Reviews, musings and whisky adventures.
Keep on waffling!
Reviewed by: Nick
I’m not going to lie to you, fellow Wafflers. I bought this bottle of distinctly bottom-shelf blended scotch for numerous reasons – none of which concerned actually drinking the whisky. Firstly, it was the most Aussie sounding bottle I’ve ever seen (try saying it in an Australian accent – it’s very satisfying); secondly, you can’t look past a $30 price tag; and lastly because there was a sick masochistic part of me hoping I could label it the ‘worst whisky in the world’!
I was left rather disappointed. For the first time in my life I was disappointed that a whisky was better than I had thought. Instead of being completely putrid, it was merely rather awful.
Sweet honeyed notes accompany the alcohol burn on the nose while vanilla toffee struggles to break through. The palate is rough; spicy and leafy with flavours of barley sugar amid the burn. The finish is unpleasant and too long for my liking with a lingering sweetness that I found myself longing for it to dissipate.
There you have it folks. Who would have thought, a blend called Catto’s is simply dreadful rather than being soul-destroyingly disgusting. And despite all my criticism and complaining, if you have a look at the photo, you’ll see the bottle is nearly empty. Sometimes a bit of rubbish bottom shelf is exactly what you need.
Posted by: Nick and Ted
Deviant (diːvɪənt): departing from usual or accepted standards
John Hyslop would like it to be known that he has not set out to destroy the Tasmanian whisky industry. In fact he is a big fan of Tasmanian whisky, having worked for a year at a well known Tasmanian distillery, and he respects the craftsmanship and skill that goes into its creation. However, he felt that he couldn’t look past the environmental impacts of the traditional method of producing whisky and so he set out to find a solution.
Drawing on his background as an industrial chemist, John has developed a truly envelope pushing method to create his product. In fact, a fully mature bottle of spirit from Deviant can be made in just 10 weeks… wait, what? 10 weeks you say? But surely that means it’s not legally whisky?
That’s right, it’s not whisky, which in Australia must be aged under oak for a minimum of two years. John makes no bones about this fact, with even the Deviant labels announcing ‘This is not whisky’ in bright lettering. It is not his aim or intention to pass off his product as a corner-cutting Tasmanian whisky, instead he is looking to create an entirely new product. Based on its strictly legal definition, he has elected to call it a ‘Single Malt Spirit’.
That’s not to say that it tastes completely different to an aged whisky. The spirit actually starts life in much the same way as a traditional whisky does, however John then uses the technology that he has developed to rapidly mature the product to a point where it shares many of the characteristics of an aged dram.
The benefit of this process is the efficiency and the lack of waste produced. John is very ethically driven and claims that his method can make 150-200% of the product in 2% of the time with less than 10% of the waste compared to many distilleries. It is his hope in the future to make Deviant carbon neutral, utilising technologies such as solar and bio-energy, converting waste into fertiliser and purchasing carbon credits to offset any shortfalls.
One of the other advantages of his process is that he can release product at a much lower price point and rapidly expand into new markets. He acknowledges that there will always be a place for premium barrel aged whisky and he is not looking to displace that. Instead he is aiming to capture those who are potentially put off by the relatively high price point of whisky and produce a bottle of Tasmanian spirit that the average consumer does not have to save up for, a point which he feels will particularly appeal to the 24-36 year old demographic.
Naturally Deviant has ruffled a few feathers in the Tasmanian whisky industry and even we Wafflers have our reservations about how the process will affect our beloved whisky scene. When it comes down to it, what will really make or break ‘Single Malt Spirit’ is the taste. Regardless of how ethically the spirit is produced compared to traditional whisky making, if it fails to capture the interest of the market then it will go down in history as just another failed experiment. Having said that, the technology could also succeed and go on to provide an interesting new option for consumers.
The only real way to find out what Single Malt Spirit is like is to try some. Fortunately Deviant Distillery is launching its product next Saturday night at The Chapel in Burnie. The evening will include four tastings of various Deviant products, behind-the-scene knowledge from John and witty banter from the Whisky Waffle boys (that’s us!)
Tickets are $20 and are available at: www.trybooking.com/RWJC, but hurry, spaces are limited.
Posted by: Nick
If you’ve only heard of one Tasmanian distillery, chances are that distillery is Sullivans Cove. Based in Hobart and formerly known as Tasmania Distillery, this founding father of Tassie whisky has a chequered and yet ultimately inspiring past and, as we Waffle boys discovered when we visited their site recently, an extremely promising future.
Sullivans Cove is one of Tasmania’s most visitor-friendly distilleries. The viewing platform looking out across the bond store is a proper money-shot (see above!) and in keeping with the establishment’s status as Tassie’s poster-child distillery. This honour was thrust upon Sullivans Cove in 2014 when a bottle of their French Oak Cask won the prestigious World’s Best Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards and changed the face of Tasmanian whisky forever. But as our generous host, Strategy Manager Fred Siggins, was keen to point out, there is so much more to Sullivans Cove than barrel HH525.
Consistency in flavour is a difficult task for the fledgling Australian whisky scene. Due to the size of the industry (or rather the lack thereof) most releases are the product of one barrel and therefore the flavours vary from bottle to bottle. While some distilleries choose to conveniently sweep this issue under the carpet, Sullivans Cove embrace it, hand labelling each bottle with a sticker informing the purchaser exactly which cask or casks are contained within. The result is that a dram of one French or American Oak bottling will be unlikely to taste identical to a previous one.
While this approach ensures Fred is continually explaining to customers why their new bottle tastes slightly different to their old one, it also forms one of the most exciting aspects of the distillery. During our visit we were lucky enough to sample not one, but two of the French and American Oak expressions. Had they not featured the distinctive blue and black labels we may not have picked them as the same bottling.
In each case one dram was smooth and easy drinking and the other vibrant, fresh and zingy. Excitingly, we could not work out which of each we considered to be the better drop – instead deciding that we would prefer one over the other depending on the mood we were in. Fred agreed and recommended that Sullivans Cove customers leave a small amount in one bottle before opening the next, to really appreciate the difference.
The other exciting aspect of the distillery is the age of the whisky in the bond store – and in their bottles. Sullivans Cove head distiller Patrick Maguire has been creating whisky since taking over the company in 1999 and giving it a much-needed new lease on life in the process. This means that some of the barrels are now pushing 18 years old, an incredible age for an Australian spirit.
Both the French and American Oak releases are usually aged for anywhere between 10 and 17 years while the entry level Double Cask release, a marriage of 2 to 4 American Oak barrels and one French Oak barrel, contains a cross section of particularly mature whisky, unheard of in any other Tasmanian release.
The only drawback of this premium method of whisky creation is the premium price. Sullivans Cove make no bones though about the fact that they make a premium product and are not looking to change that any time soon. Fred did point out, however, that there is a lot of new Australian whisky coming into the market currently demanding a similar (or greater) price to the Sullivans Cove Double Cask. While this new stock is exciting, the whisky is likely to only be 2 to 3 years old. When compared with the potentially 17 year old whisky found in the Double Cask, it really paints the Sullivans Cove price point in a positive light.
Sullivans Cove is now one of the most recognisable brands in the New World spirits scene, an achievement which is a true testament to the work put in by Patrick Maguire all those years ago. For a very long time, his whisky creation was a labour of love, an unprofitable venture fuelled by passion rather than profit. The rules have now changed, however, and currently there are over twenty distilleries in operation in Tasmania – with more on the way. It is certainly no overstatement to say that this reality may not have come to be if not for Sullivans Cove Distillery.
Sullivans Cove will be open for tours seven days a week, starting in September! Tours depart hourly and can be booked at the Sullivans Cove site.
Posted by: Nick
We’re big Ardbeg fans here at Whisky Waffle so you can image the look on our excited little faces upon hearing the announcement that our equal favourite Ileach distillery is adding a brand spanking new release to its core range. Joining the ever reliable 10 Year Old, the bonfire-in-your-mouth Corryvreckan and the serious contender for world’s best dram Uigeadail will be the An Oa.
Similarly to the other two impossible to spell bottlings, the An Oa is named after a local landmark, in this case the Mull of Oa, a peninsula in the island’s south famous for the iconic (and possibly a little bit phallic) American Monument. The biggest mystery, apart from the pronunciation, is what will this new release taste like?
Early indications suggest it may be lighter on the peat that other Ardbeg bottlings. The distillery describes it as being “singularly rounded whose smoky intensity is softened by a delectable smooth sweetness”. Rounded is probably a good call when you consider the An Oa is a vatting of a vast array of barrel and char types (basically whatever Dr Bill Lumsden has floating around in his back room) married together in Ardbeg’s intriguing sounding Gathering Room.
The other mystery, of course, is why? Ardbeg are famous for putting out more bottlings than any blogger can keep up with while remaining relatively sober. And yet here comes another one. We can only hope that it doesn’t spell the end of the Corry or the Oogie or push their price to unobtainable extremes. Although perhaps these fears are unfounded and the An Oa will prove to be a worthy addition to the range. After all, we can never have too much Ardbeg, can we?*
Find out more about the An Oa at the Ardbeg website.
*This question is rhetorical. Of course we can’t.
Posted by: Nick and Ted
Who’d have thought 25 years ago that Tasmania would have over 20 distilleries and an entire week dedicated to whisky made in Australia’s southern-most state. Yet here we are in 2017, bearing down fast on nine days worth of events celebrating the art and craft of the Tasmanian distilling scene, with a host of tastings, tours and talks (not to mention lavish, decadent dinners) featuring the folk responsible for crafting Tasmania’s fine cask-aged grain spirits.
However, up here on the North-West Coast, we can’t help but feel a little left out. Tasmania is nothing if not parochial, with most events being held in Hobart and a few in Launceston. Even the dinner run by Burnie’s very own Hellyer’s Road Distillery is being held just outside Launnie.
Luckily, on Thursday the 10th of August, Devonport’s Southern Wild Distillery is stepping up to bring Tasmanian Whisky Week 2017 to the good, whisky loving folk of the North West. Rather excitingly for us, they asked the Tasmanian whisky blogging scene’s answer to Hamish and Andy to host their event (that’s us!).
Southern Wild, founded by local lad George Burgess, may seem an incongruous venue for TWW’s first NW event, seeing as they are yet to release their own whisky. However, rather than being held back by this fact, Southern Wild have chosen to embrace it as the theme, entitling the event ‘The Birth of Tasmanian Whisky’.
Guests will be guided through a tasting of some of Tasmania’s most renowned drams, led by the witty banter of the Whisky Waffle lads and the industry know-how of George. Each whisky will be expertly paired with gourmet cheese provided by local fromager Euan Wiseman from the Devonport Hill Street Grocer. Additionally, guests will also be provided with two whisky-based cocktails and platters of canapés and light nibbles.
The mouth-watering whisky line-up for the evening will feature Lark Classic Cask, Sullivans Cove new-make spirit and Sullivans Cove Double Cask, Belgrove new-make spirit and Belgrove 100% Rye, and Hellyers Road Peated.
The event promises to be an unforgettable evening, full of laughter, fellowship, conviviality and most importantly of all, whisky (waffle?). Of course, these evenings don’t happen unless there are people coming along to support, so please help us to make it a roaring success and show the rest of the state that the North West coast is just as passionate about whisky as them.
See you there.
Tickets are available at: http://taswhiskyweek.com/events/southern-wild-distillery/
Reviewed by: Nick
The truth behind the murky origins of whisky varies depending on one simple factor: whether you are Scottish or Irish. While the heartland of the water of life will always be Scotland, the Irish have an equally legitimate claim as to the creation of the spirit.
Ireland’s ace up its sleeve is Bushmills Distillery, by some accounts the world’s oldest (legal) distillery. Bushmills in Northern Ireland was founded in 1608 when they were granted a license to distil by King James I (or VI, again depending whether or not you are Scottish). While they have not been open continuously all this time, they have produced whiskey for a large chunk of it.
Unlike other (and by other I mean cheaper) Bushmills expressions which blend their whisky with grain spirit from Midleton, the Bushmills 10 Year Old is a single malt, distilled three times, as is the tradition in Ireland. This creates a gentle, easy drinking dram which, while bordering on unexciting, is far from uninspiring.
The nose is delicate with light notes of oranges and mandarins. There are stewed apples to be found, and shoe polish, also light and gentle. The palate is not as delicate as the nose, with the oranges making a bold return alongside strong woody notes which give the impression of old floorboards. The finish is spicy with lingering notes of custard and leather. This is an interestingly balanced whiskey – too light to scare anyone away, but with enough depth to keep it interesting.
So who do I believe? Which country was it that created this wonderful spirit? Simple. It depends if I’m talking to an Irishman or a Scotsman!
Reviewed by: Ted
It can be a tricky and expensive task getting hold of age-statement Japanese whisky these days. If you’ve been paying attention to global whisky trends over the last five years-or-so, then you’ll know that Japanese whisky has been bang on-point and very much in demand by the smart set. The boom in sales, both locally and overseas, and a slight lack of foresight around barrel management has seen distillery stocks dwindle, so much so that that the two major players, Suntory and Nikka, have had to temporarily discontinue certain aged releases from their distilleries.
Naturally, the shortage in stocks has caused prices to skyrocket. I mean, just the other week I had the opportunity to buy a Yamazaki 50yo 3rd Edition 2011 Release for the low, low price of $157,763.99USD (I lashed out and got three)! Now, admittedly that is a bit of an outlier on the super-premium end of the scale, but even 12yo releases (if you can find them) are generally no less than $150AUD and more often than not well over $200.
So what does a common-or-garden whisky drinker do if you want to own a Japanese whisky without having to count your kidneys? Well, as it happens, there is an answer. These days most Japanese distilleries offer a Non Age Statement release of their product. While superficially a marketing device, the NAS releases are actually crucial for the ongoing survival of the distilleries, allowing continued market access by marrying dwindling older barrels with younger stock coming online.
An example of this is the Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve. While you can still find the 12yo for around $180, the distillers edition is available for a far more wallet pleasing $110. Located NW of Tokyo near Hokuto, an unusual feature of the Suntory owned Hakushu is that it boasts a bird sanctuary within its leafy grounds at the base of Mt Kaikomagatake in the Southern Japanese Alps.
Apparently the Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve marries younger lightly peated malt and heavily peated malt around the 8yo mark with American oak-aged spirit of around 18yo. Or so the internet, repository of all things, tells me; you certainly wouldn’t pick it as being peated if you tried it blind.
On the nose the Distiller’s Reserve is bright, fresh and zingy, delivering a satisfying bouquet of crunchy green apples, sour plum, lemon grass, mint and citrus (Yuzu if you want to get technical according to Hakushu). The scent is clean and light, like a crisply pressed kimono, although after a bit of breathing time it develops a softer, creamy edge.
On the palate the spirit is sharp, clean and metallic, like a samurai sword across the tongue, and delivers a hit of hard, sour stone fruits and a twist of lemon rind. The finish is lingering and herbal, with perhaps a touch of green tea. Couldn’t find that smoke though I’m afraid, although to be honest, with the flavour profile presented by the Distiller’s Reserve I didn’t miss it either.
People quite often get a bit salty about the concept of NAS releases, considering them to be inferior to age statement releases (often without real justification… although sometimes merited for sure, but we won’t go into that particular Reserve here). I am pleased to say however, that in this case the NAS epithet is not a negative one.
But that’s what the Japanese do isn’t it? They take a thing, study it with care and then make not just a copy, but something that is even better than the original. Which is lucky really seeing as the Distiller’s Reserve will be about all we can reasonably get our hands on from Hakushu for the foreseeable future. In conclusion, if you want to see a NAS done right, then look no further than the Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve.
Posted by: Nick and Ted
Well we like it we like it we like it we like it we la la la like it. La la la like it. Here we go-oooh! We’re Waffling around the world!
After the roaring success that was our tour of Scotland, we’ve decided to jump on a big old jet airliner and go global.
Our next Waffle Night will occur on the 22nd of July and once again be held at Burnie’s best cafe and whisky tasting venue: The Chapel. We will be sampling whisky (and whiskey) from various exotic countries around the world… and America.
The night will cost $35 and this covers light nibbles, as well as six drams of whisky from different countries. Judging by past events, tickets will sell out fast, so book your place by visiting: www.trybooking.com/QYYZ
What: Whisky Waffle’s World Tour: Wafflin’ Around the World
When: Saturday the 22nd of July at 7.30pm
Where: The Chapel, Burnie
Why: because whisky is good
Who: you guys!
How much: $35 for 6 drams and light food
So giddy up and giddy up and get away. We’re getting Waffly in the best kind of way. Here we go-oooh! We’re Waffling around the world!
Reviewed by: Ted
If you’ve ever flown overseas, then chances are you will have wandered through the duty free section and marvelled at the huge selection of booze available. For some reason the brand marketers have decided that what the Jetset crowd really crave are exclusive releases that are not worthy of the wingless plebs on the street. Indeed, a whisky fan can spend hours gazing at all the fancy labels, musing about the unusual caskings and trying to decide whether to get that 1L bottle of NAS Scotch, or lash out and buy that rare Japanese number in the gorgeous bottle.
The thing is, are these exclusive bottlings actually any good compared to their standard counterparts?
Let’s take the Auchentoshan Heartwood as an example (not to be confused with the Tasmanian Heartwood brand). Hailing from the Lowlands of Scotland, the Non Age Statement Heartwood edition is produced ‘exclusively for the global traveller’ (that’s you). Auchentoshan itself is notable for being one of the only distilleries in Scotland to triple distil its whisky.
The packaging for the Heartwood is pretty much the same as the standard range, just bigger thanks to the 1L bottle size (aww yeah!). ‘Heartwood’ refers to the dense wood at the centre of a tree, which Auchentoshan rather tenuously links to bourbon and sherry casking being at the heart of their whisky (yeah, they had to torture that one a bit).
Marketing guff it may be, but the bit about using bourbon and Oloroso casks is true. The colour certainly suggests that sherry barrels have been in the vicinity; Auchentoshan claims that the particular hue of the spirit is ‘dark honeycomb’. I on the other hand think that it looks, well, orange, rather like that other most Scottish of drinks: Irn-Bru. A tad heavy on the E150 perhaps? (I’ve since found this great article by LittleTipple noting that the colour of Auchentoshan looks rather similar to bodybuilders who have got a bit excited with the fake tan. Good times).
The nose is dull and heavy, oozing over the rim of the glass like an exhausted slug. After a while the dark brew starts to present toffee and almonds (praline perhaps?) and Terry’s chocolate orange.
The mouth is thick and sweet, with a dense oakiness that lives up to its namesake. The finish offers a lingering hit of burnt orange that is oddly unsatisfying.
In conclusion, buyer beware. The exotic looking jewels of the duty free section may appear tempting, but on closer examination you might just discover that all you really have is a poor imitation of the original. Still, you can’t deny they’re fun to look at. Happy flying, and good luck!
Posted by: Nick and Ted
Whisky Waffle were proud attendees at Hobart’s first ever Whisky Live event in 2016. Sadly, this year it also seems we were present at its last. Event organiser Ken Bromfield put a slight dint in our merry state when he informed us that due to lack of ticket sales, Whisky Live would not be returning to Hobart in 2018.
Despite this sad news we, along with our Waffle-fellowship, had an epic and (very) waffly time, with some of the highlights being:
– Meeting Murray Campbell from Bruichladdich and learning from a born and bred local about the Distillery (and getting to try not one, but two Octomores!).
– Kenny’s assertion that Four Roses is the ‘least offensive bourbon you will ever taste’. Ted thought it really did taste like roses and was told to stop being pretentious (in reality it actually tasted like bourbon).
– Meeting Jack Lark (he of MasterChef Junior snail porridge fame and son of the Bill) and inquiring about his cheese and singing teachers. We would like to remind him that he promised to come to our upcoming whisky event in Burnie
– The Italian Job: trying some Italian drams and being a little uncertain about whether they got away with it
– Sampling a whole bunch of Glendronachs and marvelling at the wonder that was Grant’s striped suit.
– Savouring a rather glorious Glenfarclas 40 Year Old from the Old & Rare bar – a luxury purchase that was oh so worth it
– Having a great chat with Peter and Jarrod from Belgrove and getting to sample the revolutionary North East peated single malt
Sadly there is going to be a Whisky Live shaped hole in the calendar in 2018, but hopefully we can do our small part to provide opportunities for Tassie whisky drinkers to get together. Waffle Live 2018 anyone?
In fact, keep a close eye on whiskywaffle.com as there is a big announcement concerning our next event coming very soon!