Top Brisbane doctor blends whisky and brain surgery

19/Sep/2023     HealthMater Group

A Queensland brain surgeon is winning over whisky lovers across Australia after deciding to produce his very own ‘surgical spirit’ at a boutique Brisbane distillery.

Mater neurosurgeon Dr Martin Wood and his wife Nicole founded Kitty Hawk Distillery, with business partners Andrew and Natalie Vann, to produce premium, hand-crafted spirits, including single malt whiskies.

Dr Wood is one of Queensland’s most highly regarded neurosurgeons and has performed life-changing surgery to correct spina bifida in babies still in the womb.

When he’s not in Mater’s operating theatres or tending to patients in regional areas including Rockhampton, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, Dr Wood can be found in his Geebung distillery, where the next batches of his spirits are left to mature in large oak barrels.

New releases are currently being snatched up by whisky connoisseurs before they are even advertised.

“Our spirits are all generally small-batch, usually single-barrel releases which means that no two releases will be the same,” Dr Wood said.

“It's the only whisky that I know of in Australia that has been hand-made by a brain surgeon!

“Our small scale and passion for the spirit we produce means we can be focused on getting it 'just right'.

“At this stage it remains a passion project business, so our spirits can have as much time and care as is required to be as good as they possibly can be.

“Everything in the distillery is done by hand – the distilling, barrelling, bottling, labelling. It is a laborious but very rewarding process.

“Our focus at this stage is on providing small-batch, high-quality spirits for the local Australian market.”

Dr Wood has collaborated with friend and fellow neurosurgeon Dr Frank Tomlinson, who owns Diviners gin, produced in the Granite Belt, to create a rye whisky which is currently ageing in the Kitty Hawk distillery.

Kitty Hawk Distillery has previously released several other spirits including gin and a popular selling apple brandy.

“The gin market is very tight with literally hundreds of great Australian gins competing for shelf space and the palette of the customer, so gin was never going to be our primary focus,” he said.

“Our current whisky offerings are 'The Flyer', which was named after the first successful powered aircraft and matured in ex-bourbon American oak and finished in an Australian tawny cask, and the Byron Double, which is a whisky that has been finished in a rum cask from the Lord Byron distillery in Byron Bay.

“We have spirit maturing in some great casks that should produce some excellent whiskies in the future!”

Dr Wood grew up in Scotland and is passionate about his homeland’s national drink.

“When the craft distilling scene began to grow here in Australia, it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss,” he said.

“I have always loved making things and demystifying the process by which things are created, prepared or assembled.

“After taking a distilling course in Tasmania, Andrew and I established Kitty Hawk Distillery in 2017 and began the slow process towards creating boutique spirits that we could be proud of, and which we hoped would put whisky made in Brisbane on the world map.

“We are determined to show that great aged spirits can be produced in a hot climate like ours in Brisbane.”

Kitty Hawk spirits are sold online, through independent bottle shops (Malt Traders) and bars (The Gresham, Dr Gimlette, Covent Garden), as well as shipping to local and interstate customers.


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