Whiskey with a quinoa quirk

Michael TraillNarrogin Observer

A shortage of wheat and a joke between a couple of blokes from Narrogin has turned into an Australian — and arguably a world — first.

Whipper Snapper Distillery, founded by Narrogin’s Jimmy McKeown and Tim Hosken, officially launched Project Q — Australia’s first quinoa whiskey — last Friday.

The quinoa, which makes up 65 per cent of the whiskey, is sourced locally from Narrogin’s Three Farmers Quinoa.

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Corsair Distillery in the US produces a quinoa whiskey but it only contains 20 per cent of the grain, according to Mr McKeown.

“It was a bit of a collaboration with us and the Three Farmers guys which really came about because we were in need of some emergency wheat,” Mr McKeown said. “We’d run out and our farmer down in Narrogin didn’t have any wheat for us.

“Ash Wiese came and dropped some (wheat) off and started chatting about quinoa. He was trying to get it to grow and trying to get it to be processed.

“I was like ‘ah s... why don’t you drop some off for us and we’ll try and make a whiskey out of it’.

“It was a bit of a joke really but fast forward a few months ... we only got a couple of hundred kilos off Ash and did some trials to see if it would ferment first — see if we could actually make some alcohol out of it.”

That was back in 2015.

Those couple of hundred kilos turned into about 100 bottles of spirits. Since the new beverage had not aged in wood for two years it could not technically be called a whiskey in Australia.

Selling out in a couple of weeks, Whipper Snapper Distillery decided to make the experimental drop in earnest, barrelling up 1000 bottles worth of whiskey in 2016.

“Quinoa whiskey has a bold, earthy, nutty flavour with notes of vanilla and spice. It also has a creamy mouth feel,” Mr McKeown said. “We mature the whiskey in barrels previously used for our award-winning Upshot Australian Whiskey.

"We have aged it for just under three years right here in Perth’s perfect whiskey climate.”

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