butter

Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish

Reviewed by: Nick

Hellyers Road Pinot Finish whisky waffle

Tasmania is rapidly becoming known as the ‘Whisky Isle’ of Australia. Not only are distillers here in my home state creating award winning produce, they are also experimenting with new methods to create unique whisky. Hellyers Road Distillery is no exception to this, and perhaps their most interesting expression is their Pinot finish.

The Tasmanian wine industry is already thriving, with cool climate wines such as Pinot Noir being made exceptionally well, particularly in the Tamar Valley. It is from here that Hellyers road sources barrels to transfer previously bourbon-aged spirit into for the final six months of its maturation.

The difference this process makes is marked. One glance tells you that this is a very different whisky to the Original release. Its colour is no longer light and pale; instead it is enticingly golden. The nose is equally varied. There are still the typical buttery notes to be found, but now these are infused with fruits such as raisins and dates. The palate is rather light, but gone are some of the sharper, rougher flavours of the Original. Instead there are dry, almost sour notes, competing intriguingly with the more expected flavours of vanilla and toffee. The finish is spicy, the added kick from the alcohol percentage of 46.2% clearly apparent. Finally, you are left with the trademark Hellyers Road buttery notes that remind me of not so much a cake, but rather uncooked cake batter.

The Pinot Noir cask is a fascinating malt. Undoubtedly more interesting and complex than its cousin, the Original, it is also smoother and easier to drink. While not yet a perfect whisky, it certainly shows that experimentation has more than paid off for Mark Littler and Hellyers Road.

★★★

Hellyers Road Original

Reviewed by: Ted

Hellyers Road Original whisky waffle

We live in Burnie, a small town of around 20000 people on the North-West coast of Tasmania. A somewhat surprising, and pleasing, fact about our little town is that we have our own distillery: Hellyers Road.

Named after Henry Hellyer, one of the first Europeans to explore the NW coast, the distillery is slightly unusual in that it was purpose-built and is still wholly owned by the Betta Milk company located next door (best milk in the world!). The idea of dairy farmers setting up a whisky distillery is very NW Tasmanian. The distillery has certainly benefitted from the technical knowhow from the milk processing plant for setting up its own systems.

As the name suggests, the Hellyers Road Original was the first release from the company. A non-age statement release (Hellyers Road tells us that it is bottled between 7½ – 9 years age), the Original provided a platform for the distillery to build on while waiting for its whisky to come of age. The packaging and artwork is sensational, with a handmade look that is very much part of the ‘City of Makers’ arts-and-crafts vibe that exists in Burnie today.

Thanks to its relatively short time spent in American oak bourbon casks the Original is very light in colour, rather like the clear, crisp yellow of a white wine. The nose is all Hellyers Road, and is like nothing else around. You know it when you smell it. It oozes fat, creamy, buttery tones, very rich and comforting. Very befitting of a distillery that owes its existence to a milk factory.

The taste is where things get interesting for me. Unlike the warm, fuzzy nose, the palate is quite sharp and ‘green’ in flavour, with bitter herbal notes, and a not unpleasant hint of lightly burnt sugar underneath. The 46.2% strength that the Hellyers Road distillers have chosen to bottle at provides a nice sparkle across the tongue.

The Hellyers Road Original is a very curious whisky. Its disjunct nose and palate, and its somewhat sharp flavours suggest an unfinished, uncertain nature. But perhaps we can forgive it of this thanks to its young age and our knowledge that this is only the beginning, and that with time and maturity and experience a truly great whisky may emerge. This is no Scotch, but rather a creation of the new Tasmanian whisky landscape, one that speaks of the rolling green hills of Burnie and the enterprising people that abide there.

★★