When we travel, particularly when time is limited, we may be intent on travelling to a destination rather than experiencing the journey.
The places along the way are ‘in between’ spots. We often don’t bother to stop, as we are going somewhere else. Unfortunately, when we focus more on destination than experience, we miss the ‘roses’ places, the memorable little unexpected gems of experience that stay with us long after our trip has finished.
The Midlands of Tasmania is such a region. Too often seen as an ‘in between’, it is also the ‘Heartlands’ of Tasmania. It carries ancient footprints of indigenous Australians, historical stories of convicts and pioneers, as well as primary industry and power.
Old Kempton Distillery
Two hundred years ago, Kempton was a natural stopping point on the early track from Hobart Town to Launceston.
The largest and most imposing building in the area is Dysart House. Built in 1842 for its owner, ex-convict William Henry Ellis, it was originally named the Green Ponds Hotel. Ellis and his family of eleven children not only lived in the 34-room mansion (occupying only a single bedroom), but it was also their business, a licenced stagecoach house encompassing the roles of inn, public house and residence. Later it became a school, then a private residence once more. Renowned journalist and art director Leo Schofield restored the home to its former glory under his ownership in the 1990s.
Dysart House is now the site of Old Kempton Distillery, which distills some of Australia’s best artisanal whisky, gin and liqueurs.
We take a tour of the distillery, Adam explaining the distilling and ageing processes, driven by Tasmanian barley and aged in pinot noir barrels from surrounding wineries. Solera sherry and Pedro Ximenez barrels are also used to attain flavour and smoothness. Beside the new distillery, the convict-built stables, where tired horses once rested on their journey, have now been repurposed as the bond store.
Time for a tasting! After refreshing ourselves with a coffee and platter of food at their café, we sink into luxurious Chesterfield lounges in the atmospheric Cask Lounge, settling in for a tasting flight of single malt whiskies.
Single drinks as well as tasting flights of their other spirits, gins and liqueurs, are also available.
Old Kempton Distillery makes between eight and fourteen whiskies, three gins, and two liqueurs. Their whiskies and gins have been honoured with many awards.
Old Stables Whisky was awarded Best Australian Small Batch Single Malt in the World Whisky Awards 2022, while their Salera Aged Whisky received Australian Whisky Double Gold at the international 2021 Sip Awards.
It’s such a delight to taste such smooth, velvety whiskies. Now, if I only had a barrel of that… Oh yes, you can also buy Old Kempton Distillery’s whisky by the barrel! How tempting!
We spend a night at the historic Rathmore House, set on a 92-acre sheep station in Hollow Tree near Bothwell.
Warmly greeted by our hosts, Cally and Richard Lyons, we learn about the property while enjoying afternoon tea in the lounge. After spending over twenty years in accommodation and catering in Brisbane, Cally and Richard bought Rathmore, ‘reviving’ the existing buildings to accommodate up to 25 people, or host up to 100 for an event.
“I love the tourism industry,” Cally says, a fact that’s evidenced by our experience at Rathmore.
Having been raised on a sheep station in Central Queensland, her eye for authenticity and her sense of style can be seen everywhere. While still keeping the integrity of their former use evident, Cally has repurposed existing buildings as event venues.
From sheep shearing equipment to baskets of wool, from antique furnishings through to her choice of mattress ticking as bedcovers, we’re not surprised to learn of Rathmore’s appeal. It is highly sought after for country weddings, film and photo shoots, as a workshop and meeting venue as well as accommodation for family gatherings and retreats.
The ‘revived’ Shearers Quarters offers four ensuite bedrooms which share a communal kitchen, while Rathmore Cottage offers budget heritage accommodation for couples who want a more private farm stay experience.
We stay in one of the elegant heritage bedrooms of Rathmore House with access to the spacious sitting room, gourmet kitchen and picturesque garden. Outside, we can walk on the property, use canoes, watch platypus, or ride bicycles.
Instead, we relax, take a tour of the property with Cally, and return to enjoy Richard’s excellent cooking at dinner.
Satiated with warm hospitality, stories of former journeys, exceptional food, wine and whisky, we are so glad that we stopped along the way.
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast visited Old Kempton Distillery and Rathmore as guests.