Hartshorn Distillery – A new whey to produce Tasmanian vodka


Publishedon 05/10/2015 - 11:03 pm

Hartshorn Distillery is a new Tasmanian business that is something of a trailblazer.  It’s a cousin to Grandvewe Cheeses, which has been producing sheep milk cheese in Birchs Bay, south of Hobart, for 13 years.

Starting Out

This unique distiller produces Tasmanian vodka from sheep’s whey. Ryan Hartshorn, the owner and manager of Hartshorn Distillery gave Tasmanian Food Guide some insight into how this seemingly unlikely spin-off came to be.

“The sheep’s whey is a bi-product of the cheese making process. I’ve been planning the development of the distillery for about two years now and it’s great to finally have it up and running”. 

In an innovative yet modest fashion, typical of quality Tasmanian producers, Hartshorn adds, “As far as I know, there isn’t another commercial distillery that produces sheep’s whey vodka anywhere in the world.” 

Hartshorn Distillery Whey Vodka Bottles

There were significant hurdles however to utilising whey as the basis for distillation. Naturally, Hartshorn is somewhat tentative to expand on cracking the code for production, despite TFG’s questions!

“The proteins in sheep’s whey are complex and thus will not ferment naturally into alcohol. I had to work with a few Australian cheese laboratories to find a yeast that could crack the molecule into glucose and galactose. It is the glucose that ferments so it is not very productive at three percent alcohol, compared with regular Vodka that ferments at about seven”.

Grandvewe Cheese is a boutique producer and Hartshorn Distillery matches its level of production accordingly. Hartshorn utilises a 50 litre still and takes great pride in his small-batch production, allowing him to keep a close eye on quality control.

Each bottle is marked with an individual batch and product number and as for labeling, has Hartshorn’s unique and special touch via a quirky scribble-scratch. No two are quite the same! Every bottle is hand painted and hand written by Ryan, ensuring every bottle is unique.

The Product

Hartshorn believes the use of sheep’s whey in combination with his distilling technique allows him to produce top quality vodka with a sweeter nose than many people would have previously experienced with this type of spirit. This is largely due to Hartshorn not filtering his Vodka, therefore retaining the whey's characteristics.

“We’re finding people who are initially tentative about the product actually enjoy the sweet nose and smooth finish. It’s a lot more approachable than much of the vodka that most people have tried”.

Hartshorn Distillery Vodka Sour

When prompted for recommendations on how to drink this new Tassie spirit, Hartshorn notes that treating it like a whisky is best; room temperature and neat, in a large aromatic glass.

“Serving it straight is best however if you want to make a cocktail then it’s hard to go past a martini”.

If you would like to taste Hartshorn Distillery’s Sheep Whey Vodka, you can do so at Grandvewe Cheeses in Birchs Bay (south of Hobart) or in their shop inside The Brooke Street Pier on the Hobart waterfront. 

For more information and online orders, please visit www.hartshorndistillery.com.au.