beer

Heartwood Vat out of Hell

Reviewed by: Ted

heartwood-vat-out-of-hell

As I walked back through North Hobart to my hotel whilst on a work trip, I decided to stop into the Winston to rehydrate. Lo and behold, what did I find waiting on the shelf but a bottle of ‘Vat out of Hell’, one of Tim Duckett’s glorious cask-strength Heartwood creations.

Crafted from a delightful marriage of 10yo Lark sherry barrel and 13yo Tasmania Distillery bourbon barrel and bottled at a robust 67.4%, the Vat out of Hell, like most Heartwoods, is sadly no longer available for purchase. Therefore, stumbling across an open bottle constitutes a rare treat and a responsibility to try some for the betterment of humankind.

I gazed wistfully at the bottle on the shelf and thought ‘well… work’s covered the rest of my drinks tonight [I must admit that I had stopped for liquid sustenance at several other pubs along the way], so what the hell, I’ll treat myself.’

At this point I was feeling a little less analytical and in a bit more of a subjective frame of mind thanks to my nice warm beer coat, but I think that’s probably a good way to tackle a Heartwood. Ride the rush of emotions, don’t overthink it. So, without further ado, here’s what I thought (apparently. I’m glad I at least had the presence of mind to write this down):

The smell is… leathery, which is quite appropriate really… it’s like a box of sultanas left on the bench seat of an old Kingswood ute on a hot summer’s day… a walk through a meadow of spiked wildflowers… fruit leather made out of fruit cake… sun fermented orchard fruit… hot boat decking.

Tastes like timber should… if Easter eggs tasted like this, I’d probably eat them quicker… meat slow cooked for a looong time… dark brown as a flavour… attaches like a happy lamprey to your gums.

Yeah, so long story short, it was bloody good. Better than Meatloaf’s version… If you find some, think with your heart and not your wallet, and you’ll end up transcending to a higher plane of existence.

★★★★

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The coming of age of a non-whisky drinker

Posted by: our newest guest reviewer Stretch

Stretch whisky waffle

Growing up watching spy movies and idolising heroes like James Bond, I have always thought there was something quintessentially cool about asking for something from the ‘top shelf’. Suavely asking the bartender for just that satisfied the wide-eyed nine year old in me, even if I didn’t know what I was talking about! Such is the reverence that whisky has earned ever since we managed to distil that liquid nectar, and with a little help from popular culture, propel it into the pure essence of class.

As a lesser mortal who does not drink whisky, I have never quite grasped how much was involved with drinking it. Having tried it on a number of occasions over the years, I can say that drinking whisky has never been the most pleasurable of experiences for me. Being first introduced to it as a young lad on a fishing trip with my father, he told me that this was what kept him warm at night. “It’s like a fire in your belly,” he would say, and standing next to him freezing my toes off, it sounded like a pretty good thing he had going on. After burning my throat and recovering from the subsequent coughing fit, I quickly determined that I did not like whisky and would stick to my hot chocolates for keeping warm.

Years later, and after numerous attempts to drink whisky, I still couldn’t acquire the taste. Maturing my taste buds to the refined flavours of (good) coffee, beer, wine and accompanying foods, I had come to appreciate the finer side of life and all it had to offer. Except for whisky. As with everyone, there will always be a flavour to your palate that you will not enjoy. However, as is the case with many things in life, you need to grow accustomed to them and this is how I approached whisky. If I could come to like wine and beer, drinks I detested in the past, then I could like whisky too. With a push from the Whisky Waffle boys, my plan slowly became a reality.

The first step was to work out where I had gone wrong in the past. Drinking cheap run-of-the-mill blends was a likely culprit. Johnny Walker Red, Ballantine’s so-called ‘Finest’ Scotch Whisky or Chivas Regal 12 Year Old didn’t necessarily provide the best starting point for my whisky tastes. Nick and Ted soon solved this. With the two boys being proud Tasmanians, and myself an interstate import, we started with the island’s up-and-coming industry. If you’re going to do something, do it properly and start with the good stuff, something which Lark, Nant and Sullivans Cove offer in droves. The Tasmanian distilleries provided me with a taste I had not experienced before. It still burnt my throat, but it also had a nice after-taste to it. Whisky, which had for so long been terrible, became a little less than terrible. And it was at this point that I decided I no longer hated whisky, I just did not appreciate it enough. With some help from my whisky friends, who knows, in time I too may begin to waffle.

Star rating for whisky in general (★★ 1/2 stars)

Stretch the model

Find out more about Stretch at his bio.

Royal Lochnagar Distillers Edition

Reviewed by: Nick

Royal Lochnagar Distillers Edition

Every now and then what you really look for in a whisky is one that you can drink. I realise that this may sound a ludicrous statement for something which is, undoubtedly, a liquid, but bear with me and I shall explain.

I’m always on the lookout for interesting and unusual new drops to challenge me and set me off waffling about the subtle complexities that can be discovered from dram to dram. However, if every dram I consumed affected me in such a way then, apart from having no friends, I would risk straying too far from the very essence of whisky; that is: it is made to be drunk (with the possible exception of the Macallan Cire Perdue).

With this in mind I believe there is no better candidate for the position of ‘drinkable whisky’ than the Royal Lochangar Distillers Edition. A rather underrated distillery, Lochnagar got it’s ‘Royal’ tag by impressing Queen Victoria on a visit, although the scale of this achievement is questionable as it was reportedly very easy to please Queen Victoria with whisky. Nevertheless the title stuck and it is now the smallest of Diageo’s 28 distilleries.

The Distillers Edition is aged for a period in ex-Muscat casks, adding a layer of silk and sweetness without making it overly-sugary or syrupy. The extra maturation seems to round off some of the sharper edges, making the whisky smoother and easier to drink, though this does not take away from the overall flavour; there are still many appealing elements to discover.

This is immediately apparent on the nose, which is heavy with alluring caramel. Citrus notes follow as well as a dash of rose essence. It has a smooth and creamy mouth feel, retaining the caramel elements and adding flavours of almonds coated in layers of honey and chocolate. There are also the faintest hints of berries to be discovered, lingering in the background. The finish is light and short but the butterscotch theme continues until the end. The overall effect is that of the sauce to sticky date pudding. And those who know me understand what a large compliment I am paying it.

The Royal Lochnagar Distillers Edition is certainly not the most complex or intriguing whisky going around. Nor is it in any way dull. It is a very easy drinking whisky, and this is in no way bad thing. In fact, I believe that it is this dram’s biggest strength.

★★★