ABV

Heartwood Convict Resurrection

Reviewed by: Nick

Heartwood Convict Resurrection

In Scotland, independent bottling of whisky is commonplace. Companies such as Gordon & MacPhail, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Flora & Fauna – basically anything with an ‘&’ in it – run successful businesses and produce some fine drams. In Tassie, well, it’s a little rarer. While Trappers Hut and Tasmanian Independent Bottlers are coming along nicely, there’s one name leading the way: Heartwood.

Heartwood was created by Tasmania’s own mad scientist of whisky, Tim Duckett, whom I imagine spends his days bent over a steaming cauldron of luminous Tasmanian whisky, stirring it with a wooden oar and chanting “double double toil and trouble”.

If you’ve ever come across a bottle of Heartwood, you’ll attest that it was unquestionably a memorable drop. There’s certainly a lot to remember, from the wonderful designs on the labels to the distinctive names: ‘Vat Out of Hell’, ‘Release the beast’ and ‘Any Port in a Storm’ to name a few. However, the most memorable aspect of any Heartwood bottling – by far – is the strength. The ABV of all releases ranges from percentages in the mid 60s to percentages in the mid 70s. That’s right – mid 70s!!!

The bottle I decided to purchase sits at an eye watering 72% and is called the ‘Convict Resurrection’, part of a series of convict-inspired bottlings referring to Tasmania’s original function as a penal colony. The whisky comes from Sullivans Cove barrel HH0239, which was an American oak ex-port cask. And boy, is it something.

Every aspect of this whisky is massive. The nose hits you like a boxing glove wielded by Sugar Ray Leonard, teeming with creamy fruit flavours like plum jam spread on rich brie. As is to be expected, the palate also packs a punch – taking a sip is like wrestling a crocodile – and yet there are so many flavours to be found: raisins, nutmeg, pinecones and blackberries – perhaps with the thorns still attached!

The finish is the most surprising element of the whole dram as it is incredibly smooth. It seems to evaporate at the back of your throat, leaving the most glorious lingering warmth with notes of jam and honey.

If you ever see a nip of Heartwood available anywhere – don’t think – just buy it. Sure, it’ll be pricey, but only 200 or so of each bottle is made and once they’re gone, they’re actually gone. Heartwood fans don’t buy the stuff to leave it sitting on a shelf.

Seriously, try it if you can. I promise it will be memorable – in the best possible way.

★★★★★

Heartwood n Nick

Tasmanian whisky: One state. Three ingredients. Unlimited flavour.

#TasWhiskyWeek

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Glenfarclas 105

Reviewed by: Nick

Glenfarclas 105

You never forget your first time. The insecurity as you take the plunge, the fire in your belly, the lasting satisfaction afterwards. I am of course referring to the first time you tried cask strength whisky.

Most whiskies sold commercially have been diluted down to an ABV deemed acceptable to public consumers of alcohol, usually 40-43%. This is undoubtedly a good thing, or us whisky drinkers would be permanently sloshed and unable to string multiple sentences together, let along write eloquently worded whisky blogs. However, there’s just something a bit special about trying a whisky as it can be found in the barrel.

These whiskies are called ‘cask strength’ and usually sit somewhere in the mid to high 50s percentage alcohol wise, although can rise as high as the low 70s. Trust me, when you are drinking one of these, you know about it.

Glenfarclas are a wonderful family-owned Speyside distillery who use mainly Sherry barrels to mature their spirit in. They release a range of (impressively affordable) age statements as well as the 105, their cask strength, which is bottled at a nice round 60%. And it’s an absolute monster. Although a monster in the vein of King Kong, in that it can be brought under control (at least temporarily, before storming off to climb the Empire State Building).

On the nose the sherry influence is prominent, notes of grapes, raisins and other dried fruits coming through along with several sweeter aromas of treacle and iced tea. It’s pleasant, although if your nose ventures too far into your Glencairn, you will receive an eye-watering whiff of the alcohol to come.

The palate is where you first notice the power of the whisky. Hot, spicy, tangy and sharp, it’s far from the smoothest drop you are likely to try. But once past the shock there are plenty of pleasing flavours to be found, such as oak, marmalade and stewed fruits, such as apricots and quinces. The finish of a cask strength whisky is often the highlight and the 105 is no exception. It is dry, long lasting and ever so warming. Not just in your mouth, but after you have swallowed it, within your entire chest. This whisky is a viable alternative to paying heating bills.

Many advocate the need to add water to cask strength whiskies. In a lot of ways they are right. With only a few drops of water, the Glenfarclas 105 becomes immediately smoother and presents new floral aromas and flavours of honey and cloves. But it also loses the fire contained within its 60% self. That wonderful warming sensation is gone, along with some of the magic of the drop.

The Glenfarclas 105 is a fantastic dram, and a great example of a cask strength whisky. It is certainly not for the faint hearted, but is well worth it if you can make it back for a second sip.

★★★★