After downloading the Local Environmental Plan from the Sate Government website, I find the planning map that covers the right area. Things are looking positive. The land sits in an E3 zoning. On studying the zoning regulations I’m feeling more and more confident the property is in the right zoning for our planned usage. The first permitted usage listed is: Agricultural Produce Industries. That is the best usage I could have wished for. Next tick in the box is Cellar door. Roadside Stalls, Signage, Viticulture and Water Storage are listed approved usage as well.



unspecified-8 unspecified-6 unspecified-7

I had to call around a few long term locals for advice on who to go to for planning advice. A few phone calls yielded me the name of the #1 Go-To town planning consultant in the area. Getting our proposed development through council planning will be about giving council the type of proposal they want in their area. This also means presenting the proposal in the best possible light and addressing any “Elephants-In-The-Room” before we submit any proposals.

The advice is to plan to start by designing any new buildings to blend-in to the environment. To construct the buildings out of materials that add to the aesthetic value and don’t scream “Look-at-me”.

We are planning for a set of five 5000 litre pot stills dedicated to making whisky. This should give us the flexibility to grow production in the future as demand requires. This beautiful coloured technical drawings show the classic shape of the famous Glenmorangie stills.


There will be 100% copper contact in the vapour path. The pot sides and bottoms are specified to be constructed from 12mm copper plate and the necks and arm pipe in 5mm copper plate. Each still will weigh in at over 2500kgs.

Made of many parts

All the component parts will be flanged together. The flanging has three main purposes; one is to give us flexibility in construction and transport. Another is to allow us to cost out the parts item by item. The lastly and most important in our minds is the ability modify and maintain the stills as time goes by.

These drawings are still in there early stages of development. But your feedback is most welcome. The drawings have not gone to the steam furness consultants for them to specify the the heating requirements yet. So there are a few details that are plainly wrong.

Wash Still #1

Wash Still #1


Inclined Swan Neck #1

Inclined Swan Neck #1

Our plan is to have all the stainless steel flanges fabrication by one supplier. Then I will know everything will be matching fit from the beginning. The copper-smithing work will be fitted to the flanges by the manufacturer making that particular part. The manufacturer making the domed pot lid doesn’t have to be the same manufacturer who will be making the pot bottom and sides, etc.

Still Plan view



The pot will be 2600mm diameter. This image is the closest example of what I expect the finished pot to look like. (I think this is a half finished Carl still)

Copper pot


We have made the decision to go with a steam heating the distillery. There are a lot of practical reasons for steam. First is steam has a high efficiency. Steam can be created from a few fuel types including the use of an enviro furness. We will look at heat recovery options as the budget permits as well. For the pot we are tossing up between jacketed or tube heating or mixture of both. We are looking for high level of temperature control for managing slow distillations.Duplex Alloy Steel-heaters

The time has come to stop talking and start filling barrels…

We have been in talks with a couple of Australian whisky distilleries to start producing spirit for Coburns to start filling barrels.

We have managed to negotiate production time with two distilleries. The distilleries will brew and ferment to the Coburns’ formula. This arrangement will see our first single malt spirit produced within a couple of months.


Aged in the Southern Highlands

Once production commences the new make spirit will be moved to a bonded cellar in the Southern Highlands. There it will sit, ageing for the next 4-7 years.

These arrangements give Coburns the ability to produce 20 barrels by the middle of 2017, therefore giving us our first single malt whisky within two years.

Used sherry Barrels

First we need to find some nice wood

Cooperages around Australia are getting back to us with what barrels they have available. The coopers are telling us that they have waiting lists for good wood at the moment.

We are so pleased to be able to start laying down the first of our barrels well before our own distillery has finished construction at our new Burrawang site. This is another big step in the journey of building a distillery.

They arrived from around the Southern Highlands, Sydney and from as far away as Brisbane. Everyone came to check out the site for the new Coburns Distillery. 150 people arrived in the early afternoon to enjoy the cool sounds of Ben & Wendy, a fantastic duo from Sydney belt out the classics.

We all got down to the business of eating a crackled pig and a small mountain of Mauger’s best lamb sausages as the afternoon wore on. The weather was the perfect Southern Highlands summers day, give or take a couple of flies. But thats summer for you.

Mark Coburn had his first chance to met a lot of Burrawang locals and to listen to their feedback on the idea of building a Single Malt Whisky distillery in their village. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

At the end of the afternoon it was clear to all that everyone had a good time.



















Dinner on the lawns at Coburns was a special evening of great people, great food and great music. Here are a few of our favourite pictures of the evening.


Imagine sitting outside at a long table with old-fashioned festoon lights hanging overhead. Hold that thought. Now imagine spending the evening chatting and laughing over dinner with the people around you.

Bring that idea along at 5 pm on the 11th of February and you will have a great time.

We promise the food will be fun and abundant. Plus there will be some live music to dance to.

Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Vestibulum tortor quam, feugiat vitae, ultricies eget, tempor sit amet, ante. Donec eu libero sit amet quam egestas semper. Aenean ultricies mi vitae est. Mauris placerat eleifend leo.

Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Vestibulum tortor quam, feugiat vitae, ultricies eget, tempor sit amet, ante. Donec eu libero sit amet quam egestas semper. Aenean ultricies mi vitae est. Mauris placerat eleifend leo.

Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Vestibulum tortor quam, feugiat vitae, ultricies eget, tempor sit amet, ante. Donec eu libero sit amet quam egestas semper. Aenean ultricies mi vitae est. Mauris placerat eleifend leo.

By Mark Coburn

I love this description on the use of American Bourbon barrels in Scotland.

“It is over 80 years since the end of Prohibition in the USA in 1933. Since that time the use of American ex-Bourbon casks has changed the taste of Scotch whisky.

Casks have been used since time immemorial for storage and movement of goods. Coopering is an ancient skill depicted in paintings on ancient Egyptian tombs, mentioned by Greek writers, referred to in the Bible several times (1 Kings 18:33 “Fill four barrels with water.”) The Roman, Strabo, writing in AD 21 actually praises the Celts as being ‘particularly fine coopers’.

Cooper is said to derive from Cupa, the Latin for a vessel. There were three grades of coopering skill – dry, dry-tight and wet – depending on the suitability of a cask for its purpose. Wet coopers were the most skilled, being able to make casks of such precision that they could hold liquids without leaking. The whisky world alone needs around 3 million ‘wet coopered’ oak casks a year for whisky – and the UK could never satisfy that level of rapacious demand having cut down most of its oak trees by the early nineteenth century in building Royal Navy warships to fight the French.

Renowned for their short arms and deep pockets, Scottish distillers grew to rely on second-hand casks. From the seventeenth century onwards various alliances, treaties and wars, meant the fortified wines (suitable for long distance travel) of Sherry, Port and Madeira were particularly popular in Britain. Shipped from Iberia in oak casks, the wines were bottled at the port of entry (Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Bristol, Liverpool) and the redundant vessels re-used by grateful distillers.

It didn’t take long for distillers to realize that the original cask contents – the dark, sweet, fortified wines – could beneficially mellow maturing whisky. Badly distilled whisky could be disguised, young whisky made to seem older. These prized casks were hand-coopered from European oak, Quercus robar, found across the mid latitudes of Europe. And the French used it too, for wine, but also for warships.

It took 3,400 oak trees to build one 74 gun ship-of-the- line. The strain on 17th century French forests was considerable. In 1669 Louis XIV’s finance minister, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, did what the British should have done; he expanded and reorganized France’s woodland, planting only the best and strongest oak suitable for building a navy to fight the British. This legacy was built on by Napoleon, who banned all tree felling (without authority) in 1803, and three years later decreed that only trees more than 150 years old could be felled, and replaced with a new oak. Thanks to this far-sighted forest management policy (and steel-plated warships and entente cordiale) France’s forests now produce the world’s finest oak destined for more culturally acceptable uses than warships – the planet’s greatest winemakers.

In 1920, George Saintsbury, the celebrated writer and gastronome wrote: “I have noticed, in the forty-five years since I began to study whisky, that the general style of most if not all kinds has changed… The older whiskies were darker in colour, from being kept in golden Sherry or Madeira casks, rather sweeter in taste, and rather heavier in texture; the newer are lighter in both the first and the last aspect, and much drier in taste.”

This observation heralded the changeover from European to American oak with the introduction of Bourbon barrels – with their tyloses.

The Bourbon barrel is made from Quercus alba or white oak, commonly known as American oak. It is accepted practice to use trees that are over 90 years old. The cellular structure contains bubble-like cell structures – the tyloses – that bulge into the cavities of the xylem, the tube of moisture-conducting cells, blocking water movement. These tyloses make the wood particularly watertight, even with thinner staves, and perfect for mechanized barrel-making. The dominance of hand coopered European oak casks lasted until the beginning of the twentieth century before the United States took over with machine-produced casks on a scale never before seen.

Bourbon distillers deliberately sought very dark colours, high levels of vanilla and caramel flavours that maize-distilled spirit draws out from heavily charred, newly felled, white oak barrels. After prohibition, in 1935, this long established, exclusively new oak custom was made federal law: thanks to the powerful Coopers Union the law now says that bourbon casks can be used once only. Being cheap and readily available they were eagerly snapped up by voracious Scottish distillers.

The rapid escalation of the use of Bourbon barrels coincided with the weakening in popularity of Sherry, Port and Madeira. The use of Sherry butts fell further with the outlawing of bulk shipments from Spain to the UK in 1981. Today, around 97% of all Scotch whisky is maturing in American oak.

As ex-bourbon cask prices rise owing to the increasing demands of the Scotch whisky industry, the price differential between second-hand and virgin American oak barrels has fallen. This may mean that in future distillers could be obliged to use new oak casks, increasing the potential for the ‘Bourbonisation’ of Scotch whisky. We must remain vigilant in the face of that, and also reject the alternatives of using old tired wood, or allowing oak chips, or essence, both of which are happily currently illegal.

Or could premium quality French oak be back on the menu again as it was in the nineteenth century? As far as whisky is concerned, if the nineteenth century was Europe’s era for oak, then like world history, the twentieth century has belonged to America. American oak, with its simpler, vanilla and caramel influences, has been a benign force for good.

The history and politics of Bourbon has been mutually beneficial for both Bourbon and Scotch distillers. A very positive relationship between two of the world’s greatest spirit styles.”


The malt truck has been and gone. 20 tons of malt is in the silos.

The grain is loaded into the hopper ready for milling.

10 hours later the grain is milled, and waiting for mashing. It was a big day.

The flavour, and colour are both developing nicely.

I’m not going to write a review.

However, after much procrastination I took this sample to a private tasting a few days ago.

14 crusty (read: mature developed palates) whisky drinkers and me (boy, still in short pants).

How nervous do you think I was? In the end our 8 month old sample received a universal thumbs up.

To say that I’m happy, would be an understatement.

Next, back into the barrel for few more years.


Never miss a thing

Join the hundreds of people who have subscribed and keep up to date with Coburns.

© 2019 Coburns Distillery | Website Terms and Conditions