acts as a filter, removing heavier, unpleasant tasting particles. The vapour is cooled, reverting back to a liquid, completing one level of distillation. This process is repeated a further three times, resulting in a 65% spirit. This 65% spirit is then placed through a rectifying run – a further 16 levels of distillation, reaching an ABV of 90%. The stripping run and rectifying run combined equate to 20 levels of distillation. As it comes off the still the spirit is separated into three cuts; heads, hearts, and tails. The hearts are the cut that we keep, as they are the cleanest part of the spirit, with the finest grain flavours. The heads & tails are put to use as cleaning products around the distillery. We dilute the hearts with water, lowering the alcohol content from 90% to 40% producing our new-make spirit, Crazy Uncle Moonshine.
The next step is to transfer the spirit into barrels, allowing it to age in our warm Mediterranean climate. Our barrels are one of the few things we don’t source from WA, as whiskey is typically aged in oak, which does not naturally grow in the Southern Hemisphere. We have chosen to use Virgin Southern White Oak barrels, which we source from Missouri. Up to 80% of the flavour in a whiskey is drawn from the barrel it’s aged in; something virgin barrels contain in abundance. Not only are we the first in Australia to use virgin barrels, we also use a heavier level of char than is usually used in whiskey production. The charring process essentially involves setting the interior of the barrel on fire. This process caramelises the sugars in the wood and creates a carbon filter, which helps clean the spirit as it ages. As the temperature rises the spirit expands into the wood and when it cools, it recedes back, taking flavour and colour with it. Anyone living in Perth for even a short period of time will be well aware of the significant variation in temperature that we can experience on a daily basis. This constant fluctuation results in a speedier maturation compared to folk in cooler climates like Scotland, where the existence of the sun is often considered a mere rumour.
The use of the heavier charred virgin barrels, and the extra distillation, combined with the Western Australian climate, enables Upshot to reach maturity in just two years time. Each barrel is only used for producing Upshot once, to ensure consistency of flavour. A second use would result in a less flavoursome whiskey, as much of the flavour has been stripped in the first use. Whilst only used once in the production of Upshot, the barrels gain a second life aging our Jetpack Hard Coffee and Project Q. We also sell used barrels for both private and commercial use. For the beer lovers, each year a few lucky breweries get their hands on our barrels to age their stouts and barley-wines. Last year Bright Tank and Beerfarm each produced a barrel-aged stout. If you’re keen to see what’s in store for this year be sure to follow our socials to be the first to know.
Over the years Upshot has received numerous accolades across the world. The most notable came in 2017 at the American Distilling Institute, where it was crowned ‘Best International Corn Whiskey’ and ‘Best Australian corn whiskey’ at the UK based, World Whisky Awards.
As anyone who has tried Upshot can attest, it is an incredibly accessible whiskey. Intentionally designed to appeal to whiskey novices and veterans alike, you can expect a sweet flavour with a smooth finish perfect for drinking year round. Often described as a “converter whiskey”, Upshot has made a proselyte of many who previously claimed to dislike whiskey. This makes it an ideal choice when introducing the uninitiated into the wide world of whiskey.
With a golden amber hue, Upshot is soft on the nose, with gentle aromas of butterscotch and vanilla. The palate is creamy and smooth, with notes of caramel, maple, and nutmeg at the front, finishing with vanilla and toffee.
Feeling the need to wet your whistle? Upshot is easily enjoyed in all your favourite drinking styles. Although it can easily be drunk neat year round, on a face-melting summer day you may decide to drink it on the rocks. It also makes a fantastic cocktail base, especially for an old fashioned. If you’d like to put this to the test you can follow this quick recipe, or come down to the cellar door and we can make it for you!
The Upshot Old-Fashioned
- 60ml Upshot Australian Whiskey
- Bar spoon of sugar syrup (preferably spiced)
- 2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Orange Peel
- Bar Spoon
Grab a large ice cube, and place it in your favourite mixing glass. Pour the Upshot, sugar syrup, and bitters into your glass. Stir until the ice has begun to subtly dilute the spirit. Squeeze the orange peel above glass, allowing the oils to fall into the cocktail, then twist and use as a garnish.
Where to find
Upshot is available at most bottle shops in Western Australia, and is stocked nationally through Dan Murphy’s and BWS.
You can also purchase directly from us through our online store, and the cellar door.
Want to learn more?
If you’d like to learn more, try Upshot, or restock, why not visit us at our cellar door? Our friendly staff love to talk about whiskey, and can take you through a guided tasting, or whip up a delicious cocktail. Additionally, we run distillery tours 7 days a week. Our Whiskey Masterclass runs every Saturday & Sunday at 1pm, and the Cocktail Masterclass runs every Saturday night at 5pm.