Review: Hippo Whiskey Tasting

Josephine Walsh

During the colder months, there’s nothing better than curling up in a cosy bar with a warming drink in hand. We recently ventured to Hippo Co in Garema Place to try out their new Whiskey* Tasting.

You might know Hippo for its outstanding range of delicious cocktails. If you haven’t been to Hippo in a few years, in 2013 they reinvented to the iconic Canberra bar to include over 200 Australian and international whiskeys.


We take a seat with four others in a corner of the bar with Cameron Bray, Hippo’s Whisky List Curator, (quite possibly the coolest job title ever). Cam has tasted every whisky behind the bar, and is hugely passionate and experienced when it comes to this beautiful amber drink. He personally tailors the whiskey tasting each week, to ensure that both first-time drinkers and long-term connoisseurs have a surprising and unique experience.

We start with an eight-year old Hazelburn Single Malt whiskey while Cam explains how whiskey is produced. This is a great starter to the evening, as the light whiskey with notes of charred barrel and coconut awakens our palates. The whisky is a bright and cheerful hello that leaves a honey-like aftertaste.


Then we move on to the Glengoyne 12 year old single malt, which is made in sherry-casks. It’s a sharper flavour than the first whiskey, but has a beautiful lemon zest flavour balanced with toffee-apple that lingers on the palate.

Next up is one of Cam’s favourites, and after I taste it I can appreciate why he loves this whiskey so much. The BenRiach Dark Rum Wood Finish is the equivalent of a traditional whiskey taking a holiday to Jamaica, and coming home with a suitcase of rum and an amazing tan. This whiskey is luxuriously rich with toffee-apple and apricot notes, and the sweetness of having been ‘finished’ in Dark Rum barrels.

A cheese platter arrives, which after three shots of whiskey makes everyone triply happy. We tuck in and Cam talks about the whiskey distillation process, as well the history behind some of Scotland’s most famous whiskey-producing regions.


One of my favourite whiskeys is next on the tasting menu, the Starward Malt Whisky. This strong and heady whiskey with deliciously creamy notes of banana is produced by New World Whiskey Distillery, who are, as their name suggests new on the Australian whiskey scene. Cam reveals how this Melbourne-based distillery have been using a combination of traditional and modern whiskey production methods to create an amazing product in a relatively short period of time.

Whiskey number five is The Arran 10 Year Old, which is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. The first sip is a powerful experience of vanilla with touches of cinnamon, and the whiskey dissipates magically in your mouth, leaving a delicious taste of golden syrup notes behind. The Arran is a wonderful transition from the Starward and has a really complex variety of flavours.


Our last tasting is of the Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky from Japanese distillery Nikka. This is the table’s favourite for the evening. The whisky wins us over with its smooth bourbon-esque flavours of vanilla and sweet notes of corn, and has a deliciously unique flavour which is light on the palate. Cam gives us a crash course on the history of whiskey production in Japan, which I find fascinating as I’ve only recently started trying whiskey from this region.

The tasting was a wonderful experience. My boyfriend has only recently started trying whiskey, and he particularly enjoyed both The Arran and Nikka whiskeys. This is a relaxed, high quality and informative introduction to whiskey if you’re a first timer, or still trying to work out what your favourite style of whiskey is.

Considering the number of quality of the whiskey that we sampled, coupled with Cam’s expert knowledge in his field, this is exceptionally good value for money. Individual shots of some of these whiskeys are over $20 each, so being able to try six different varieties accompanied with a cheese platter is exceptionally good value. I can imagine this being a popular date night option, a night out with the girls or a present for your man and his mates.

We left Hippo Co feeling warm, happy and relaxed, leaving Cam to tend to the eager Saturday-night crowd keen for delicious cocktails and superb scotch. I’ll definitely be heading back again soon.

Jose and her guest attended courtesy of Hippo Co, and thank them for a wonderful evening. 

* The author has intentionally spelt whiskey with an ‘e’ to match with Hippo Co’s website, although technically only Irish whiskey is spelt this way.

The essentials

What: Hippo Co Whiskey Tastings
Where: 17 Garema Place, Civic
When: 6pm and 8pm every Thursday; 6pm Saturday
How much: $60 per person
Bookings: (02) 6247 7555 


Josephine Walsh

Jose Walsh is a digital communications specialist who also runs her own blog, She has a passion for museums and the arts, a deep love of travel and more shoes than sense. Having worked in museums for the past seven years, she loves finding new ways to connect people with their cultural institutions. She loves meeting new people, hunting for a decent espresso, and planning her next adventure. More about the Author

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