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.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Tasted #62: Old Hobart Overeem Bourbon Cask...the most impressive Australian whisky to date

Last week we brought news of Lark Distillery's intention to acquire Old Hobart Distillery & its Overeem products, an acquisition which we understand has now gone through.

Fitting, then, that the next "Tasted" post is an Overeem whisky. Specifically their new (and for the time being, limited) Bourbon Cask Matured release.

Until now, Old Hobart  have had a core range of only 4 expressions - Port and Sherry matured, in both 43 and 60% guises. They've also had limited runs of other whiskies, including a fantastic limited release produced for The Oak Barrel in Sydney (which Steph kindly bought me a bottle of as part of my birthday present last year), but the core range has remained the same. Until now that is, with this Bourbon cask release, released late in 2013 initially as a limited run of 170 bottles (#1 fetched $2,500 at auction), but with more to follow in 2014.

..and a bloody good thing that is too, as this is the best Australian whisky I've personally tasted to date.

I've always been a fan of Overeem whiskies, and found them to be amongst the best Antipodean whiskies available, but this has stepped it up a notch and proven that Australian whisky really can compete on a world scale. I'm just wishing I got one of the original 170 bottles now (the label on the bottle below says 700mL, but sadly it was but just a sample bottle).

Old Hobart Overeem Bourbon Cask Matured (43% ABV, NAS, Tasmania Australia, $200)
Colour: Light, honied.

Nose: No hint of youth like can be found on some Australian whiskies. Sweet vanilla notes (to be expected), but also strong apple notes. Very strong! Also, pears. Fantastic nose.

Palate: Big sweet hit at the front of the tongue initially. Overall quite light on the palate, slightly floral, but with a big flavour - primarily apples and pears. Very, very smooth.

Finish: Surprisingly long. Hot, but never unpleasant. Slightly spicy towards the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. As I said above - the best Australian whisky I've ever tried (Steph hasn't tried it yet, but I'm sure she'd agree!) It's unlike any Australian whisky (or bourbon-matured Scotch for that matter) I've tried. If I had to, I'd say it's closest to a Springbank, or Lowland whisky, but with big fruity apple and pear notes...just fantastic. I'll definitely be seeking out a bottle of this.

 - Martin.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Tasted #61: Jack Daniels Holiday Select (2013)

A few weeks ago we wrote about the Jack Daniels Holiday Select, which Brown-Forman kindly sent Steph and I for Christmas. You can read more about it here, but in short it's a limited run of 49% ABV JD from barrels selected especially to create their distillery Christmas Tree. As far as I'm aware, this is the third annual release.

I've always been a fan of Jack Daniels Silver Select (which is basically Single Barrel at 50% ABV, made for the Global Travel Retail market), so this expression at 49% was off to a good start before I even cracked it...

Jack Daniels Holiday Select 2013 (49% ABV, NAS, Tennessee USA, $130AUD)
Colour: Rich golden sunset.

Nose: Spice, vanilla, a hint of oatmeal. A second nosing gives rich berry notes - raspberries, blueberries. Definitely has the standard JD notes too.

Palate: Yes this is definitely a JD! But more spice, much more oatmeal, more charred oak characteristics. Smooth and filling in the mouth - this is what a JD should be! Banana notes (which I've always gotten from JD) are evident too.

Finish: Long! Very long. Spicy cumin notes with a hint of berry fruits, but mostly banana, at the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. An excellent limited JD expression with an interesting back story, a stunning bottle and quality / unique packaging. If you're a JD fan I'd suggest grabbing a bottle, although Dan Murphys seem to be sold out already.

 - Martin.

PS: Despite the photo above, as with all whiskies this was tasted in a Glencairn glass for consistency with my other tastings. 

Monday 13 January 2014

This Week in Whisk(e)y #4

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...

Lark Distillery Pty Ltd to acquire the Old Hobart Distillery and Overeem brand
Old Hobart Distillery, who regular readers might know I'm a bit of a fan of, have just announced that effective this Friday (17th Jan 2014), they will be acquired by Lark Distillery Pty Ltd. Lark and Old Hobart have worked closely together given Bill and Casey were mates from way back in the day, and it seems Casey is calling it a day (partially), with a plan to retain a role in Quality Control and the occasional brand ambassadorial role for Overeem.

Further details can be found in the press release here.

Bourbon & Bluegrass - Woodford Reserve & Jack Daniels
A lot of whisk(e)y events happen in major cities around Australia, but by no means do all the whisk(e)y fans live solely in major cities, so it's good to see the occasional event held outside the usual Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane etc..

Like Gosford, for example, where Brown Forman are hosting "Bourbon & Bluegrass featuring Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniels".

Brown Forman always put on a fun night, and with an event described as a mixture of "American Whiskey and tasty southern food", along with "Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniels with some special surprises on the night" it's sure to be a good night. Unfortunately we have prior commitments otherwise we'd see you there!
Details: 6:30pm, Tuesday 4th Feb 2014 @ Reviver, 37A Mann St Gosford. $40.

Glenmorangie Cask Masters - Design Winner chosen
For those unsure of what the Cask Masters series is, you can read about it here, but in short it's Glenmorangie's take on a "crowdsourced" whisky (which we saw The Glenlivet do recently, to good effect).

First, the world selected the whisky (a Manzanilla-cask number), then the name ("Taghta"), now the design of the Glenmorangie Cask Masters has been chosen (see here).

It's a fun program, but given how long it's been running and how many people have had input, it better be a damn fine tasting/looking whisky!

Until next time...

 - Martin.

Friday 10 January 2014

Tasted #60: The Balvenie 1973 single cask 40yo

Back in November I wrote about how Steph and I got to attend a fantastic dinner with The Balvenie's global brand Ambassador, Sam Simmons (aka Dr Whisky). The highlight whisky of the night was the final whisky - a 40yo, single cask, cask strength The Balvenie from 1973.

Not just *any* 40yo single cask cask strength The Balvenie, mind you. This was a whisky that David Stewart pulled (at Sam's request) from the cask just a few weeks before Sam's trip to Australia. Truly one of a kind (to put things into perspective, the commercially-available 40yo The Balvenie sells for over $4,000AUD/bottle).

This was the 5th 40yo whisky I'd tried (the others being from GlenfiddichGlenfarclasMaster of Malt and The Glenrothes (DT)) and I was keen to see how so many years in the cask had treated the whisky. My scores of the previous four ranged from 90 to 98/100, proving age isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all of quality.

(Given it was the last whisky of the night, the notes aren't super comprehensive. Sorry 'bout that...)

The Balvenie 1973 Single Cask 40yo (46.7% ABV, 40yo, Speyside Scotland, unavailable - one of a kind)
Colour: Deep, dark, rich copper.

Nose: Strong sherry notes, berries, and a strong oak influence.

Palate: Sandy/dusty, obvious oak influence, drying (like a big bold red wine with strong tanins), still with the berry notes.

Finish: To be honest, not great. Slightly waxy/crayon-y. Lengthy, but just not super more-ish like the Glenfiddich.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. Without a doubt, this was an incredible opportunity (and one we were hugely thankful for) to taste such an old, unique one-off whisky. Was it the best whisky I've ever tried? No, not by a long shot (it was still a very good whisky, mind you). As many people know, age is only one factor in the taste/quality of a whisky, and there is such a thing as whisky being "too old". While I don't think this was "too old", it certainly showed strong oak influence, and some odd notes on the finish.

Was it one of the best single whisky tasting experiences I've had though? Certainly.

(I'm told there was a second 40yo 1973 which was on tasting at Sam's visit to Oak Barrel, but unfortunately we didn't get to try that one.)


Sunday 5 January 2014

The Scotch Whisky Experience & Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection (Edinburgh, Scotland)

For our first post of 2014....let's step back 5 years..

On the same 2009 trip as most of these photos were taken, I was also able to visit the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, and the incredibly impressive Diageo Claive Vidiz collection.

The Scotch Whisky Experience is a tourist attraction aimed at broadening the public's knowledge of whisky, the distilling and ageing process, how to taste whisky, and how to enjoy whisky. It's an impressive facility into which the UK has pumped millions of pounds.

While not aimed at whisky experts, it's an enjoyable experience and includes more than you'd get from your average distillery tour - including being "inside" a mashtun, a sensory room (well executed), and a great shop. Good for young and old.

..but the real highlight for me came at the end - in the form of the Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection. Long story short - Claive was a whisky collector who'd amassed a 3,300+ bottle collection over 35 years, then sold it in its entirety to Diageo. Diageo then loaned it to the Scotch Whisky Experience, and here we are. If it's old, rare, unique, it's probably in here.

Then of course there was the tasting bar at the end, where I enjoyed my first Glenmorangie Signet. Wouldn't we like to see some of these prices in Australian bars!? $5.80 for The Glenlivet 15yo, $16 for a Glenfarclas 30yo!

According to their website, the collection still seems to be available for viewing. I can highly recommend the whole experience - even if you know everything about distilling and just want to check out the collection and the bar at the end!

 - Martin.