Jimmy McKeown, co-founder, head distiller and director of Whipper Snapper Distillery in Perth, shares some stories from behind the scenes.
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
I’m the head distiller and co-founder of Whipper Snapper Distillery. I’ve always been a hands-on creative type of guy and loved whiskey, which is under-appreciated in Australia so I wanted to create our own version to get more Aussies drinking it.
Did you always want to be a distiller?
No, I wanted to be a fighter pilot, however, there are dreams and there is reality, so I made whiskey instead, which is much easier.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
Definitely the fun, creative, artisan type of people I work with. The craft industry is a very collaborative environment. The worst part would be running a business, being broke is never fun.
What makes the Perth (or WA) unique?
Our climate lends itself to perfect whiskey maturation. The fluctuations in temperatures, the dry Mediterranean climate and of course Perth people are very laid back, exactly how whiskey should be appreciated, in a laid back environment.
What’s one of your favourite drinking holes in Perth?
For an array of American whiskey, it would have to be Varnish, not to mention the awesome staff there!
Share with us a memorable moment in your whisky-making journey?
It would have to be the day we launched our very first whiskey called Upshot. It was the culmination of a five-year journey. For two years we were open to the public prior and spruiking the business as a whiskey distillery without whiskey! So it was a relief to finally come through with a quality product which sub-sequentially went on to win some big international awards.
A day in the life of a whisky maker is…
Start warming up the steam boiler for the day’s production. Morning tasting prior to any coffee followed by a coffee from our coffee bar. A still run on or a mash on. Business stuff, run a tour, kick the ball for the dogs, repeat and repeat that part.
What do you do for fun?
Make whiskey! And travel.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about Whipper Snapper Distillery?
Whipper Snapper is all about innovation and reedifying our perception of whisk(e)y. All our grain used is %100 West Australian and our process is a true reflection of a craft distillery.
What has been one of your most memorable food and beverage pairings?
That’s a tough one, I have a hard time remembering what I eat. I would say a good Italian dish with a glass of a quality bourbon is my go-to.
What’s your view on the spirits industry in WA?
It’s growing especially in the white spirits sector. Dark spirits like whiskey and rum are still quite niched.
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
It’s festival season so we will be out and about at local fairs and shows so keep an eye out for our stalls.
Find more interviews, such as this one with Jimmy McKeown, here.