Thursday, 17 April 2014

Tasted #84: Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky (#101drams)

We've been to SwedenAustraliaFrance, Japan, Scotland, India & Wales as part of the #101drams challenge (well not literally) where to next? South Africa sounds as good a place as any!

Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky, from the James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington (South Africa) is a single grain whisky, aged for approximate 5 years in ex-Bourbon casks. It's also a #101drams whisky and sounds bloody interesting, so let's get on with the tasting shall we?

Bains Cape Mountain Whisky (43% ABV, NAS, Wellington, South Africa, $52AUD)
Colour: Honey gold
Nose: Light and floral, gaining complexity over time with some cake icing and coco pops coming through
Palate: Sweet, light, fruity, with some pineapple, apples, pears. Lots of tropical fruits. Incredibly smooth, with just the slightest hint of smoke after letting it sit and warm for a while.
Finish: Sadly too short and with a little too much burn.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Very good - lots to offer for a relatively cheap and young whisky. I'd love to see it with a longer finish, perhaps in a cask strength variety.


Sunday, 13 April 2014

Tasted #83: Mackmyra Small Casks 03 (#101drams)

Another for the #101drams list - this time from Sweden, aged in 30L casks (yes, 30L!) - a mixture of sherry, bourbon and new Swedish oak. As far as unique/interesting whiskies though, this pretty much ticks all the boxes...

Mackmyra Special Small Casks 03 (48.2% ABV, NAS, Sweden, $130AUD)
Colour: Light, bright gold.
Nose: Stewed pears, big alcohol burn, toffee apples, boiled sweets.
Palate: Light - wouldn't initially pick it as 48%+. Pears, toffee, coffee grounds. Special K!?
Finish: Long, with some burn. Hint of coffee.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. The nose is probably the highlight here - let down by the palate slightly. Overall though, an enjoyable whisky.

 - Martin.

Friday, 11 April 2014

A trio of crafty Americans (Tasted #80, #81 and #82)

Ask the average punter about "American whiskey" and typically the first names that spring to mind will be "Jack" and "Jimmy". While there's no denying that both "Jack" and "Jimmy" have some excellent whiskies in their respective ranges (the former through the likes of Single Barrel Jack Daniels & Sinatra Select, the latter through the the small batch range such as Basil Haydens & Booker's), there's also no denying that the landscape has changed somewhat, and there are some new, much smaller, but very serious players on the scene.

Balcones. FEW Spirits, Koval. Heard of them? If you haven't, you surely will soon.

America is (actually has been for a while now) experiencing something of a craft distilling revolution. Gone are the days when "American Whiskey" simply meant "Bourbon from Kentucky" (or Tennessee Whiskey from Tennessee). Nowadays excellent American Whiskey can, and does, come from all over the USA. In fact just tonight at Papa Gedes bar in Sydney I tried a "Breaking and Entering" Bourbon bottled in California (admittedly, it is a blended Bourbon made from Kentucky whiskies).

Which brings us to the three whiskies featured in this post - none of which come from Kentucky or Tennessee (the FEW and Koval being from Illinois, the Balcones hailing from Texas, y'all).

It's pretty hard to ignore the impact Balcones has had on the scene during its relatively short existence - from winning a slew of awards, to being called the "finest new whiskey in the world" by Forbes Magazine. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while might remember my highly-rated tasting of Balcones Baby Blue blue-corn whisky (which I later purchased).

While FEW and Koval (whose Four Grain and Rye we tasted a while ago) don't quite have the profile of Balcones yet, they could well in the future, and based on the quality of the spirits tasted below, I'd be surprised if they didn't.

Murray from HR Craft Beverages (who distribute Balcones, Koval and FEW in Australia) was kind enough to send me a sample from each distillery, including:
  • FEW Bourbon Whiskey (47%)
  • Balcones "1" Texas Single Malt Whisky (53%)
  • Koval Bourbon (47%)

FEW Bourbon Whiskey (47% ABV, NAS, Evanston IL, USA)
Colour: Dark, burnt orange.
Nose: BIG hit of pepper. Cinnamon, cloves, vanilla.
Palate: Youthful but not harsh. Pepper, spices, slightly dusty, but sweet. Mouth filling.
Finish: Short and hot, without being harsh.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100.

Balcones "1" Texas Single Malt (53% ABV, NAS, Waco TX, USA)
Colour: Bright coppery orange.
Nose: Honey, orange peel. Intense, fantastic.
Palate: Smooth, light, none of the nose's intensity. Sweet, toffee notes with oranges and oatmeal.
Finish: Malty, medium to long finish with orange peel at the very end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100.

Koval Bourbon (47% ABV, NAS, Chicago IL, USA)
Colour: Rich but a paler orange compared to the previous two.
Nose: Sherbert, sweet, boiled lollies, but also leather!
Palate: Young, but again, no harshness. Candied fruit, boiled lollies, redskins and icing sugar.
Finish: Short, with vanilla the dominant characteristic.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

So there you have it. Three American whiskies, three incredibly different whiskies, none from Kentucky or Tennessee, but each of them incredibly good.

I'll go out on a limb and say this is only the beginning of an exciting new era for American whiskey. Watch this space.

 - Martin.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

PR #17: Ardbeg Day Australia 2014 and "Auriverdes"

We touched on Ardbeg Auriverdes last week, including information on the whisky itself, but at the time there was little to no information available about the Australian celebrations.

Well, now there is.

First some background. For those unfamiliar, Ardbeg Day is one of the absolute highlights of the Australian whisky calendar, however unlike a lot of the events that TimeforWhisky are fortunate enough to attend, it's one where the general public gets to join in on the fun. Well, if the general public signs up to the Ardbeg Committee that is (what? You're not a member? That's OK, go sign up now, we'll wait).


Signed up? Good.

Ardbeg Day will be held on Saturday 31st May this year in Sydney (venue TBC), and will be the first opportunity for Australian Ardbeggians to try Auriverdes, the new, limited release we mentioned last week.

Not sure if you really, really want to attend?

Trust us, you really, really do.

2012 saw Moët-Hennessy Australia launch the limited "Ardbeg Day" release by taking over Aqua Dining in Milsons point for the "Islay-lympics", with Ardbeg cocktails, Ardbeg drams, games, a swimming race (despite the Islay-like weather) and more Ardbeg prizes than you could poke a stick at (seriously good prizes too).

2013? Even bigger, with even better prizes, and just as many bagpipes. See here for our in-depth write-up.

See what we're getting at? Ardbeg Day is F-U-N, and with this year's theme being the Soccer World Cup (the "Auriverdes" name being taken from the Brazilian soccer team), there are sure to be some fantastic games on offer (see the games available at the Distillery for an idea of what we might be in for).

If you can't get to Feis Ile (what with it being, oh, 24 or so hours away, and booking out months in advance), then join in the next best thing. Sydney may even turn on the Islay style weather like it has in the past.

So to summarise:

Simple, right? We'll see you there.

Ardbeg Auriverdes will be available as a limited edition release in Australia from 31st May 2014, retailing for $135.70 (which is actually very reasonable, and cheaper than previous Ardbeg Day releases). It is non-chill filtered, aged in American Oak with uniquely toasted lids, and weighs in at 49.9% ABV.

 - Martin.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Shirt Bar "Scotch" Club: Nikka Whisky (February 2014) - Tasted #76 - #79

It was just under a year ago that we attended Shirt Bar's first Japanese whisky tasting, and recently the Shirt Bar crew ran another, this time focusing on the Nikka Whisky portfolio, showcasing the:
  • Miyagikyo 12 yo
  • Yoichi 15yo
  • Taketsuru 12yo; and
  • Nikka from the Barrel (a favourite from previous tastings)
Proving as popular as the 2013 session, the tasting was run twice over two weeks, giving more of us a chance to try a great range of Nikka whiskies (and, importantly, a completely different line up to the previous tasting).

The tasting was a little more rushed than we're used to, and (after a late start) was over all too quickly unfortunately. It seemed we were barely finished nosing one whisky when the next was up for tasting, and before we knew it the food (fittingly, again some tasty sushi) was served.

Having attended probably 13+ Scotch Clubs though (and blogged about 7 of them to date) I'm pretty confident in saying this wasn't the norm, and the session we attended more recently (Woodford Reserve) was back to the usual quality we've come to expect from Scotch Club.

Not to say this was a bad session - not at all, just not the usual in-depth look at whisk(e)y we've come to expect. But no matter! We still got to taste 4 Japanese whiskies, 1 of which I hadn't tried, and 3 of which Steph hadn't.

Nikka Miyagikyo 12 Year Old (45% ABV, 12yo, Sendai Japan, $130)
Distilled with steam-heated stills
Nose: Vanilla, Bourbon-like, but also floral.
Palate: Oats, spice, vanilla and caramel.
Finish: Short, slightly salty, with final floral notes and pear.
Overall: 90/100

Nikka Yoichi 15 Year Old (45% ABV, 15yo, Hokkaido Japan, $220)
Nose: Bigger darker, more spice and more saltiness than the previous dram.
Palate: Big rich oily mouthfeel - big notes of chocolate eclairs.
Finish: Short, spicy, not a huge amount going on, but pleasant enough.
Overall: 90/100.

Nikka Taketsuru 12 Year Old (40% ABV, 12yo, Pure Malt, Japan, $100)
Nose: Apples, apples and more apples. I got absolutely nothing but apples on this one
Palate: Light and floral, reminded me of a Springbank. More apples.
Finish: Over so quickly I could barely take notes. Way too short.
Overall: 89/100. Not dissimilar notes to the last time I tried it.

Nikka from the Barrel (51.4% ABV, NAS, Blend, Japan, $70)
Nose: Vanilla protein powder, coffee creamer.
Palate: Spicy cinnamon, grains, big and mouth filling.
Finish: Long, spicy, not as smooth as I remember, but lots going on. Sweet, spice, with some citrus and fruity notes
Overall: 90/100 - still probably my favourite of the night, but not as good as I'd remembered it.

 - Martin.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

This Week in Whisk(e)y #7

As you might know if you read this blog regularly, we get a fair few interesting press releases and news articles here at TimeforWhisky, and usually try to feature them with our own spin, experiences or comments. Sometimes though, they come thick and fast, and we just don't have time to do them all justice.

So we've decided to take a leaf out of some other excellent whisky blogs, and feature a "PR roundup" every now and then - basically a wrap-up of relevant press releases we've received in the previous week (or other interesting whisk(e)y news Steph & I think you might enjoy). So on with it then...

Sullivans Cove wins "world's best whisky" at the WWA 2014
I'm sure everyone has heard about this now, but Tasmania Distillery's Sullivans Cove French Oak recently won the "world's best single malt whisky" at the 2014 World Whisky Awards (it certainly seems the eBay community has, with Sullivans Cove French Oak bottles going for $400+ at the moment, even those not from the winning cask HH525).

While the winning whisky was from a single French Oak cask (HH525), which produced only 516 bottles, it seems the world has gone mad, snapping up any and all French Oak Sullivans Cove whiskies available.

Sullivans Cove isn't my personal favourite Tassie whisky (that would go to Overeem on the OB front, and Heartwood on the IB front), but it has to be said - this is a huge achievement, and one which has really put Aussie whiskies on the world map. Credit where credit's due too - Tasmania Distillery have put in a huge effort over many years to spread the word about their whisky (it's still the most commonly-sighted Aussie whisky in my International travels), so it's great to see their hard work pay off. Well done.

Ardbeg announces "Auriverdes" and Ardbeg Day 2014
Ah, Ardbeg Day. The reason whisky fans the world over look forward to 31st May each year with great anticipation. While full details haven't yet been released about the celebrations, LVMH owned Ardbeg have announced the theme (Soccer World Cup), and a few details about the bottling, namely:
  • Aged in casks with toasted lids
  • 49.9% ABV
  • Said to have "creamy vanilla sweetness" with a "dark mocha coffee side"
  • £79.99 (so likely similar pricing in Australia as last year - $160 or so, while it's available)
The name comes from the Golden (Auri) whisky and the Green (verde) bottle, which also ties in nicely with the Soccer theme, given this year's World Cup is set in Brazil.

We can't wait to see what Ardbeg have in store for us on the 31st, although I imagine there may be a few soccer balls (and a sea of Ardbeg) involved!

anCnoc releases the "Peaty Collection"
Staying on the peat train, the Highland distillery of Knockdu has just announced a the release of a trio of (pretty stunning looking) bottles as part of their new "Peaty Collection".

Project Manager Stephanie Bridge commented on the prospect of the anCnoc
Peaty Collection being a window to the world of smoky whisky for drinkers who previously chose to drink unpeated malts:

“Rutter and our other new Limited Edition peated single malts will form an exciting collection to sit alongside our  core anCnoc expressions, offering drinkers a new and perhaps a first experience of peated whisky. These malts have all the exceptional qualities of anCnoc but with a depth and smokiness that will be appealing both to peat aficionados and to drinkers of lighter malts with an interest in finding a peated malt whisky that they understand and enjoy. We’re on a mission to bring our very modern take on the world of peated whisky to our drinkers all over the world and to entice customers to experience this new side of anCnoc.”

Far from being peat monsters, the whiskies are peated to between 11-15ppm, and were described as follows by whisky writer Charles Maclean:

“The difference between these three malts is subtle, but apparent. Their overall flavour – i.e. aroma and taste –is nicely balanced,  fresh and breezy; their smokiness subtle and understated, while their cheerful simplicity makes them very ‘more-ish’ and easy to drink.”

Further information on the range can be found here. No word yet on Australian availability or pricing.

New World Whisky Distillery launches inaugural single cask releases
Back in December, I was lucky enough to tour the New World Whisky Distillery (purveyors of Starward Whisky) and especially lucky to taste a few single cask samples. At the time, there was only one Starward release (this one), however after no doubt realising they were onto a good thing, the distillery invited representatives from four Australian whisky establishments (Whisky+AlementOak BarrelBaranows Lounge and Nicks/Vintage Direct) to select a cask, to be bottled and sold only through those venues.

While those in Melbourne have been lucky to taste the whisky already, those of us in Sydney will have to wait a few more weeks. The bottlings (officially released on 7th May) will sell for $100 (RRP), a bargain for such a rare, cask-strength bottling, and will no doubt sell out quickly. 

Until next time...sláinte.

 - Martin.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Tasted #71 through #75: Kilchoman (#101drams)

At the aforementioned Kilchoman masterclass with founder and master distiller Anthony Wills, we were given the opportunity to try 5 Kilchoman releases - some no longer available in Australia, and some not yet available in Australia. Here are my thoughts...

Kilchoman Summer 2010 (46% ABV, 3yrs old, Islay, Scotland, no longer available)
Made using "Ardbeg spec" malt from Port Ellen Maltings, peated to 50ppm.
Colour: Light, pale straw.
Nose: Big peaty hit up front, but light, sweet with some citrus notes. Some medicinal notes, but not overpowering. After a while - ash, lots of ash.
Palate: Tangy citrus, peat continues, with a really sharp citrus zest. Very much like a "young Ardbeg" as described by Anthony.
Finish: Very short (not surprising given the limited time in oak), peat, some ash. Not a lot going on.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100

Kilchoman 100% Islay (50% ABV, 3-4yrs old, Islay, Scotland, $155AUD) #101drams
A vatting of 3-4 year old malts, made from barley grown on-site. Makes up 15-20% of Kilchoman's production, peated to 20ppm. A #101drams whisky.
Colour: Dull honey.
Nose: Very, very youthful - bananas, bubblegum, asparagus. A drop of water gives it some subtle grass notes with more peat smoke.
Palate: Better than the nose. Peat, grass, oatmeal.
Finish: Long, smoky, but not a "one tricky pony", with oaty notes and a final hint of grass.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100

Kilchoman Machir Bay 2012 (46% ABV, 3-5yrs old, Islay, Scotland, $120AUD)
The core expression, finished in Olorosso sherry casks. A vatting of 3-4 year old whiskies + some 5 year old whisky.
Colour: Golden honey.
Nose: Breakfast cereal, minimal peat, chalk.
Palate: Spice, smoke, big mouthfeel. Slight berry flavours and hints of peppercorns.
Finish: Medium to long, with an ashy smoke similar to Ardbeg.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100

....but wait, SMWS Australia's cellarmaster Andrew Derbidge notes something isn't right (if there's someone in Australia who knows more about whisk(e)y, I'd like to meet them), and quietly whispers something to Dave from The Oak Barrel. Turns out this bottle was corked! A few picked it as being "not quite what they remembered", and I picked it as being "OK, not brilliant" (having not tried it before), but only Andrew picked up the traces of TCA, or cork taint. Dave was kind enough to open another bottle so we could experience what the whisky should have been..

Kilchoman Machir Bay 2012 (46% ABV, 3-5yrs old, Islay, Scotland, $120AUD) - no cork taint
The core expression, finished in Olorosso Sherry casks. A vatting of 3-4 year old whiskies + some 5 year old whisky. Uncorked this time.
Colour: Golden honey.
Nose: Still breakfast cereal, oat cakes, and smoke, but no chalk!
Palate: Smooth and pleasant. Less peppery notes.
Finish: Long, wafts of smoke, with less ashy notes.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100 (much better!)

Kilchoman Loch Gorm (46% ABV, 5yrs old, Islay, Scotland, $160AUD)
Full Sherry maturation, IWSC Gold medal winner (2012).
Colour: The darkest of the lot, deep, rich honey.
Nose: Spice, berries, the youth dominates though - banana notes are evident. As with the Summer 2010, time brings more notes of ash.
Palate: Ashy with lots of spice, cinnamon, pepper. Cherries
Finish: Lighter, medium length, smokey to the end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Kilchoman Small Batch (58.2% ABV, 5yrs old, Islay, Scotland, price TBC)
Colour: Pale honey.
Nose: Wouldn't have picked this one as 58.2% ABV! Sweet, honey, some spice. Not dissimilar to the notes found in Lochan Ora or a whisky liqueur. A drop of water adds some tropical fruit notes.
Palate: Big smoke, big spice, candied nuts and dried fruits.
Finish: Long, with just the right amount of peat smoke without being overbearing. A good mix of fruit, nuts, spice. Complex for such a young whisky. Slight burn towards the end - but not unpleasant. This is a high ABV whisky after all.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

 - Martin.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Oak Barrel - Kilchoman masterclass with Anthony Wills

It hadn't even been a month since The Oak Barrel Sydney hosted Douglas Cook from Glendronach, when us keen members found ourselves back in The Oak Barrel's tasting room, ready to hear from another Scotman (adopted this time*) about another Scottish distillery. 

(Side note: It was good to see that whilst the whiskies and regions differed, the tartan pants remained a consistent theme!)

This time, that distillery was Scotland's youngest whisky producing distillery, and the (adopted) Scotsman was the Founder, Managing Director and Master Distiller of said distillery.

I'm talking of course about Kilchoman - founded in 2005, and the first distillery to be built on Islay for 125 years. Anthony was in Australia to present his range of whiskies (past, present and future) and tell us a little bit more about the distillery, which has been selling "whisky" (as opposed to spirit) since 2009. On tasting was the impressive lineup of:
  • Kilchoman Summer 2010 (46% ABV)
Kilchoman 100% Islay (50% ABV)
  • Kilchoman Machir Bay 2012 (46% ABV)
Kilchoman Loch Gorm (46% ABV)
  • Kilchoman Small Batch (58.2% ABV)
Having only tasted the odd Kilchoman (both OBs and SMWS releases), I was keen to taste the majority of their regular OB lineup.

Anthony, an Englishman who previously worked as an independent bottler, saw a growing interest in Scotch Whisky in the early 2000s, and (seeing the impact this could have on the independent bottling business) decided to mitigate any future supply issues by starting his own distillery (makes sense, right? Nice if we could all do it.) As a fan of the classic, peated Islay taste, Islay seemed a natural home for the new distillery.

Despite difficulties, Anthony managed to secure the necessary investment and commenced production, engaging Dr Jim Swan (who we met during last year's The Whisky Show) to craft a whisky with a profile that would be conducive to reasonably quick maturation, despite Islay's cold climate. Anthony explained that while Jim originally estimated a 5-6 year maturation timeframe before the product would be of sufficient quality, upon tasting the first new make spirit to run off the stills, he revised this to 3 years (the minimum timeframe for such a spirit to be called "whisky" in Scotland).

Kilchoman have  a strong focus on wood, with first fill barrels used heavily and a steady supply of ex-Bourbon barrels from Kentucky's Buffalo Trace. Starting with a cask filling rate of 12 casks per week in 2005, the distillery now fills 28 per week, and is on target to produce 150,000L of spirit this year. A small amount in comparison to many of the established players, no doubt, but consider that number against the global penetration Kilchoman have managed to achieve in a relatively short space of time, and you have an impressive feat.

I'll leave the tasting notes for another post to follow soon after this one, but suffice to say that despite my initial hesitation given the youth (and given what I'd heard from some other whisky writers I respect), I enjoyed every single expression.

  - Martin.

* He's English

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Tasted #70: Spirit of Hven Seven Stars No.1 Dubhe Single Malt Whisky (Sweden)

In the interests of expanding my world whisky horizons, when putting in an order with Master of Malt last year I added a sample of this strangely named whisky from Sweden, because, well, why not?

Spirit of Hven Seven Stars No.1 Dubhe Single Malt Whisky (45% ABV, NAS, Hven, Sweden,  $170AUD)
Colour: Pale honey.

Nose: Unusual. Young, but pleasant. Nutty, rich and honied all at the same time. Actually, the nose reminds me a LOT of whisky liqueurs, like Lochan Ora or Glenfiddich's discontinued whisky liqueur.

Palate: Lighter than the nose suggests. The honey remains, with notes of sweet cloves, spices, and some very light smoke at the end, which compliments the palate perfectly.

Finish: Medium length. Slightly smokey and with a mild burn, with lots of spice. The honey notes evaporate quickly.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but this was actually a very enjoyable whisky. A mix of sweet, almost liqueur notes with a smokey end. Wonderful.

 - Martin.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Tasted #69: George T Stagg Bourbon (#101drams)

It's been a few months since the last #101drams tasting, so it's high time we rectified that. What better way to do that with the highest ABV whiskey tasted on this site to date? At a ridiculous 70.7% (it's not the 71.4% of the 2012 release, but she'll do..) George T Stagg Bourbon isn't what you'd call a breakfast whiskey...

For those unfamiliar with this beast, it's part of Buffalo Trace's "Antique Collection". an annual collection of limited releases typically aged longer than the standard Buffalo Trace releases. Highly sought-after, the "BTAC" releases often sell out in a matter of days upon release in the US. If you can find a bottle of Stagg in Australia it'll likely be between $300-$400AUD.

..which is why, when I saw it on the menu at Neutral Bay's The White Hart (one of our favourite LoNoSho bars) for something like $18/nip, I jumped at it. The pricing disparity on various bar menus around Sydney always amuses me. It's not uncommon to see a $150 to $200/bottle whisk(e)y for say $20/nip, whereas on the same menu something like Ron Zacapa 23 (which usually sells for $90/bottle) will sell for $23-$24/nip. Crazy. I get that different bars have different suppliers, allegiances to Diageo, Pernod, Brown Forman etc, but it's still always amusing.

Still, I wasn't complaining. Here was a chance to tick off a #101drams whisky for relatively little outlay!

George T Stagg Bourbon 2009 (70.7% ABV, NAS, Kentucky, USA, $399AUD)
Colour: Deep, rich, dark copper. They say the average age is 15 years and it's clearly taken on a lot of wood in that time.

Nose: Rich, full, with a strong oak influence. Bananas.

Palate: So smooth, yet so hot. Instant heat, but not a bad, harsh alcohol burn. Some very sweet maple notes, with hints of vanilla. A few drops of water (which you pretty much have to try with a whiskey of this ABV) didn't change the nose a lot, but exploded all the same notes on the palate, especially the vanilla.

Finish: LONG. Vanilla, with hints of tropical fruit (pineapple predominantly) towards the end. Didn't expect that.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. A beast of a whisky, but certainly not unapproachable. A whiskey I'd happily drink again, and would consider buying if I found for a reasonable price (likely only in the US).

 - Martin.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

#101drams Charitable Challenge - second $100 donation (drams 21-40)

Whoops, for the last few months I thought I was on 39 drams, but it turns out I'd missed one and had already reached 40...

As I promised in my #101drams challenge, for every 20 whiskies I tick off the list, I'll donate $100 to Cancer Council Australia. Having made my way through 40 drams now, here's the second $100 donation:

Having seen first hand since the last donation the devastation that cancer can take on a person (not to mention their loved ones), I'd really encourage everyone to consider donating to a charity like Cancer Council Australia.

 - Martin.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Tasted #65, #66, #67 and #68 (phew) - Glendronach 12, 15, 18 and 31yo "Grandeur"

The other week I attended The Wild Rover's "Campbell Corner Whiskey Co-Operative" (CCWC) launch, which saw us taste the Glendronach 12, 15 and 18yo with Douglas Cook of the distillery. Two days later, I was again sitting before Mr Cook (this time at the Oak Barrel) tasting the same line-up, but with one noteable addition - the 31yo Grandeur (Batch 1).

As the scores below probably indicate - these were all fantastic whiskies.

Glendronach 12yo "Original" (43% ABV, 12yo, Higlands, Scotland, $78AUD)
Colour: Burnt, coppery orange.
Nose: Sherried, but not in a "smack you in the face" sherrybomb manner. Sweet, youthful, strawberries, candied fruits and the oft-mentioned "Christmas cake".
Palate: Nutty, dry (PX?), big sherry influence.
Finish: Dry, long, with a hint of citrus tang on the sides of the toungue.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Definitely value for money as a quality, everyday drinking sherried dram.

Glendronach 15yo "Revival" (46% ABV, 15yo, Higlands, Scotland, $110AUD)
Colour: Burnt orange but with more of a red hue than the 12yo.
Nose: Spice, caramel, cinnamon and orange peel.
Palate: Even more spice (this wasn't present on the 12yo at all), ginger, berries. Big tannins, big mouthfeel.
Finish: Sweet, medium to long, berries right to the end, with a hint of orange rind at the very end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Fantastic.

Glendronach 18yo "Allardice" (46% ABV, 18yo, Higlands, Scotland, $145AUD)
Colour: Deep, deep copper. Almost burgundy.
Nose: Massive sherry hit. No surprise as to what type of cask this was aged in. Definitely has some older hints (leather, oak) but also sweet honey notes, which were unexpected. Maple syrup? Blueberries too. Complex. Could definitely nose this all night - preferably by a fireplace in the middle of winter.
Palate: Huge mouthfeel. Silky, soft and delicate but bursting with notes of blueberries, spice (though not as pronounced as the 15yo) and oak.
Finish: Sweet, big tannins, drying, extremely long, and still with those berries.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. A truly great whisky.

Glendronach 31yo "Grandeur" Batch 1 (45.8% ABV, 31yo, Higlands, Scotland, $890AUD)
Colour: Dark copper / burnt dark orange.
Nose: Rich, with notes of port, sherbet, and berries (though this is no sherry monster). Age has definitely softened it.
Palate: Soft and subtle - no dominant characteristics here. Fruity, almost floral. Again, the age seems to have softened it.
Finish: Very, very long, berries, stonefruits.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. A great opportunity to try a very, very rare dram, but I'd choose the 18yo (especially if I was paying!)

 - Martin.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

This Week in Whisk(e)y #6

As you might know if you read this blog regularly, we get a fair few interesting press releases and news articles here at TimeforWhisky, and usually try to feature them with our own spin, experiences or comments. Sometimes though, they come thick and fast, and we just don't have time to do them all justice.

So we've decided to take a leaf out of some other excellent whisky blogs, and feature a "PR roundup" every now and then - basically a wrap-up of relevant press releases we've received in the previous week. So on with it then...

It's single malt, but not as you know it - Woodford Reserve release "Classic Malt" and "Straight Malt"
We've featured Woodford Reserve's "Master's Collection" on the site before, but for those unfamiliar with the series, it's basically Woodford's annual opportunity to go a little crazy. Different finishes, different casks, four wood aging, and a few interesting ryes are a few examples of recent releases, but for this year (late 2013 in the States - we're a little behind) they've gone one step further with the release of two single malt whiskeys, and I hear through the grapevine we'll see them in Australia later in the year (and maybe earlier than that at the odd tasting).

The two releases are "Classic Malt" and "Straight Malt", both made from 100% barley, but differing by the types of cask used for aging - the Straight Malt in virgin oak (in the same way Bourbon is aged), the Classic Malt in used Bourbon barrels (in the same way a lot of Scotch whisky is aged). With both sitting at 45.2% ABV (continuing Woodford's trend of having all their whiskies end in 0.2% ABV), these should be interesting to compare. We can't wait.

The Wild Rover's "Campbell Cove Whiskey Collective"
Launched last week, we mentioned that The Wild Rover's "Campbell Corner Whiskey Co-Operative" (CCWC) included a list of 50 whiskies for members to work their way through before "unlocking" a selection of special drams. James from The Wild Rover has been kind enough to send through the full listing, and to be honest, it's a pretty fantastic list. With a good split between Irish and Scotch whiskies, and a few North American, Japanese and Aussies thrown in, it has something for everyone. Prices are reasonable too, considering the quality of the drams, with only 8 of the 50 above $20, and plenty for around $11-$14. We've linked the full listing below, but to call out a few of the more interesting ones:
  • Ardbeg Supernova ($24)
  • Connemara Cask Strength ($12)
  • Longrow 1997 14yo Burgundy Wood ($14); and
  • Van Winke 10yo ($22)
The current full listing can be found at:

NZ Whisky receives 95 points from Jim Murray
I've voiced my thoughts on Jim Murray on this site before (in summary, I respect what he does but think people place too much emphasis on his ratings, considering he's only one man), but regardless, the man has tasted more whisky than the majority of us, and people keep buying his annual book release, so I guess his opinions are still highly regarded.

One of his views that I agree with, it seems, is that the NZ Whisky Company 21yo "South Island Single Malt" is a damn good whisky. I considered it the equal best when tasting 10 of their releases back in 2013, and Jim has given it 95 points in his 2014 Whisky Bible.

To quote the NZ Whisky Company press release:
"In a great start to 2014 for the New Zealand Whisky Company, Jim Murray’s latest edition hot off the press in London, sees the South Island Single Malt 21 y.o. scored at 95 points, placing it in the highly coveted category. This is the first time ever that a New Zealand whisky has scored so high and been anointed ‘Liquid Gold’. 
“This is a salute to the craftsmanship of the Dunedin distillers,” says company CEO Greg Ramsay. “Being recognised as one of the world’s great whiskies by Jim Murray, that’s the ultimate endorsement of your dram and all the Dunedin distillers like Cyril Yates can be proud that what they were doing in the 80s and 90s in New Zealand, was every bit as good as what the Scots were doing over in Speyside and on Islay.” 
The South Island Single Malt is the company’s flagship single malt, aged for 21 years in American Oak, ex-bourbon barrels. According to Murray’s latest bible, “you would be forgiven for thinking this was a 30 or even 35-year-old Speysider; almost a grassy maltiness melding into the light, exotic fruit and freshly chopped celery. Clean, delicate and elegant beyond words. 
If someone asked me how I would like my 21-year-old non-peated malt to come to me, it would probably be something like this: a top of the range 40-year-old. Proof that the country in which a whisky is made is totally irrelevant. Great whisky is great whisky.”
The whisky is now exported from Oamaru and available across Canada, the UK, Australia and Europe."

Until next time...sláinte.

 - Martin.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Wild Turkey Spiced launch event (by Steph)

Gruppo Campari, in association with Men at Work Comms launched the new and innovative Wild Turkey Spiced on a steamy Wednesday afternoon last week at Campari HQ in Sydney's St Leonards. The young crowd were introduced to the first "spiced Bourbon" in Australia, and the first-ever spiced Bourbon from what Wild Turkey are calling the “island of Kentucky”, in the office's relaxed Campari bar (complete with blow-up palm trees, sand and an exceptional harbour view).


“I wanted to develop a product that brought to life the best of our robust Bourbon, while delivering the smoother taste. Wild Turkey Spiced is a Real Kentucky Bourbon with flavours of Vanilla & Caramel and hints of Clove and Cinnamon” said Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey Master Distiller and Bourbon Hall of Famer (not present at the event).

Did it mix well? Absolutely! Oliver Stuart (“Ollie” - below), National Brand Ambassador at Campari Australia was the maestro behind the bar, mixing the sweet and spicy spirit with Coca Cola (i.e. the “hero” drink), dry, or freshly squeezed apple juice. Alternatively, it was perfect on its own with ice - still clearly a Bourbon, but with a spicier, fuller, sweeter taste.

Jordan Berger, NSW Brand Ambassador at Campari Australia was entertaining as “Jay”, the stranded-on-a-deserted-island surfer who found an indistinguishable bottle of locally-made spirit deep in a cave half buried under a mound of sand. Legend has it it was delicious on its own, amazing when mixed, and much-sought after by the Wild Turkey distillers when introduced to them.

This was the first event hosted by Gruppo Campari and Men at Work Comms that TimeforWhisky had attended, and it was clear that both were out to impress their guests. Delicious (and addictive) mini pies and sausage rolls were served, which went brilliantly with the spiciness of the Bourbon.  Plentiful platters of fruit, cheese and dips kept all guests thoroughly satisfied, not to mention the drinks (unfortunately I left before the Old Fashioneds came out, but I'm told they were very good!)
Wild Turkey Spiced is available nationwide with a recommended retail price of $49.99AUD per 700ml bottle (though on a visit to Dan's today Martin and I saw it for around $40AUD). has additional information.

- Steph. 

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Wild Rover's "CCWC" inaugural event - Glendronach

Originally mentioned back in October last year, Sydney's The Wild Rover have now launched their "Campbell Corner Whiskey Co-Operative" (CCWC), kicking things off this Monday just passed with a Glendronach tasting led by Douglas Cook of the distillery.

Without going into too much detail (see the post from October for the specifics), the Co-Operative allows anyone to join for a one-off $25 fee, and provides them with a card of 50 whiskies to work through (at very reasonably prices). Once done, the holder of a completed card is able to purchase some pretty rare and interesting drams at cost price. There are a few such drams already, including a 21yo Teeling and the 12yo Bushmills Distillery Reserve (available only from the distillery), with plenty more to come, potentially including a Port Ellen. In what I personally think is a solid move, the bar will reserve these drams only for members who have completed their card - you can wave as much cash as you like at them, they won't sell you a dram unless you've completed the card.

The CCWC will also see regular events, the first of which was this one from Glendronach (distributed in Australia by the lovely folk from island2island).

I'll admit Glendronach is a distillery I wasn't too aware of until quite recently, but after continually hearing about the quality of their drams from a number of reputable sources, I figured there must be something good there. My first taste of Glendronach (the 15yo) last year confirmed it.

I had a brief chat to Douglas before the event kicked off, and learnt that despite his title of "Regional Sales Manager", the distillery has such a small staff that his role is a lot more encompassing than the title suggests. Douglas occasionally plays a hands-on role in various facets of the whisky production and distribution, as well as his main role of spreading the word of Glendronach throughout Europe, Australia, NZ and Asia (in particular Taiwan - Glendronach's largest market).

Having been through periods of ownership by Teachers and Pernod Ricard, in 2008 the distillery was brought back into private ownership as part of the BenRiach Distilery Company. It was at this time the distillery chose to focus on sherried whiskies - recognising a gap in the market being addressed by very few other distilleries at the time.

Douglas, clearly passionate about the Scotch whisky industry and who (I suspect) could talk for hours about its intricacies if given the opportunity, taught us a number of interesting facts including:

  • The origins of Glendronach's popularity in the 1820s, thanks in part to word of mouth from, uh, ladies of the night.
  • Scotland produces on average 40 bottles of whisky, every second.
  • All 1.5 million litres of Glendronach produced annually is aged on-site at their distillery in the North East of Scotland.
  • Whilst the majority of Glendronach is aged in Oloroso and/or PX casks, they have released Sauternes and Tawny Port releases in the past, and may, possibly look at a peated release in the future.

After an introductory cocktail of Glendronach 12yo and home-made ginger beer (which was delicious, but perhaps a little spicey given we were about to taste some complex whiskies), Douglas talked us through the 12yo, 15yo and 18yo (to be covered in a separate tasting post) which I have to say were each fantastic.
Douglas, the island2island team and the guys from The Wild Rover did all they could to make this a fun and informative event, and I'd have to say they pulled it off very well. If they keep it up the CCWC could well become a staple on the Sydney whisky event calendar, like Shirt Bar's Scotch Club.

The next CCWC will be on 10th March - a tasting of Kilchoman by owner and master distiller Anthony Wills.

The Wild Rover can be found at 75 Campbell St, Surry Hills NSW.

 - Martin.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Chivas Regal x SpaQ Partnership Launch

Kicking off the whisky event calendar for 2014, this Monday night Pernod Ricard hosted a launch event at Sydney's QT Hotel to celebrate Chivas Regal's new partnership with QT's SpaQ. Having attended some pretty fantastic Pernod Ricard events in 2013, Steph and I were looking forward to what was in store.

The event was to celebrate the recent partnership between Chivas Regal and SpaQ, whereby gentleman visiting SpaQ for treatments (which range from traditional wet shaves through to massages and hair cuts) will be able to enjoy a Chivas 12 or 18 before, during or after their treatment.


Makes a lot of sense, really. The Barber Shop popularised the idea of enjoying a tipple with your barber visit in Sydney, and with the QT Hotel being a licenced premises already, it was an obvious and easy move. Having enjoyed SpaQ's "The Don" shave last year (as part of a weekend-long 30th present thanks to Steph), I speak from experience when I say the treatments are first-rate. Sipping on a whisky could only add to the enjoyment.

The event drew a mixed crowd of media, celebrities and other whisky/bar folk, and everyone got along famously, enjoying canapes like tarlets of spanner crab, pulled pork burgers and prawn sliders, washed down with whisky sours (mixed by none other than industry stalwart Jason Crawley), Chivas 12 and Chivas 18. Shoe shines and hot towel shaves were available to anyone who felt a little scruffy.

To cap off the night, we were ushered into the SpaQ "Relaxation Room", a refined setting where we sat, chatted and enjoyed Chivas 25 poured by Ben Davidson, brand ambassador with Pernod Ricard.

A pretty fantastic way to kick off the whisky year, really.

 - Steph & Martin.

Tasted #64: Belgrove Distillery "Oats"

Late last year the kind folks from Melbourne's excellent Whisky bar Whisky + Alement sent me a sample of a very unusual whisky, which they'd picked up from their visit to Tasmania's Belgrove Distillery. We've featured the distillery on this blog previously, and commented on how owner/distillery Peter Bignell is doing some pretty interesting things down there. A perfect example of which is this "Oats" or "Four Grain" sample.

The sample arrived without much in the way of detail, but W+A sent me Peter's e-mail address and Peter quickly responded with everything I wanted to know and more. In a nutshell, the whisky is an experimental release (love 'em!) and is made up of about 65% oats, milled with the husks retained. The remainder is made up of 10% rye, 10% wheat and 15% malted barley.

The whisky's ABV sits at around 57.5% and was aged in a 50L American oak cask (4th refill, no re-charring or re-finishing) for 18 months.

Interesting, to say the least.

Belgrove "Oats" / "Four Grain" (~57.5% ABV, NAS, Tasmania Australia, not for sale - experimental sample only)

Colour: Pale straw.

Nose: Young, but rich and fruity. Fruity like a lolly shop actually. Also hints of breakfast oats/porridge. Pretty complex really.

Palate: Rich and oily - quickly coats the mouth. Smooth throughout, it has strong taste of oatmeal (funny that). None of the fruitiness seems to carry through from the nose.

Finish: Short to medium, with oatmeal / shortcake notes at the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. Reminds me a little of Balcones Baby Blue (another young whisky). Unusual, but enjoyable.

No word yet on if we'll see this as an actual Belgrove release, but I think it'd be safe to say that Peter won't stop experimenting (which is a bloody good thing!)

 - Martin.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

NAS whisky - throwing in my $0.02

If you're a regular reader of the whisky "blogosphere" (I hate that word), you'll have no doubt noticed a number of recent posts giving various viewpoints on the topic of No Age Statement, or "NAS" whiskies. If not, see CaskstrengthWhisky Israel and Edinburgh Whisky Blog for their thoughts - highly reputable blogs (far better blogs than this one, I should add). Given all the debate, the discussions I've been having recently, and the fact that I'm predicting the rise of NAS in my 2014 whisky predictions, I decided it was time to throw my 2c into the mix.

There seems to be two ends of the spectrum - from "NAS will be the death of the whisky industry" to "Meh", with everyone having an opinion somewhere in between the two extremes. My opinion leans heavily towards the latter, and here's why:

1) NAS is not a new concept
Granted, the concept has gained prominence in the last year as we start to see more and more big players release high-publicised NAS whiskies (chief amongst them Macallan, with their 1824 Series retail release, and Glenfiddich with their Global Travel Retail "Cask" releases). NAS has been around for years though, and there's a good chance you've tried an NAS whisk(e)y, possibly without even realising it.

2) NAS does not necessarily mean "young"
Sure, a lack of age statement may (and probably does) mean there's an element of younger whiskies thrown in the mix - if there wasn't, the whisky would probably carry an age statement. But so what? If the liquid inside is quality, and you enjoy the taste, does it really matter? Does anyone chastise Balvenie TUN1401 for being an NAS whisky? No, because it's one of the best Speyside drams going around.

3) ...but even if it does, that doesn't necessarily mean "bad"
There's a common misconception amongst people relatively new to whisky that "older always means better", and that's just absolutely untrue. Yes, there are some excellent older whiskies - the current Glenfiddich 40yo for example still ranks as one of my favourite whiskies of all time, but there are also older whiskies that simply haven't aged well, or should have been bottled years before (I'm reminded of the example of a particular Scottish distillery which bottled a 50yo release at an eye-watering price, described to me as fairly ho-hum by someone who had tried it on more than one occasion).

Then there are plenty of examples of cracking younger whiskies - Old Hobart, for example, have only been in operation since 2005, yet have been producing fantastic whisky for years.

In short, "old" doesn't necessarily mean "good", and "young" doesn't necessarily mean "bad". There are several factors to take into account during whisky production (cask selection, environment, the distillate itself to name just three), and each plays a large part in the ultimate quality of the whisky.

4) There is a lot of excellent, excellent NAS whisky
If I look at the last duty-free (sorry, "Global Travel Retail") purchases Steph and I have made, I don't actually see many age-statement whiskies in there. Laphroaig PX Cask, Aberlour A'bunadh, Ardbeg Corryvreckan. All fantastic whiskies, all NAS. Not to mention Balvenie TUN 1401 Batch 5, Ardbeg Alligator (one of my top three whiskies of all time), Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary and Talisker Storm - also excellent NAS whiskies.

...and that's just the Scotch. Let's not forget George T Stagg, Makers Mark, Sazerac Rye and Balcones Baby Blue - all examples of premium, or ubiquitously popular American whiskies, and all NAS.

5) Not everyone is going to like every whisky
I think some people fall into the trap of trying one bad NAS whisky (or even just one they didn't like), and tarring the whole category with the same brush. Now sure, there are NAS whiskies I don't like. Auchentoshan Three Wood is one example (actually, I'm not a big fan of most Auchentoshan whiskies). White Oak Akashi is another. But there are also popular aged whiskies I don't like too. Macallan 12yo and 18yo for example - not whiskies I would choose to buy.

The point is, everyone's palate differs and not everyone is going to enjoy every whisky. To write-off an entire category because of a bad experience or two though, is (in my opinion) foolish, when the category has so many stellar examples.

6) Distilleries realise they have a brand to protect
Some of the NAS talk I've seen is about how the category will ultimately result in a decline in quality. Will it? We're talking about a seriously long-sighted (not to mention old) industry here. One that has to forecast demands years and years in advance. Even with NAS gaining prominence, no distillery is going to distill a whisky today and bottle it tomorrow (well, with a few niche exceptions).

I have no doubt that over the coming years, we'll see bad NAS whiskies (we'll no doubt see bad aged whiskies too), and if enough people think they're bad, they won't buy them, and the whiskies will be pulled from sale. If the distillery continues to release poor whisky (age statement or not), the market will react accordingly. Just as it always has done, and life will continue as normal.

Maybe that was a little more than 2c worth, but thanks for reading. I'd love to hear your thoughts - agree, disagree? Please feel free to comment below and let me know.

 - Martin.

Monday, 17 February 2014

This Week in Whisk(e)y #5

It's been a few weeks since our last post. Sorry 'bout that - blame it on a trip to India (sadly with no quality Indian whisky like Paul John or Amrut in sight), then a few short trips around Australia. The posts should be back to their usual regularity from now on though, with a few exciting events this week and plenty of tasting notes to post up.

As you might know if you read this blog regularly, we get a fair few interesting press releases here at TimeforWhisky, and usually try to feature them with our own spin, experiences or comments. Sometimes though, they come thick and fast, and we just don't have time to do them all justice.

So we've decided to take a leaf out of some other excellent whisky blogs, and feature a "PR roundup" every now and then - basically a wrap-up of relevant press releases we've received in the previous week. So on with it then...

The Oak Barrel host Kilchoman founder, owner and master distiller
The Oak Barrel in Sydney's CBD run some pretty great tasting events (like this and this), and while we don't feature every one on this site, this particular masterclass caught our eye.

Kilchoman is famous for being the newest distillery to open on the Island of Islay (and the first to do so in 124 years), opening in 2005. Whilst that does mean their oldest whiskies are still relatively young, the distillery has won a number of awards already (and I'm not just talking about receiving high scores from Jim Murray...)

Dave and the team from The Oak Barrel are bringing Kilchoman's founder, owner and master distillery Anthony Wills to Sydney for a one-off class on Wednesday 12th March. As well as tasting a line-up of five Kilchomans, we're pretty excited to hear all about what goes into opening a brand new distillery, particularly in a region which hadn't seen one in over a century.

Details: 6:30pm, Wed 12th March @ The Oak Barrel, 152 Elizabeth St Sydney. $40 / $50.

SMWS Australia releases new website

Two weeks ago, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Australia unveiled their new website which (as well as offering an expanded range of society malts, all the usual society gear, and a 30th Anniversary edition of Unfiltered Online) just looks fantastic.

Whilst a new website wouldn't usually be something to get pulses racing, the SMWS do a huge amount for Scotch whisky in Australia, and their website is a great communication tool for members and non-members alike (in fact, the next round of tasting events go on sale today - get in quick, we will be!)

Members and non-members alike are recommended to take a peek:

Glenrothes 1970 Single Cask - Australian release
Single cask whiskies are nothing new, or even rare, with some independent bottlers bottling nothing but, and with an increasing number of distilleries releasing original bottlings of single-cask whiskies (some, like the excellent Balvenie 15yo even form part of the distillery's regular lineup).

What you don't see often though, are original bottling single cask whiskies of significant age, like the 41yo Glenrothes 1970 "Extraordinary Cask", which is now available (1 bottle only) in Australia, through Perth's Liquor Barons

To quote the press release:
"Berry Bros. & Rudd is proud to unveil a limited collection of single cask bottlings 
from the lates [sic] 1960s and early 1970s. The Single Cask is something that we at 
The Glenrothes bottle rarely- indeed, since 1994, an average of less than one a 
year. The reason is that, generally, two or more good casks deliver greater 
complexity than one single cask but, just occasionally, casks are found with such 
personality and such excellence that they can stand alone as examples of 
supremacy of the bloodline. 

However, recently a small cache of casks of unimpeachable provenance came to 
the attention of Ronnie Cox. After a lengthy process of assessment, a small 
number of these casks was selected as being worthy of being bottled as The 
Glenrothes. The first of these casks to be bottled is the Single Cask 1970 #10573. 

The hallmarks of The Glenrothes are quality and purity, evident in the 
beautifully-balanced, elegant and well-mannered single malt with peerless 
texture, perfectly expressed by this single cask bottling. The spirit was distilled on 
July 6th 1970. Cask #10573, an ex-bourbon hogshead, yielded just 179 bottles at a 
natural strength of 40.6% alcohol by volume. It was transferred to glass on April 
2nd 2012. "
40.6% ABV implies the whisky was probably nearing the end of its potential life in the cask, but sadly with no tasting notes in the press release we can't tell you how it tastes. At $10,000AUD+ for the only bottle in the country, we're unlikely to taste it ourselves either, so you'll have to use your imagination...

That's all for this week...until next time...

 - Martin.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Tasted #63: Australia Day Special - Heartwood "Release the Beast"

Happy Australia Day, Australia!

Given the proliferation of excellent whisky we have on our shores, I figured today's tasting had to be an Australian whisky, and what better than one from Heartwood Whisky?

Fans of Australian whisky might be familiar with Heartwood, but for those who aren't, think of them as an Australian independent bottler, who only deal in (high) cask strength, high-quality whiskies.

Without going into too much detail (given this is a "Tasted" post), Heartwood currently have 10,000+ litres of Australian whisky maturing away. A lot of it is from Lark Distillery (where Tim who runs Heartwood also sits on the board), but some of it comes from other Australian distilleries too, such as Tasmania Distillery.

When Heartwood decide the whisky is ready they release it at cask-strength, which (due to the unique climate in Tasmania and cask storage conditions forcing the water to evaporate faster than the alcohol) often results in an ABV% higher than when the new make entered the barrel. Seems they have some tee-totalling angels in Tassie!

Whilst some releases are bottled at a mental ABV% like 72.5% ("The Convict Redemption", an excellent dram by the way), this one here was bottled at a slightly less insane 65.4%, after maturing in two port barrels and being finished in an Australian Sherry (aka Apera) cask. The website states NAS, but I've heard this one is around 7 years old.

Oh, and a final note - if you're reading about any Heartwood release, there's a good chance it'll no longer be available. While there are a few available at the time of writing, these whiskies do sell out very quickly. Not hard to see why...

Heartwood "Release the Beast" (65.4% ABV, NAS, Tasmania Australia)
Heartwood on the left, a 40yo Glenrothes on the right.
Colour: Deep, deep copper. Rich, red. One of the darkest whiskies I've tasted for the site.

Nose: Big sherry hit at first - reminds me of the Kavalan Soloist which I tasted early last year. In addition to the obvious sherry notes, a fruity, nutty, sweet nose comes through. Complex and sweet.

Palate: Big, clearly strong, but also incredibly smooth. Very, very drying. Hints of hazelnuts. But dry, so dry. Absolutely no burn though - a whisky that has been matured and cared for well.

Finish: Still dry, with long berry notes. Hazelnut notes show through at the very end again.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. Not for the faint of heart (ha), but certainly not rough or unapproachable in any way. Incredibly smooth, reasonably complex and with some delicious notes. Try it with a drop of water and watch the flavours explode. All the Heartwoods I've tried have been excellent, and unique, so if you're a fan of different, interesting, quality Australian whisky, give them a look.

Thanks to Cooper from for the sample.

 - Martin.