Reviewed by: Nick
The thing about the Australian Whisky scene is that we are unquestionably small-fry. It is a quantifiable fact that we produce less whisky per annum than Glenfiddich sloshes from its barrels. Size, or rather lack thereof, is the overriding factor in most Aussie distilleries’ tendencies to release single barrel expressions – they simply don’t produce enough product to have an alternative. This is great if you happened to own an unopened bottle of HH525 Sullivans Cove in 2014. If you did, I hope your new private yacht is treating you well.
Single barrels are not as good however, when the aim of your whisky game is consistency of flavour. You know, that old chestnut of getting one bottle of your standard release to mildly resemble the taste of another one. The best way to achieve this is to blend (or more romantically, ‘marry’) a range of casks together – thus ironing out any ‘bumps’ in flavour. Even better still, is if you can use a Solera vat, which are only ever half empty (or full. Not sure which is the most optimistic phrasing in this case.)
With this groundbreaking new technology (invented c.1790), distilleries are suddenly able to better define their flavour and ensure that a bottle you buy this year is (pretty much) the same as the one you purchase at a later date.
One of the first distilleries in Australia to adopt the Solera technique is the wonderfully-named Great Southern Distilling Company based in Albany, Western Australia. They market their wares under the label ‘Limeburners’ and in their short history, have released some stellar drams.
While director/distiller Cameron Syme is a huge fan of the variety found in single barrel releases, he acknowledges the need for a consistent product and an entry level into the Limeburners range, resulting in the creation of the Limeburners Infinity. Cameron says that his distillery’s key commitment is “to make Australian whisky which can compete and hold its own at the highest international levels. Infinity is certainly capable of that.”
This particular release contains 8 year old whisky matured in several 500L South Australian port puncheons. The infinity name is appropriate, as the Solera system will always leave at least a teeny tiny fraction of these original whiskies in the mix.
Eager to support the distillery, I stumbled upon this bottle’s first release on Dan Murphys and promptly blew my savings for the week. So what exactly is the Infinity Solera Reserve like?
On the nose there are immediate traces of the port influence – ripe oranges dominate alongside zesty citrus and vanilla, bringing to mind cupcakes with lemon icing. The palate is complex – certainly not smooth, but well balanced with flavours of strawberry jam, honey and malt biscuits. In the finish I spotted hints of the bitter soapiness I sometimes detect in wine-matured whisky (yes, I know, this is port matured and therefore I sound crazy). However, this vague disagreeable note dissipates quickly and is replaced by an intriguing dryness which contrasts pleasantly with the initial flavours.
Usually I find it pretty counterintuitive adding water to my whisky, but in the case of this one, it takes on a whole new character with a splash of H20. Suddenly, large dollops of gooey caramel dominate the palate and the flavours morph from undeniably Australian to slightly Speysidey.
This whisky is a significant step for Australian whisky. Lack of consistency is one argument the Cynical Scot has always held over me in our heated whisky-fuelled debates about the validity of non-Scottish drams. It seems that, at least in Limeburners’ case, I will be able to return to the bottle shop in a year, in two years, or even in ten and get this same drop. Or alternatively, I could save my pennies and buy one of their delicious cask strengths…
Appreciate the review. I don’t think I’ve ever had any whiskies distilled in Australia. Mind pointing me in the direction of one I should try? To start testing the waters? No guarantee I’ll find it in my market, but at least I’ll be on the lookout.
Cheers. – Peat
Thanks so much! Aussie whisky is really beginning to pick up some pace – and is developing a good name.
Ideally if you can find some: Lark is the best place to start. After all, that’s how it all began.
More realistically in terms of finding and affording something: Hellyers Road or Starward.
Other stellar drops to look out for (which may blow the budget): Overeem, Nant and of course, the celebrated: Sullivans Cove.
Keep on waffling,
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I fell in love with the Limeburners infinity last year (October 2017) and bought a couple of bottles. But I’ve bought one recently (October 2018) and I’m not in love anymore. I swear its changed or different now. Have you (or anyone) noticed this?
I ask because the technique should produce identical product time and time again.
Love to hear from you if you’ve noticed this too.
I’m afraid I haven’t tried it recently but your observation makes sense: the first batch is still pretty close to a single release – albeit a supercharged combination of casks – but with its own distinct flavour profile. As time goes on and the vat gets filled and emptied the flavours will change a little before settling down thanks to the solera process. It’s such a shame that you don’t like the recent release as much as the first as I’d expect the newer bottles to be a more accurate reflection of the final infinity flavour.
Having said that, Australia is still small fry compared to Scotland – our batch size will still create variation. Let’s hope these recent bottles are a blip rather than the norm.
Thanks for the comment! Keep on waffling,