Drinking Victoria: Brooke Hayman

Published on 17 December 2020

Photo: Whisky & Alement co-owner Brooke Hayman

Your guide to what’s in the glass from the people in the trade.

Brooke Hayman is co-owner, along with her partner Julian White, of Melbourne’s Whisky & Alement, which celebrated its tenth year of service this year. The bar has gained a reputation for profiling distillers big and small across its 1,000-bottle range, and has educated Melbourne drinkers in the finer points of whisky through classes, conversations at the bar and the Melbourne Whisky Room, a place to try some of the world’s most collectible whiskies. Despite having to shelve plans for a calendar of birthday celebrations throughout the year, Hayman and White quickly moved to set up a whisky dram delivery service and virtual tastings during lockdown, ensuring whisky-lovers could continue to experience Whisky & Alement. Hayman has been a judge at the Tasting Australia Spirits Awards and the inaugural Royal Agricultural Society of South Australia Spirits Awards. In 2018, she was crowned the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Champion, after blind-tasting her way through eight whiskies. In more normal times, she and White travel the world looking for the next great bottle to pour at the bar.

The last three delicious things I drank were a bottle of 2017 Domaine de Saint Pierre “Trois Terroirs” Arbois, purchased from Punchin’ Bottles. I love sherry, so the minerality in this Jura white is right up my alley! A little Sanbitter made for the perfect non-alcoholic afternoon in the sun and, at the other end of the spectrum, the 72.89 Pirate’s Breakfast Juice is one of the most fun whiskies I’ve had the pleasure of releasing in collaboration with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. We released it for Whisky & Alement’s tenth birthday and it truly helped us to escape lockdown in a sense, with its flavours of pineapple, lime, pear juice and a whole lot of other tropical notes, elevated thanks to an unusual cask finish in an ex-Nicaraguan rum cask.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Melbourne is Capitano, closely followed by Near and Far. You go to Capitano for the delicious Italian food, and all you talk about after leaving are the cocktails. Hats off to you, Darren! At Near and Far in Fitzroy, they have the most amazing selection of beer and know how to make you feel welcome.

My favourite place to buy booze is Blackhearts & Sparrows because it’s close to home and has a great selection of, well, everything.

When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I head straight to the fortifieds page and work my way through the list from fino to muscatel. I particularly love exploring local examples, like Pennyweight fino, Campbell’s muscat or any Seppeltsfield fortified, especially my favourites the Seppeltsfield Solero Aged Flor Apera or a thick Para Tawny.

The Victorian spirit I’m digging the most right now is Backwoods rye whiskey and its cheeky little red-gum cask that’s yet to be released. This whisky is a stand-out for a couple of reasons, one being that the whisky is matured not in oak, which is what just about every other distillery uses, but in red gum. It’s also a rare example of an Australian rye whiskey. I love its aroma of Big Red chewing gum, biscuits dunked in tea and jam sandwiches on dark rye. Backwoods is made by two teachers, Bree and Leigh Atwood, who relocated to Yackandandah from Melbourne and started distilling in their garage. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

I’d love to see us planting more Australian native grain in Victoria because it tastes bloody incredible and will help to rejuvenate our land with other beneficial knock-on effects such as bushfire management. Adelaide Hills Distillery’s Native Grain releases are testament to the fact that local grain can produce incredibly delicious spirit (albeit at a cost).

My guilty pleasure in the fridge is sparkling water, for those moments when I need a little break between Christmas parties.

The best or most important change to the way we drink in Victoria in recent years has been the no- and low-alcohol movement. It fascinates me to think that large parts of the world, such as cultures in the Middle East and Asia, can socialise over non-alcoholic drinks and still have big, flavourful, fun options such as teas, fruit juices, fermented milks and other plant-based drinks such as sugar cane juice. The possibilities really excite me.

For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is Darren Leaney at Capitano because his cocktails are like contemporary art: creative and delicious but delivered without flashy showmanship. I value humility in our industry, and I believe that we’d see more career bartenders if we had more mentors with Darren’s combination of drinks knowledge, modesty and creative skill.

Pop in to Whisky & Alement and say hello to Brooke and the team at 270 Russell St, Melbourne, Thurs-Sun 4pm-midnight. You can see what’s pouring at the bar by following @whiskyandalement on Instagram or keep up with Brooke’s adventures on @brookeofmelbourne.