Fannie Bay Whisky: A Tale of Two Fannys.
This is a story about a shipwreck and a beautiful opera singer. It is a story about the wild and rugged north coasts of Tasmania and the Top End. It is a story about passionate men, who share a love for the sea, it’s stories, surfing and a shot of fine whisky. It is a story about the two Fannys (a Fanny and a Fannie), which are the names of a unique and special beverage. And it is a story about connection.
A shipwreck, you ask? Fanny was the name of a small sailing ship blown onto rocks - when seeking shelter from a gale - in Northern Tasmania in 1844. It is believed that a nearby secluded cove, Fannys Bay, was named after the doomed vessel.
And the beautiful songbird? Fanny was also the name of a popular opera singer, Fanny Carandini, born in 1850 in Hobart Town. Fanny was in a singing group with her mother and two sisters, and toured widely. It is thought her stage name was spelt “Fannie”, rather than “Fanny”. And it is also thought that in 1868, Darwin’s “Fannie Bay” was named after her by Surveyor-General George Goyder, who had heard her sing in Adelaide some weeks before. Rumour has it, George named the nearby swamp Frances Bay, after his good wife Frances. Possibly she was less “trilled” than Fanny about her namesake! Perhaps, at the time, George had partaken of a shot of whisky or two, and everything looked attractive…
Which brings us to passionate men and whisky… On Tasmania’s windswept north coast, close to Tassie’s Fannys Bay, lies Fannys Bay Artisan Distillery run by Mathew and Julie Cooper, who have brought whisky-making to this part of the world. While Mathew’s love for whisky and “thirst” for knowledge led him to distilling, Julie is involved with bottle and label designs. The couple filled their first barrel in 2014, with the aim to create an easy-drinking malt with wide appeal. By all accounts, their small distillery punches well above its weight. Their process? They start with capturing the natural rainwater, which is rich in salt and magnesium - giving their whisky a unique, regional flavour.
Fannys Bay fine whisky has tickled the tastebuds of many including Jim Smith, who grew up in the area (and surfed the same waves as Mathew) but now calls the Top End home. Jim, like Mathew, is also passionate about whisky (as well as the sea and its stories), although his passion is more about drinking whisky than making it.
Under business name Sea Darwin Jim buys 20L barrels from the Coopers, and bottles and re-label it. For the NT, Mathew has selected a sherry cask with tasting notes of “nutty, fruit, caramel, tangerines, and a mineral finish almost like sea rocks and sea stones”. “We are excited to be part of this collaboration between northern Tasmania and northern Australia,” Mathew says.
While the Coopers whisky is named Fannys Bay, Jim has appropriately re-labelled it “Fannie Bay”, after the Darwin suburb. “Because the stories of the sea I tell these days are about the Northern Territory,” Jim explains, adding: “I think it’s wonderful that I can showcase something from where I grew up that brings a special part of Tasmania to a special part of the Northern Territory. It’s a damn fine drop.” And hits just the right note… Cheers!
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