Drive… Determination… Hard work… History… These are just some of the ingredients present in every drop produced by Whipper Snapper Distilleries in Perth, Western Australia.
In 2010, Jimmy McKeown and Alasdair Malloch were two young men who became a part of a legacy and helped create a story that made dreams come true.
The story begins with the whistle of the frigid night air through the cramped cockpit of an Avro Mk II Lancaster Bomber, flying night raids over Germany in WWII. The pilot was 21-year-old Vic Tenger who had been trained to fly in his home of Western Australia before being shipped off to the UK to join the RAF Bomber Command.
Vic and his co-pilot shared a love for whiskey and would distract themselves from the tension and the bitter cold of 18,000 ft, with tales of various samples they’d found while on leave.
After the war, Vic settled in the picturesque seaside town of Scarborough, just outside Perth and worked on his recipe for moonshine and whiskey in his back shed. For 50 years Vic continued to fine tune his special recipe and in 2010, his new neighbour, Alasdair Malloch, wandered over to introduce himself. Delighted to find Vic, his still and his product, Al confessed a love for whiskey and the two became fast friends. The shed was their getaway, where they would discuss whiskey and Vic would regale Al and his buddy Jimmy with tales of the war.
Vic shared his recipe with Al and Jimmy who were just 23 at the time. The two lads became obsessed with the idea of developing a unique whiskey, native to Western Australia. Determined to refine the recipe and come up with something world-class, they sent out hundreds of emails to distillers in the US and Scotland in the hopes of finding some insight and perhaps even, a mentor.
They received only a handful of replies, one of which was Tom Cooper, a micro-distiller in Cedaredge, CO. “Coop” had a relative who flew bombers in the war and thus felt connected to their story. He was an award-winning distiller who pioneered many methods and in addition to building his own distillery, built several others over a span of 40 years.
Coop and the lads got along very well and he became one of the mentors they were hoping for. Jimmy and Al took their fair share of good-natured ribbing being labelled “young, audacious, whipper snappers”. The name seemed to fit, not only as it reflected the attitude of the lads, but also as a nod to the bravery and sacrifice of the servicemen and women of WWII.
While Coop was a master with small production and craft whiskey, Jimmy and Al felt they still needed something to complete their recipe and make it the world-class product they wanted.
One of the other replies they received was from Frank McHardy in Scotland. Frank was a gold mine as he had 50 years’ experience with several of the major names in Scotch whiskey. Frank knew big production and other scotch malt secrets. The two mentoring figures were the perfect combination of knowledge to help launch the young men toward success.
One of the big take-aways from the time spent with both Coop and Frank was the importance of learning the art of making whiskey and that can only happen from people who have been doing it for years.
The science in production is very important for efficiency but it won’t make a delicious whiskey!
As we segue to today, the years of distilling knowledge and expertise in the recipe is evident in their flagship “Upshot” whiskey. It features a distinctive Aussie twist suited to their market, warmer climate and culture.
With several award-winning products on the shelf, the distillery also boasts a specialty coffee bar with all local ingredients as well as an eclectic tasting room with a team of passionate whiskey lovers eager to share their stories.
Whipper Snapper Distillery is one of Australia’s first Urban Distilleries and the second whiskey distillery in Western Australia.
Jimmy and Al set up shop in the capital of Perth, as they wanted to have ample access to a younger market and their facility is perfectly suited for their educational seminars on how craft whiskey is made – with everything done on site.
With an eye to offer distribution to North American markets, it means a secondary site for production. Their local goal is to expand the hospitality side of the business and continue to educate. Jimmy says, “Whiskey hasn’t been ingrained in our culture, we are a big beer and wine drinking nation but that’s changing, and we are playing a part in that shift through education and bloody good whiskey!”
The spirit of Whipper Snapper Distillery is enhanced by the many years of experience and love Vic, Coop and Frank put into their recipes. Perfected and brought to market today by Jimmy and Al, unique to Western Australia, their spirit can be tasted in every drop.