The Lark Distillery story began in 1992 with a 5-litre stove-top pot still purchased at an auction, which Bill and Lyn Lark used to start making whisky at home. They soon scaled up from 5 to 20 litres; that still lasted about a month before they wanted a bigger one. They then got an 80-litre still (that lasted about six months) before finally settling on a 500-litre still, which sat outside daughter Kristy's bedroom door. All stills were modelled on the same design as the original 5-litre still, as the Larks liked the style of spirit it produced with its top-mounted condenser, plus it fitted in the house better than a side condenser and lyne arm ever would.
When the Larks started distilling, they laid down roughly one cask every six months, as they had small children, a sheep farm, and other businesses to keep them busy. They moved the distilling operation to Richmond in 1997 and released their first commercially available Lark whisky in 1998. Bill still had his surveying business until 2000, when he sold it to his associate and joined Lyn in distilling full time. It took them four days to produce enough spirit to fill one 100L barrel. Their 500-litre pot still created the for Lark single cask whisky LD-100 which won Best Other Single Malt Whiskey at the World Whisky Awards in 2009.
A much larger 1,800-litre wash still was constructed by Peter Bailey at Knapp-Lewer (Peter's first still - he's since gone on to make over 100 stills) based on the shape of the wash stills at Macallan.
Bill and Lyn eventually moved the operations to a shed in Cambridge (near Frogmore Creek Winery), where there is now a 900 L capacity Spirit Still, as well as the 1,800-litre wash still (as of 2021, the lyne arm, neck and column condenser had been replaced, and the pot was in need of replacing). The original 5 litre still now resides at Killara Distillery with Kristy.
In June 2013, Bill and Lyn sold around 75 per cent of their shares in the Lark business, and not long after, Lark acquired Overeem's stills and maturing whisky stocks. In 2015, publicly listed Australian Whisky Holdings (AWH) gained a controlling interest in Lark. In 2016, AWH purchased a 12 per cent stake in Redlands Distillery (now Old Kempton) and commenced the acquisition of Nant Distillery, whisky stocks and the Nant Estate (Bothwell). In 2018, AWH bought out the remaining shareholders of Lark Distillery and took over full ownership of the business. Australian Whisky Holdings changed its name to Lark Distilling Co. in May 2020. For a more detailed history, OzWhisky Reviews has a very informative article that is well worth a read.
In 2021, Lark Distillery produced 80,000 litres of malt spirit at Cambridge using a 1,800L Wash Still (charge is 1,300 to 1,400 litres) and a 900-litre Spirit Still (600-litre charge), as well as the two small stills acquired when Lark purchased Overeem. A column condenser is also on-site for making neutral spirit, used in making Forty Spotted gin.
2022 was a big year for Lark. They celebrated the 30 year anniversary of Lark Distillery, and saw the acquisition of Shene Distillery and Estate (Pontville) by Lark Distilling Co. for $40 million. In addition to the Shene Distillery (which has an annual capacity of 193,000 litres), the 40-acre Shene Estate has its own cooperage, warehousing and 483,000 litres of whisky under maturation. The acquisition of Shene brings the number of distilleries owned by Lark Distilling Co to three and their distilling capacity to 576,000 litres per annum.
Lark Distilling Co. is currently upgrading the Pontville site - construction began in 2023 to replace the existing distillery on the Estate, which will produce 1 million litres per annum once completed.
All of the whisky owned by Lark Distilling Co. (including Nant and Sheen) is generally now released under the Lark brand, which has caused a considerable uproar and much debate over the labelling of whisky in Australia.
Lark Classic Cask is a very popular single malt whisky from Lark, which has received a number of awards, including Gold at the World Whiskies Awards and the London Spirits Competition in 2022. This whisky is made using Tasmanian barley, double-distilled in locally crafted copper-pot stills, and aged for five to eight years in small, 100-litre oak sherry and port casks. Lark Classic Cask is also available at Cask Strength.
Lark Chinotto Cask Strength is a unique expression of Lark whisky that has been matured in Chinotto barrels, imbuing it with a distinct citrus character. This limited-release offering showcases the distillery's creativity and commitment to producing innovative single malt whiskies. This was Amanda's favourite Lark whisky during our tasting at The Still, and not surprisingly, as Chinotto II Cask Strength was the 2023 Single Malt Category Winner at the World Whiskies Awards.
Dark Lark is a special edition single malt from Lark, boasting a darker, richer profile. Combining the characteristics of their classic cask offering with a more intense maturation process, Dark Lark is a delightful option for whisky enthusiasts seeking depth and complexity. Dark Lark won a Master Medal at the 2023 World Whisky Masters Awards.
Lark Symphony No. 1 is a blended malt whisky, which was crowned the category winner at the 2022 and 2023 World Whiskies Awards for Best Blended Malt.
Lark Distillery Tours: Pontville Distillery
The Lark Pontville Distillery (76 Shene Rd, Pontville) is a picturesque sister site to Lark Distilling's Cambridge and Bothwell distilleries. It is the only Lark distillery available for tours. Set among meticulously restored historical buildings dating back to the early 1800s, Pontville offers a unique whisky experience.
The Pontville Tour takes visitors on an immersive journey through the historic and breathtaking Pontville site, located just thirty minutes north of Hobart. The tour showcases the incredible landscape of the area, allowing guests to experience the fusion of nature and history at this unique location, and includes an exclusive whisky tasting session, where guests sample some of Lark's finest creations.
Visitors can explore Tasmania's only working whisky village and delve into the rich heritage of Australia's whisky industry, set amongst the meticulously restored historical buildings of Shene Estate.
Pontville Distillery Tours run Wednesday to Sunday at 1 pm and cost $69 per person. Advanced bookings are highly recommended.
Lark Distillery Cambridge Virtual Tour
Lark Whisky Tastings
30 Argyle Street, Hobart
The Still is a beautifully designed modern bar and cocktail lounge with an extensive selection of Tasmanian whiskies (including Lark of course!) available to taste. The Still is one of the best venues in Hobart if you want to try a wide selection of locally produced spirits (see image gallery below to see their whisky wall). There is also a retail section where you can purchase Lark's Forty Spotted gins (also available taste) and Lark's core whisky range. You can choose a tasting flight from the menu or do what we did and create your own (price will vary depending on your selection). Tastings (from the menu) do not need to be booked in advance, though you can reserve a table, which we recommend for evenings or on weekends.
The Still is open seven days, from 3 pm to 9 pm Sunday to Thursday and from 3 pm to 11 pm on Friday and Saturday.
Lark Tutored Tasting Flights: Welcome to Whisky
A Lark Tutored Tasting Flight (Welcome to Tasmanian Whisky) is an opportunity to be expertly guided in exploring the unique flavours and qualities of Lark's whiskies. Conducted at The Still, this 45-minute guided whisky tasting is perfect for those new to whisky or who want to learn more about Lark's process. The tasting introduces guests to distillation from grain to glass, highlighting what makes Tasmanian whiskies stand out. Participants will taste three exclusive whiskies straight from the cask, learning to discern the subtle nuances and complex flavours that set these spirits apart. Welcome to Whisky costs $99 and is available at 2 pm every Sunday. Advanced bookings are highly recommended.
14 Davey St, Hobart
Lark Distillery Hobart Cellar Door offers a more casual, comfy couch-style Lark tasting experience than The Still. The Lark Cellar Door is situated on the Hobart waterfront. It has a wide selection of Lark whiskies to taste or purchase, including an extensive back catalogue of old releases and cellar door exclusives. Unlike The Still, only Lark whiskies are available at the Cellar Door.
The atmosphere is warm and inviting, a cosy setting for those looking to sample Lark. The friendly staff ensure that beginners and fans are welcome, guiding visitors through various tastings, including their signature single malts.
Tasting bookings are not required, though table reservations are available (highly recommended for weekends or evenings).
Open Monday to Wednesday from 12 noon to 7 pm and Thursday to Sunday from 12 noon to 10 pm (with extended hours during Dark Mofo).