Western Australia wins big at the 2017 Australian Distilled Spirits Awards

For good booze, head west. That's the message from the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards, where two West Australian distillers managed to tie for the title of best brewer in the land.

Six of the champion awards out of 10 went to WA-based distillers when the awards were announced on Friday.

Old Young's, which makes gin and vodka at Henley Brook, and Kununurra -based rum-smiths Hoochery Distillery couldn't be separated by the judges.

Dead heat

But the two couldn't be more different. Hoochery was established in 1995 – way back before the modern age of craft spirits, when every man and his dog seems to own their own copper still – by a farmer looking to merchandise his excess sugarcane crop.

Sitting in the Ord River Valley and churning out about 50,000 barrels of rum from a custom-built still every year, it's now Western Australia's oldest continuously operating, legal distillery.

Kalyn Fletcher and her father Spike Dessert III hand-built their still to deal with WA's unique environmental challenges: days over 40 degrees, nights below 5 degrees, and lashing rain.

"We're on a similar latitude as the Caribbean," Ms Fletcher says. They've had 1900 mills of rain in the past few months, she says.

"We have to manage our fermentation, because of the high temperatures . But on the other hand, we have the uniqueness of really warm days, but quite cool nights, particularly  in our dry season. That high fluctuation in our temperatures  allows a really quick aging process."

The father-daughter partnership make spiced Caribbean-style whiskies, with far less mouth-sweetness than their mass-market competitors. "No disrespect", she adds.


Rare flavours

Old Young's is the new kid on the block. Established in 2016, it's producing a range of unusual tipples: a vodka partially fermented with wine grapes from a local vineyard; a smoked vodka; a Pavlova vodka infused in burnt sugar and kiwifruit.

For such a young brand, the ADSA award is a major feather in their cap.

The brand's flagship vodka, Pure No 1 – the one fermented with local wine-grapes – also picked up Champion Vodka at the awards, to go with being named best international vodka at this year's American Distilling Institute Awards.

Big winners

There were more than 240 entries in the awards this year from almost 70 producers, with 177 taking away medals.

The Australian Distilled Spirits Awards is run by the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, and is the only national spirits awards in the country.

Scroll through the gallery above to see the winners of the 2017 ADSA Champion Trophies.