Thursday, 17 May 2018

Bonhams Tasting & Preview of 1926 The Macallan "Adami" and "Sir Peter Blake" Labels

As many of you would have heard, Bonhams Hong Kong this week are auctioning two incredibly rare bottles of 60yo Macallan - the "Adami" and "Sir Peter Blake" Labels, released in 1986 (distilled in 1926) as a series of just 12 bottles each.

Suffice to say, with the same whiskies recently having sold in Dubai for $1.2m USD, we should be seeing some frenzied bidding come auction time this Friday.


To celebrate, Bonhams HK held a brief media tasting last week, showcasing some of the rare bottles in the upcoming auction (including the incredibly rare Karuizawas below), and tasting a well-selected variety of Scottish and Japanese whiskies, modern and vintage.

No stranger to the world of fine whisky and wine, Daniel Lam (Bonhams' whisky and wine specialist) selected 5 bottles for the tasting, covering 2 countries, 4 decades and both IB and OB varieties, namely:

  • Yamazaki Limited Edition 2015
  • Macallan 7 Year Oold (bottled 1990s)
  • Macallan 18 year old (1996-2014)
  • Bowmore 12 Year Old "dumpy" (bottled 1980s)
  • Silent Stills Single Cask Port Ellen (1979-2002)

Bowmore 12 year old - 1980s "Dumpy" bottling (43% ABV, 12yo, Islay, Scotland, No longer available)
Colour: Vibrant gold

Nose: Those beautiful tropical fruits that old Bowmores are so well-known for. Paw-Paw, rockmelon, some pineapple. Beautiful.

Palate: Slightly thin, and with more smoke than I remember having tried this once before, but still very tropical. Mostly bananas and some grapefruit.

Finish: Long, with a fruity smoke to the end. You know those disposable fruit-flavoured inhalers/shisha sticks? Imagine a tropical fruit one of those, and you get the idea.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. I really enjoyed my first "Dumpy" and still do today. It's not a super complex whisky, but it is super delicious, and a style of Bowmore I do feel may be coming back (which is a very good thing). This was the crowd favourite too.

As a special treat, Daniel pulled out two Macallan 30yo "Blue Label" bottles, to show the difference between a fake and a real bottle. Can you spot the fake?

(It's the one on the left).

Bonhams "FINE & RARE WINE AND WHISKY" auction is being held this Friday, 3pm HKT in Hong Kong. Follow us on Instagram Stories and Facebook from 7pm for updates.


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Tasted #388: Caol Ila Single Cask 10yo 2006-2017 #302868 bottled for Club Qing & Wu Kin San

When visiting whisky bars and friends around the world, I like to bring a bottle to share, ideally something a bit different - something that won't have been tried before.

When your friends own bars that have over 1,000 bottles however, that can be a bit tricky, but I think I did OK on a recent trip to Sydney and Melbourne, by bringing two Caol Ilas, including this 10yo single cask, bottled for famed Hong Kong whisky bar Club Qing, and one of their awesome team Wu Kin San (a former olympic cyclist, in case you were wondering what the label was about).

Someone described this as an "elegant" Caol Ila, and I thought that was spot on. Not a drastic departure from the core 12yo on the nose, but plenty different on the palate (in a good way). Full notes as follows...

Caol Ila Single Cask #302868 2006-2017 bottled for Club QIng and Jack Wu (52.4% ABV, 10yo, Islay, Scotland, Cask #302868, No longer available)
Colour: Pale straw.

Nose: Not a huge departure from a regular 12yo Caol Ila. Ashy BBQ, salty peat smoke and hints of salted lemon.

Palate: Super elegant. Rich, viscous and creamy. Lemon meringue pie with a toasted crust, topped with some stewed apricots. Complex beyond its years.

Finish: Long, with stewed pears, apricots and a slight meatiness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. A beautifully elegant Caol Ila, showing complexity and finesse beyond its years.

Many thanks Jack for keeping a bottle aside for me!


Sunday, 1 April 2018

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare (Tasted #387)

The house of Johnnie Walker has recently released a limited edition variant of its popular Blue Label; Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost & Rare. We had a snippet of this special release earlier with Simon McGoram, Diageo National Whisky Ambassador earlier this month.

The Ghost and Rare is a series of special releases created by Dr Jim Beveridge, Johnnie Walker Master Blender using whiskies from "ghost" distilleries that have closed with other malt and grain whiskies. In fact, the Blue Label Ghost & Rare feature the highly treasured Brora malt as well as malt from Pittyvaich and Cambus grain. The Brora malt has remained treasured for its quality and its ability to hold its peat notes with age. Martin and I have tasted various Broras in the past and have always fallen in love with each one. So to have Brora feature in this release, it was rather special.

A total of eight malts and grains make up this release and contrast to the original Blue Label for which input components are never revealed, this release includes confirmation on the components that make up the final blend. Clynelish, Royal Lochnagar, Glenkinchie, Glenlossie and Cameronbridge malt and grains were blended with the three "ghost" components above to make up the final blend.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare (46% ABV, NAS, Speyside, Scotland, $478.99)
An interesting variation to the traditional Blue, the richness and earthiness add to the traditional profile which is more commonly known to be light, gentle and fruity. This particular release would certainly appeal to those with curiosity to unpack the 'rare' components that make up this blend or perhaps Brora fans out there that are wanting a different take of the single malt.

Colour: Caramel malt

Nose: Nice and rich, with caramel, nougat and hazelnut mixed. It's actually quite luscious. There are also hints of spiced oak and a level of earthiness. It's very interesting and rich for a blended nose.

Palate: Spiced sweet cinnamon coated apple, earthy with a level of nuttiness, caramel and slightly waxy.

Finish: The finish is long, slightly woody and nutty

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

The Blue Label Ghost & Rare will be available from Dan Murphy's and other selected independent liquor store from 5 March at an RRP $480.


Thanks to Liz Hunt of Leo Burnett Sydney for having us at the preview event.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Tasted #386: The Last Drop 1971 45 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky (45yo)

Back in 2016 I spent an evening at Angel's Share, meeting the lovely Rebecca and Beanie from The Last Drop Distillers, learning of their family's incredible links to the drinks business and tasting their latest release at the time, the 50 Year Old 'Double Matured' Blended Scotch (full article here). It was an absolutely fantastic whisky (easily one of the best blends I've ever had), as was the 48year old I'd tried a bit earlier.

Fast forward just over two years, and I found myself back at the same spot, catching up with the team (Rebecca and Cecily) and trying their latest release...which I'd expected to consist solely of whisky, but was pleasantly surprised to see comprised not only the whisky (1971 Blended Scotch Whisky, a 45yo blend), but also...

Fair to say I didn't expect to be trying my oldest ever distilled spirit (70yo), and oldest ever wine (148yo) on that random Tuesday evening, but I wasn't about to complain!

The 70 year old, 1947 Cognac was incredibly fresh and vibrant, without any overbearing oak (and with many complex notes, including fresh vegetation, lemon pie, cloves, spicy grapefruit peel, apricot preserve and mince pies), whilst the 1870 port was quite different to the 100 Year old Australian Tawny tasted a few years back, particularly in colour, being a bright red copper, and showing notes of toffee, spice and red berries. Not overly sweet or cloying at all, and just really, really drinkable (as was the 48 year old 1970 port that accompanied it).

Of course, this is a whisky blog, so my main focus was on the whisky, which was first blended in 1983 as an ex-Bourbon 12yo for the US. After bottling, the remaining blend was refilled into 11 ex-Oloroso butts, and after 9 years some more was siphoned off to be bottled as a 21yo.

What remained was refilled again, into nine ex-American Oak barrels, where they lay in a dunnage warehouse for another 24 years, until they'd reached 45yo.

So in summary: ex-Bourbon (for 12 years), ex-Oloroso (for 9 years), then ex-Bourbon (for 24 years), bottled in 2017, with 1,352 bottles available.

The Last Drop "1971 Blended Scotch Whisky" (47.2% ABV, 45yo, Blend, Scotland, One of 1,352 bottles, £2,500ex-VAT)
Colour: Burnished copper-orange.

Nose: Sweet and fruity initially - almost Cognac-like. Quite nutty too, then some baked pear and pecan pie emerges, but the nuttiness remains at the forefront.

Palate: Just as fruity as the nose - green apples at first, then a slightly citrus (orange) note, then lots of spice. Treacle / toffee sweetness follows, with some banana bread and stewed apricots too.

Finish: Long length, with lots of spice and some oak. Almost rye-like on the finish! 

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. A very enjoyable whisky and one that's obviously taken on a lot of different and interesting notes from it's "triple maturation" over the years!


Many thanks to Rebecca and Cecily for visiting HK and sharing their wonderful products with us again.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Experiencing The Singleton of Glen Ord Sensorium

Tonight The Singleton launched a first in Hong Kong - The Singleton of Glen Ord "Sensorium", opening to the public this coming Thursday at the Taste of Hong Kong festival.

"What's a Sensorium" you might be wondering?

Think of it as a giant mash tun, in which guests sit around a circular table, tasting The Singleton (Glen Ord 12, 15 and 18yo), surrounded by 360˚ video projections showcasing the distillery and other projections designed to both heighten and challenge the senses.

"Sight" and "taste" aren't the only senses covered, of course. "Hearing" is covered by speakers around the room projecting the sounds of the distillery and its Highlands environment, whilst "touch" is covered by a container of barley and "smell" is taken care of thanks to special jets pumping out aromas of malted barley and other notes you might find in the whiskies.

The launch included a sneak preview of the sessions to be held over the 4 day festival, led by Ervin Trykowski, The Singleton Global Scotch Whisky Ambassador.

The 15 minute session opened with Ervin's golden rule - that he should never speak for more than 5 minutes without allowing guests a dram (sounds good to us), and before we knew it we were nosing and tasting The Singleton of Glen Ord 12yo, finding it's fruity, apple/pear nose and it's sweet, juicy green apple palate. 

As an example of how our perception of smell and taste can be influenced by external factors, Ervin changed the projection to the image below - designed to invoke thoughts of sweetness...and I'd be lying if I said it didn't subtly change my thoughts on the whisky for a brief moment (bringing out a sweeter, more red apple like note).

Whilst the session was rapid, Ervin did manage to touch on the production process, pointing out a few interesting facts about Glen Ord, like its use of 100% on-site malted barley, and its 11 million litres per annum production capacity (operating 24/7).

The most interesting part for me however was how external factors like smell and sight can influence the way we taste, and in that regard, the 15 minute session delivered in spades. 

Whilst hardcore whisky geeks may not learn anything new about the whiskies or their production, you may just learn something about how you perceive taste / smell, and how your senses interact in a unique environment.

The Singleton of Glen Ord Sensorium is open from Thurs 22nd March to Sun 25th March at the Taste of Hong Kong festival. Tickets are $188HKD (which includes entry to Taste, usually $150 on its own), available from Ticketflap.


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Glenfiddich 1977 40yo "Rare Collection" Launch (Tasted #385)

Glenfiddich, in partnership with Heinemann Tax & Duty Free, has released the prestigious Glenfiddich 1977 Rare Collection Cask (cask 15176). Aged for 40 years in an American Oak Refill Hogshead single cask, this special single cask release forms part of the Glenfiddich Rare Collection Programme and is exclusive to the Heinemann stores at both, Sydney and Kuala Lumpur airports.

Brian Kinsman; Glenfiddich Malt Master noted that "This is an exceptional whisky of rare character and complexity. Only a small number of casks are chosen for the Rare Collection and I am delighted to have selected this particular whisky for consumers to enjoy.” The rarity is certainly true given the single cask nature of this particular release and the quality of casks available at this particular age profile.

The launch of the Rare Cask in Sydney was held at Kittyhawk, and saw the Rare Cask presented with other prized Glenfiddich releases including the 21yo, 25yo and 30yo. Each of the malts was paired alongside delectables including a Glenfiddich based Fizz cocktail (based on the 15yo Glenfiddich), rye cured salmon and steak tartare.

Being a big fan of Glenfiddich, the night was truly special and dram-tastic for me. I still remember my early whisky days with the likes of Glenfiddich 12yo, 18yo, Select Cask and even a Cathay Pacific exclusive Glenfiddich I had at Martin's. The continuation of this relationship on the night with the Rare Cask and the other priced releases was an exciting one.

Led by William Grant & Son’s brand ambassadors; Ross Blainey and Glenfiddich's new Ambassador Luke Sanderson, the unveiling of the exclusive 40yo Rare Cask focused on the rarity and balanced, delicate nature of the malt. The 30yo and the Rare Cask were presented neat and left to bask in its own glory. 

Glenfiddich "Reserve Cask" (Cask:  (40% ABV, 40yo, Speyside, Scotland, $4,352 AUD)
An elegant, soft, subtle and balanced yet not tired or over oaked (given the age) Glenfiddich that takes its profile from the refill hogshead. The flavour profile is true to Glenfiddich with the hint of apples though very, very delicate. For a 40yo, the malt packs quite complex and layered nose and palate. It will certainly not disappoint those who choose to daydream away with a dram of this malt at hand.

Colour: Gold

Nose: Riddled with summer fruits including fresh peach and apples. There is a layer of sweetness resembling some raisins and Turkish delight.

Palate: The palate is balanced with some spiced apple, a bit of Portuguese tart with cinnamon dusting that fades into soft, perfumed flower notes.

Finish: The finish is slightly sweet and dry with gentle lingering cinnamon spice.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

This 1977 40yo "Rare Cask Collection" has been bottled exclusively for Heinemann Tax & Duty Free and is available from Sydney and Kuala Lumpur airports for $4,352AUD and is limited to 150 bottles.

Thanks to William Grant & Sons and Agent 99 for having us at the launch.


Saturday, 17 February 2018

Tasted #384: GlenDronach Single Cask 1995 19yo Cask #4941

Over the last few years I've been building up a bit of a collection of GlenDronachs, in particular their single casks. Personally I find it a fantastic distillery, making brilliantly-sherried whiskies at a very reasonable price (although prices have been rising lately).

This one is from their 11th batch of single casks (they're just about to release Batch 16), and was one of the first "GDSCs" I bought. It started my love of ex-Oloroso GlenDronachs, and I've been buying them up ever since...

GlenDronach Single Cask Batch 11 Cask #4941 1995 19 Year Old (57% ABV, 19yo, Single Malt from an ex-Oloroso Sherry puncheon, Speyside, Scotland, was £75.79ex-VAT but no longer available)
Colour: Dark amber-copper (or as some would say - "correct").

Nose: Earthy at first. Then varnish/furniture polish, leather, tobacco and Brazil nuts. Beautiful nose. With water it becomes a little more earthy, a little more dusty.

Palate: Initially citrus-sweet, then moving onto rich mocha caramel. Sweeter and spicier than the nose, with hardly any of the furniture polish / leather from the nose. Water does add a little bit of those characteristics though.

Finish: Long, citrus-y and warming. Slight tannic astringency, which vanishes after a few drops of water.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. A very nice whisky but if the palate matched the nose, it would be absolutely incredible.


Friday, 9 February 2018

Bar Review #22: Please Don't Tell (PDT) Hong Kong opens...for good

If an article about PDT opening in Hong Kong on this site sounds familiar, that's because we wrote that very article two years ago. That was a temporary pop-up though, and as impressive as it was (and it really was), after a few months it was gone....until now.

Clearly buoyed by the popularity of 2016's pop-up bar, New York's world famous "PDT" (aka Please Don't Tell) has returned to Hong Kong, filling the same space (the mezzanine above MO Bar in Landmark Mandarin Oriental), in a much more permanent fashion. We attended the media launch last week, which gave us a good chance to explore the new space, sample the new cocktails and try the new menus (fear not, it's still hotdog-heavy).

The entrance is (of course) via a phone booth (hint: Press 1) and the space, whilst small, has large booths for 5 groups, and counter seating for 8. The drinks menu features 15 drinks (our preview night menu had 8), and again includes a number which have been given a Hong Kong / Asian twist, including:
  • Big Fan, a refreshing shandy served with Cabeza tequila, lime juice, pink peppercorn, guava and Moonzen Fuijan radler
  • Safari, combining ELephant Gin, Italicus Rosolio, Kabosu, Shiso and East Imperial Burma Tonic
  • Umbrella, a refreshing aperitif combining Blandy's Rainwater Madeira, Tio Peppe Fino Sherry (YES!) and Kamm & Sons British Aperitif.
  • Bad Hunter, a John Collins prepared with Chivas blended Scotch whisky, Fernet Hunter, lemon juice, dragon eye and Moët Brut Imperial Champagne
  • Milky Tea Punch, a rich flip composed of Ron Zacapa Centenario rum, Hennessy V.S.O.P. cognac, Rickshaw tea, condensed milk, Tayouran egg and Angostura bitters; and
  • Pear of Peres, a short, sharp cocktail with Rye, Cocchi, Genepi, Pear Brandy and Ango bitters.

The food menu echoes that of the pop-up (and the original in New York), with hot dogs including the Honkie Dog (fried pork dog with sakura shrimp and XO mayo) and Kimchi Dog from the New York menu (bacon-wrapped, deep-fried pork dog with Kimchi). Tater tots are back, and the Takoyaki Tots are a must - deliciously snakcable!

Drinks-wise, the Safari was a great way to kick things off (think of it as a slightly more complex G&T), followed by an Umbrella, which was a perfect aperitif. Bad Hunter was refreshing and complex (and a great use of "Fernet Hunter", which seems to be popping up everywhere in HK), and Pear of Peres was the perfect nightcap - short, brown and bitter, just the way we like 'em!

Industry legend / PDT owner Jim Meehan was mixing the drinks all night, and providing great chat too - giving some helpful suggestions / insights regarding a few recent vintage spirits bottled I'd acquired.

The whisky selection is good, with a selection of Japanese, Scottish, Irish and American whiskies, but really, you're here for the cocktails, and they're fantastic.

PDT Hong Kong is open now, for both reservations and walk-ins (although we suspect the latter will be difficult at first), Reservations can be placed one week in advance for parties of up to 6 people by telephone at +852 2132 0110 or email to



Monday, 5 February 2018

Glenmorangie "Spios" - 9th Private Edition launch in Hong Kong and Sydney (Tasted #383)

As a whisky fan, there are a few regular events each year you tend to look forward to. Moët Hennessy are particularly good at organising these - perhaps the most obvious (and fun) example being Ardbeg Day, but another (with slightly less shenanigans) being the annual launch of Glenmorangie's "Private Edition" releases.

We've covered a few of these over the years - 2013's Ealanta, 2014's Companta, 2015's Tusail, 2016's Milsean and 2017's Bacalta, so it was a pleasure to learn that not only would we be celebrating the launch of 2018's "Spios", Hendy and I would be doing so together, remotely, via video conferencing!

Moët Hennessy had cleverly arranged for the launch event to be held simultaneously in Hong Kong, Sydney, Seoul and Singapore, with each location video conferenced in with Dr Bill Lumsden and Brencan McCarron for a simultaneous live tasting.

All four locations were treated to the same lineup of drams - Glenmorangie OriginalNectar D'Or, and finally the new Private Edition - Spios. Whilst none of us had tried the latter, the name ("Spicy" in gaelic) gave us some clues as to what to expect.

After Dr Bill leading us through the Original (describing it as the whisky he "interferes with the least"), and Brendan taking us through the Nectar D'Or, it was time to learn about Spios.

Bill took us back to the 1990s, when he first learned about Rye whisky (then significantly less popular and attainable than it is now) from the legendary whisky writer Michael Jackson. After visiting North American distilleries and trying their ryes, he loved the spicy notes that the extra rye in the mashbill imparted, and years later, sought to procure some ex-rye casks.

He was successful, and 10 years ago (which should give us an idea as to the age of this NAS release) laid down some casks that had previously held 95% rye, with Glenmorangie single malt spirit. That's right - no finishing here, just a full 10 (ish) years in ex-rye!

(Whilst Bill nor Brendan would be drawn on which distillery the casks came from, subsequent discussion online suggests it could only have been MGP of Indiana).

With the backstory explained, there was only one thing left to do - taste it! It was at this point that I was thankful I'd kept some of the Original in my glass. Here we had two Glenmorangie single malts, both having spent ~10 years in American Oak - one in ex-bourbon, and one in ex-rye. This is the sort of comparison us whisky geeks love...

Glenmorangie Spios (46% ABV, NAS, Highlands, Scotland, $1,100HKD, Australian price/availability TBC. Available in HK from 26th February.)
Colour: Straw with a slight pinkish-gold hue.

Nose: There's no doubt it's a Glenmorangie - there's some honey, and some underlying floral hints, but take away all the sweet vanulla you get on the nose of the Original, and replace it with spice! Also grass, mint, toffee, cherry, and after some time, caramel chews.

Palate: Gentle cinnamon / clove spice - it's there and it's dominant, but its not overpowering, and it's working nicely with the toffee and some sweeter ginger notes that start to come through. There's even a tiny hint of black pepper.

Finish: Long, with lingering earthy sweet smoke and more of that toffee.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  92/100. Very good, and fun and fascinating to compare side by side with the Original. "Same same, but very different" sums it up best - it's definitely an ex-American Oak Glenmo, but with plenty of unique characteristics not found on the Original. Delicious.

After the Spios, Bill and Brendan took questions from each city (that's me spying on the good people of the Sydney whisky scene, below), and whilst Bill wasn't giving anything away about future Private Editions, he did confirm that "anything you can think of, I probably am trying it" and the 10th Private Edition will be "extremely innovative".

We can't wait!

Thanks to Moët Hennessy in both Sydney and Hong Kong for the dual-invitation to this innovative and enjoyable event!


Thursday, 25 January 2018

Getting re-acquainted with the Sullivans Cove range

Mention "Australian whisky" to anyone overseas, particularly in Asia, and if they've heard of it, there's a good chance they'll respond with "Oh, yes, I know Sullivans Cove"! Whilst Australia currently has a significant number of whisky distilleries (the exact number seems to be constantly changing, but is over 40 as of the time of writing), the old joke that "most Aussie distilleries make less than the Scottish distilleries spill" almost holds true, and by far the majority of this output remains within Australia.

Some distilleries (like Starward) are doing a great job of getting their product onto the world stage, but Sullivans Cove have been doing it for longer than anyone (I remember as far back as 2010 seeing Sullivans Cove in bars all over Asia, well before it won a slew of awards and gained even more fame).

On one of my recent trips back to Sydney, Sullivans Cove kindly treated Hendy and myself to a private tasting of the full core range, the rare (and very much sold out) "Special Casks", and a few other goodies too.

Over a few delicious sharing plates in The Roosevelt's private "Monroe room", we tasted 7 Sullivans Cove whiskies, including the oldest available cask (HH088, distilled in 1999), an at the time unreleased special Double Cask (DC095, now sold out), and a number of other drams which gave us a great insight into the portfolio. The full line-up included:
  • Double Cask DC090 12/12/07 to 11/04/17 @ 40%
  • Double Cask DC095 29/05/08 to 06/10/17 @ 49.6%
  • American Oak TD56 16/11/05 to 23/02/17 @ 47.5%
  • American Oak HH0088 7/12/99 to 29/06/17 @ 47.5%
  • Special cask TD0231 American Oak ex-tawny 29/12/07 to 10/02/17 @ 63.8%
  • Special cask TD0202 French Oak ex-Chardonnary 06/07/07 to 20/01/17 @ 47.5%
  • French Oak HH0516 12/10/00 to 14/04/17

As Tasmania's 2nd oldest (currently operating) whisky distillery, and 100% Aussie owned and operated, it's fair to say Sullivans Cove Distillery (formerly "Tasmania Distillery") is firmly ingrained into Aussie whisky folklore, and whilst their earliest output in the mid 1990s may have been a bit average, they well and truly turned a corner around 1999 and now produce some fantastic Aussie whisky...which we were ready to dive into.

With the delightful Amanda as our guide, we learned about the distillery's history and current state, its philosphies, and an idea of where its heading in the future. Amanda's business card may have read "Sales and Marketing Manager", but her knowledge and passion for the distillery genuinely exceeded that of many brand ambassadors we've met over the years!

Sullivans Cove's core whisky line-up consists of "Double Cask", "American Oak" and "French Oak" - the latter two being single cask, the former being a vatting of 3-5 barrels (a mix of American Oak ex-Bourbon and French Oak ex-Tawny, mostly from Seppeltsfield) yielding ~950 to 1,500 bottles each release.

We started with the Double Cask, tasting two expressions - one a 9yo @ 40% ABV (DC090), and another 9yo @ an unusual 49.6% ABV (DC095, which went on sale soon after and rapidly sold out).  DC090 had a beautifully creamy, vanilla nose, following through to a sweet, fruity palate but then deviating to an earthy, vegetal finish. Unexpected, but enjoyable. DC095 wasn't dissimilar in terms of flavours, but they were significantly ramped up, with more creaminess, spice and (for me) tannin on the finish. Same same, but different, and I enjoyed both equally.

The American Oak range was next, with two bottlings - one 11yo (TD56), and one at a whopping 17 years old (HH0088) - Sullivans Cove's oldest available cask. Both were at 47.5%. TD56 showed some citrusy paprika on the nose, with the citrus following through on the palate and an oaky, spicy finish. HH0088 was buttery but for my palate showed some slight hints of sulphur, albeit with a lovely caramel finish. Not my favourite of the two, but still a lovely dram, and a great chance to sample the distillery's oldest wares.

The famous French Oak followed - not the really famous HH0525 which helped kick off the Tasmanian whisky boom (are there even any left in the world?!) but HH0516, distilled in October 2000 and aged at 16 years old, bottled at 47.5% ABV. With an orange gold hue, and big sweet raspberries and blueberries on the, initial impressions lived up to expectations. The palate was initially drying, but then a berry-sweetness emerged, turning to a long and "chewy" caramel-oak finish. My favourite so far.

Up until last year, a discussion of the Sullivans Cove range would have stopped there. In 2017 though, the distillery saw the first new release (two actually) in over a decade - the green-labelled "Special Casks". At $750AUD each they don't come cheap, but that didn't stop them selling out in record time. Described to us as "exceptional malts that don't fit the core range", they're evidence of some of the experimentation underway at Sullivans Cove, and perhaps an insight into some of the more unusual and interesting whiskies we may see coming in future years.

Amanda was kind enough to allow us to taste both - TD0202, a 9yo French oak ex-Chardonnay cask bottled at 47.5%, and TD0231, a 9yo American oak ex-tawny cask bottled at a not-insignificant 63.8% ABV.

The dark-copper TD0231 had a hugely syrupy molasses nose, with lots of maple syrup which amplified with water. The palate was thick and syrupy, with a decent amount of allspice accompanied by treacle-soaked dates. The finish was long, with hints of charred oak.

TD0202 on the other hand couldn't have been more different, with a light yellow-golden hue, floral pineapple fritters on the nose, sweet chocolate-coated pineapple chunks, apple and honey on the palate, and a tropical, floral finish that went on for days. Whilst Hendy's pick was the TD0231, this one was my pick of the night.
You might note that Sullivans Cove don't actually specify an age on their whiskies, although (in the "spirit" of complete transparency), provide the exact distillation dates (for the youngest whisky, in the case of the Double Cask range), the bottling date, and the cask numbers. It doesn't get much more transparent than that!

Hendy and I owe a huge thanks to Amanda for giving up her time to walk us through the range. It's not often you get a private tasting, including a number of un-released, pre-released and sold-out drams, and to try them all together was a fantastic experience.

I personally can't wait to see what "Special Casks" are released in the near future, but if the experimentation we heard about and tasted is anything to go by, I'm sure they'll be a whole lot of fun.