Hard liquor: Can you stomach the strongest spirits Australia has to offer?

Australians have always prided themselves on their love of booze. From the first days of the Colony when everything was bought and sold with rum, you might say that alcohol is in our blood, literally.

And being a nation where machismo, rightly or wrongly, is a highly valued trait, we also like to think we can handle our grog pretty damn strong.

By strong we're talking about ABV – Alcohol by Volume –  an international measure of how much ethanol is in a given volume of an alcoholic beverage at 20 degrees centigrade.

So, with a designated driver at our disposal, Executive Style went in search of Australia's strongest liquor.

High spirits 

Our first stop was at the Sydney distillery of Archie Rose, which last month launched its Distiller's Strength Gin. Touted as an over-proof gin for 'those who love bigger, bolder flavours' it features 15 individually distilled botanicals, including fresh NSW pears, rose petals, elderflower, juniper, and honey sourced directly from Archie Rose's rooftop beehives.

"Our distillers trialled 45 iterations until we were happy with the final product, and the result is a distinguished, bolder gin, with a higher ABV, that still retains the balance," says founder, Will Edwards.

The gin will come in at 52.4 per cent alcohol per volume – enough to get you tiddly in a hurry – but still a lightweight compared to some locally distilled beverages out there.

Ahoy there

Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin, made in the Yarra Valley, comes out of the bottle at a giddy 58.8 per cent alcohol per volume.

But if you really want to get your wobbly boots on, head to Western Australia and opt for a nip of the West Winds Captain's Cut. Australia's strongest gin tips the scales at a room-spinning 63 per cent ABV, meaning it's not one for the Methodists.

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We all know Australian made whisky is punching above its weight when it comes to the world stage, but if you really want to end up on the canvas, take a look at Heartwood in Tasmania. Heartwood buys its new make spirit from local distilleries, ages it in their bond store and bottles it at cask strength.

Last year they released a Liquid Gold Award winning drop called Devil in the Detail. It was undoubtedly Australia's strongest dram at 73.5 per cent ABV, and sold out in days.

Currently, Heartwood's strongest whisky is Mediocrity Be Damned at a still respectable 67.1 per cent ABV.

Pirate's choice

Rum has always been a part of Australia's history and Bundaberg Rum has certainly played its part, being founded in 1888 with the first batch rolling out the following year.

Few of us of a certain age will ever forget hitting the tiles on Bundy's 33 OP Red Cap; a monster of a beverage that was launched at 76.1 per cent ABV and later 'toned down' to 75.9 per cent ABV. In 1986 it was discontinued and the halcyon days were over.

Nowadays one of the nation's strongest rums is the Hoochery Distillery's Single Barrel Selection at 67.7 per cent ABV.

Ripper reds

Spirits aside, Australia also has a reputation for creating big bold reds, and none are so big and bold as those from Victorian winemaker Andrew Sutherland Smith of Warrabilla Wines. His reds have attracted their fair share of criticism for pushing the boundaries when it comes to high alcohol content.

His latest release 2013 Parola's Limited Release Shiraz, and 2015 Durif are heavy weight contenders at 17 per cent ABV.  "If the wine is balanced it doesn't matter if it's 12 percent of 18 per cent," says Sutherland Smith. "I've drunk wines that are 14 per cent that have left me with dragon breath because they don't have the structure."

Beer's cheers

The rest of the world erroneously believes that Australians drink a beer called Fosters. Of course this isn't true. No Australians drink Fosters; a pink-poodle of a beer at just 5 per cent ABV.

Real Australians head straight to the Grand Ridge Brewery in Mirboo Victoria and grab a bottle of Supershine. The uber-smooth Scotch desert ale is reputedly the strongest bottled beer in the nation, at 11 per cent ABV.

However, when it comes to creating strong grog, Australia is well and truly hammered under the table by the rest of the world.

Aussies aren't so tough

Our strongest whiskies are feather-weights compared to the Bruichladdich X4 Quadrupled Whisky at 92 per cent ABV. The most alcoholic single-malt ever made, James May and Oz Clarke once ran a race car on the stuff for a documentary set in Scotland.

Ditto when it comes to our rums. None can even step in the ring with Grenada's River Antoine Royale Grenadian Rum at 90 per cent ABV. Apparently the locals enjoy it neat.

And while Australian distillers make a fair fist of their vodka, we aren't really in the fight when up against the rocket fuel from the northern hemisphere.

American rock band Everclear took their name from a dangerous vodka that rocks in at 95 per cent ABV and is banned in 13 US states. The founder of the band, Art Alexakis once referred to the USA spirit as: "pure, white evil", and after a night with a bottle of Everclear you'll know what he means.

But the title of the strongest grog in the world goes to Polmos Spirytus Rektyfikowany, a Polish-made vodka that was once the favourite tipple of Siberian pilots. At 96 per cent ABV, you'll feel like you've crashed and burned if you head into Spirytus territory.

What's your favourite strong tipple? Leave your answers in the comments section below.

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