Peter Bignell takes waste reduction to a new level.
About 13 years ago the sixth generation sheep farmer in Tasmania’s central highlands, came into possession of an excess of rye. To get rid of it, he decided to start making his own whisky. And so Belgrove Whisky was born.
Since then, his whisky has gone from strength to strength, from winning national awards to being served in high-end Tasmanian restaurants like Peacock and Jones (where he recommends his white rye whisky be paired with the wallaby tartare). He’s had Gordon Ramsey out to his property, and had him unceremoniously shovelling sheep shit for the ‘Wholly Shit Whisky’ blend.
Peter and his Iraqi offsider Maan (who gave up a PhD to brew the good stuff for a living) do not do things the traditional way. An old washing machine is used in the mixing process. Peter makes his own stills. He places a reliance on smell and taste where others would use tools and computers.
“We’re here to make flavours, not alcohol, and that’s very important,” he says.
“We do everything by hand, so no two of our blends are ever exactly the same.
“And yes, we could probably get a bunch of computers together that regulate everything and make some really good whisky out of it. But gee that would be boring, wouldn’t it?”
Tours and tastings of the Belgrove’s distillery is not the clean-cut, streamlined beauty of the bigger operations, and therein lies the beauty. The distillery is at Peter’s house. Tastings take place in his shed, rather than a glitzy tasting room. Instead of a spittoon or a sink, any leftover whisky from each sample should be tipped onto the floor.
The Belgrove White Rye whisky is the one featured on Peacock and Jones’ menu, and on the day get lost visit, the aptly named Bogan Burnout is a favourite. Best of all, the man himself doesn’t seem to give a shit.
“Things don’t always work out. For instance, I tried to make a whisky that no one likes,” Peter says.
“I failed miserably. Everyone seems to like Bogan Burnout.”