Cask Strength

The 25 days of Aussie whisky – Day 19: Fleurieu Distillery Atlantic Crossing 52%

Posted by: Ted

On the nineteenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a glass of Fleurieu Distillery Atlantic Crossing whisky. The South Australian coastal distillery is back on the advent calendar again, with a nautically-themed drop. While the distillery actually sits on the edge of the Southern Ocean, the Atlantic Crossing name is meant to represent Fleurieu’s voyage into the unknown in search of the ‘promised land’, transitioning from brewery to distillery and tapping into new markets.

The lightly-peated cask-strength expression was aged in six 100L port casks before being released as a limited run of 800 bottles. The nose is deliciously rich and perfumed, with sandalwood, musk, salted caramel, chocolate orange and a delicate ashiness. The mouth is dry and hot, with cinnamon bark, allspice, orange liqueur, red apple, cocoa powder and a meatiness on the finish. A very sexy Australia cask-strength dram that is well worth a look if you can find it.

#whitepossumspirits

The 25 days of Aussie whisky – Day 12: Tasmanian Independent Bottlers TIB??005

Posted by: Ted

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a glass of Tasmanian Independent Bottlers TIB??005 whisky. Tim Duckett is a man who likes his whisky strong. Chances are that if you have been paying even the slightest attention to the Tassie whisky scene, you will have heard of his bonkers Heartwood label, which releases independently-aged whisky at an average ABV% of somewhere in the mid-sixties (the strongest was 72.5%!). Apart from being totally amazing, the Heartwoods also all cost an arm and a leg (and a liver), so to make things more accessible Mr Duckett created Tasmanian Independent Bottlers as the baby brother to Heartwood. TIBs are still independently aged, but ‘only’ range in the high 40’s-low 50’s percentage wise, so the price is much friendlier.

The spirit for TIB??005 was sourced from an undisclosed ‘Renowned NSW Distillery’ (hence the ‘??’ in the batch code. Potential contenders include Archie Rose, Blackgate and Corowa) and then aged in ex-sherry casks in Hobart. The nose is tremendously citrusy, almost gin-like in nature, with citronella/lemon myrtle, pepper-berry and coriander seed as botanicals. It’s lighter on the mouth than you would expect considering the 49.1% strength and has an odd earthy, ashy quality which make me suspect that some sort of peating has occured. The TIB??005 is a super quirky whisky and one that will give the experienced dramist an interesting conundrum to puzzle over.

#whitepossumspirits

Heartwood Dare to be Different

Reviewed by: Nick

heartwood-dare-to-be-different

Yes, Tasmanian super-strength independent bottler Heartwood has come up with some fantastic names over the years: Vat Out of Hell, Release the Beast, Any Port in a Storm and Convict Resurrection. However, one of Tim Duckett’s most recent releases I think sums up the whisky producer better than all others: Dare to be Different.

Heartwood doesn’t do things by the book. If Tim doesn’t think it’s as good as it can be, he’ll beat it with a paddle, or stick it in the hot room, or transfer it to another barrel, or pour in a hundred litres of peated Lark new make! The goal here is not to create age statement or single cask releases. Tim simply aims to make the best darn tasting whisky he possibly can.

While Dare to be Different is one of the newer releases from Heartwood, chances are, by the time you read this, it’ll be sold out. That’s just the way Heartwood is, with only 200 or so bottles of each release available. Which is why whenever I visit the Lark whisky bar in Hobart, I can’t help but try what they’ve got.

Dare to Be Different is fittingly dissimilar from many other Heartwood bottlings. It’s darker, more savoury and meaty – and more complex, too. This is due, in no small part, to the 100% peated Lark spirit which has then spent eight years in ex-Oloroso sherry barrels.

The nose is lovely and… delicate? Is that even possible for a Heartwood? There are apples, flowers and a dash of… meat pie. Possibly. It might have been plums. The palate is unsurprisingly spicy and tangy (cheers 65.5%!) featuring tropical fruit flavours mixed with smoked meats and pate. The finish is long and punchy, and I mean this in multiple ways – it tastes like fruit punch and certainly packs a punch. Punchy punch. Enough said.

Across its entire history what the whisky industry simply cannot do without is innovators. People like Tim Duckett who really push the envelope and create peated sherry monsters one week and juicy port offerings the next, all between 60% and 75%. Heartwood dares to be different – and we’re all richer for it.

★★★★

heartwood-dare-to-be-different

Lagavulin: 200 years of peated perfection

Posted by: Ted

lagavulin

Here at Whisky Waffle we understand the gravitas of celebrating a bicentennial birthday. When we sprang into existence in 1988, we arrived just in time to witness Australia’s 200th year as a nation (although one of us saw a few months more of it than the other). Now we are all grown up and are excited to be able to witness another bicentennial milestone, the anniversary of a distillery that is rather close to our hearts:

Happy 200th Birthday Lagavulin!

Founded in 1816 by John Jonston and Archibald Campbell, Lagavulin has now entered the prestigious Islay old-boys club, joining the company of fellow veterans Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain and Laphroaig.

lagavulin-ted

Nestled on the shoreline just a couple of miles East of Port Ellen, the Diageo-owned distillery is classic Islay, with whitewashed walls bearing the name of the distillery in giant black letters on the seaward side and elegant pagodas peeking above the roof line. Inside, guests are greeted by age polished timber and leather chairs, painting a romantic view of yesteryear. Not forgetting of course the glossy copper stills and the ever-present scent of peat and spirit rising to meet the angels…

lagavulin-chairs
To celebrate the big milestone Lagavulin has released a special edition 8 year old bottling, which aims to recreate a bottling sampled by historical Waffler Alfred Barnard in 1886. Now, bear in mind an 8 year old whisky was considered nigh-on ancient back in the day and Barnard described that one as as “exceptionally fine”.

With such high praise from the 19th century, Nick immediately decided to add it to his collection. However, seeing that 2016 marked a 200 year celebration he thought ‘why stop there’ and promptly bought the 2014 edition of the Lagavulin 12 Year Old Cask Strength. When Ted added his Whisky Waffle favourite the 16 Year Old into the mix, we had quite the ingredients for a special Lagavulin birthday bash! Or as we didn’t refer to it at the time but should have: a peat party!

lagavulin-all

On the nose the 16yo was straight up coastal, with a salty, iodiny, seaweedy hit. But then we found… bananas? Perhaps banana chips, as well as dry-aged meat, terracotta, copper and crushed grass. The flavour was all about the tangy peat, but there were earthy notes such as mossy paving stones and singed oak branches.

After the subtle, balanced nature of the 16yo, the 8yo stopped us dead in our tracks and then made us jump up and down with excitement. The colour for one thing was crazy, like the palest white wine, certainly no Diageo caramel in sight there. The nose was decidedly new-makey. Raw. Ashy. A good deep breath delivered a big hit of green fruit. The flavour was fresh, crisp and bright, with the fire still burning across the palate. Summer peat. The finish was rather excellent, being sharp like a tailored charcoal suit. Everything about the 8yo served to highlight the smoothness of the 16yo.

Finally it was the turn of the cask strength 12yo, probably the dark horse of the bunch. Phwoar, what a whisky. It was young, exciting and complex, like a teenage poet. It was Bond, Die Hard and Crank… on Speed. The finish provided a peaty punch that really scratched that itch. There’s something about young peated whisky that just works.

lagavulin-nick
We’ve always had a connection with Lagavulin, even before we started the whole Whisky Waffle malarkey. To be fair, the 16yo was the first whisky that ever blew our minds and made us think that whisky was something more than an additive to Coke. Hopefully this gem of Islay continues another 200 years and beyond, but who knows what the future may bring. Maybe one day in the far flung future a descendant of Howard Carter will be leading an expedition to explore the ruins on a lonely island off the old Scottish coast. Perhaps they will discover a door sealed with a dusty cartouche bearing the legend ‘Lagavulin Distillery Est. 1816 Isla’ and upon gaining entry to the chamber within, will stumble across a hoard of barrels containing the fabled peated gold of Islay…

Booker Noe’s Special Barrel Bourbon

Reviewed by: Ted

Booker Noe's

Ok people, tread carefully, we’re hunting a pretty dangerous lil’ beastie today and I wouldn’t like to see anyone lose a leg. It’s got a strong nose, a powerful kick and a bite worse than the biggest, meanest black bear you ever did see. What am I talking about? Why, Booker Noe’s Special Barrel Bourbon of course…. Look out! *crunch*

This big hitting bourbon takes it’s name from one of Kentucky’s most beloved sons, Booker Noe, grandson of the great Jim Beam himself. As master distiller at Jim Beam for many years, and a child of one of America’s greatest whiskey dynasties, Booker had an innate knowledge of the spirit he crafted. As a testament to his skill he selected barrels of special character to create an expression bearing his name and personal taste.

According to Booker’s note on the bottle label, his grandfather preferred his whiskey to be aged between 6-8yrs. My bottle, containing batch C04-A-28, hits that mark perfectly, being aged for 7yrs and 4months precisely. What really gives the Booker Noe its teeth is that fact that it’s bottled straight from the barrel. Therefore the bottle of dark, uncut Kentucky spirit sitting before me is a hefty 64.55% abv, or 129.1 proof in the American money.

I make no joke about the potency of this stuff, as it’s responsible for some of the few alcohol induced blank spots in my memory. Just to hammer the point home, our women folk are generally pretty indulgent and tolerant of our whisk(e)y drinking proclivities. Yet when the Booker comes out, or even if there’s vague hints of it, stern looks and muttering along the lines of ‘Oh God, you’re not drinking that stuff again are you? Remember what happened last time?’ occurs. Suffice to say, m’colleague and I have not been found in the best shape afterwards.

Yet, even after all that, there is something about the Booker Noe that keeps drawing us back. It’s the bold, gutsy, manly nature of it I think. Bourbon in the raw. The nose is solid, a big slab of dusty corn sweetness that drops down on you like a sack of, well, corn. Of course, because of the strength there’s an undertone of nail polish remover, but it blends well with the sweetness, only frying the occasional unsuspecting nose hair.

The taste is bold, taking a big, sharp, sweet, fruity swipe at your palate. The spirit fills the mouth, making your cheeks tingle and the blood rise. The finish is oaky and sour, and keeps you pinned down until it finishes punching you in the face.

Booker Noe’s Special Barrel bourbon is the American spirit at its brawniest. It’s creator was a larger-than-life figure and his bourbon certainly lives up to that legacy. Hunt the wild Kentucky beast if you dare, but be careful it doesn’t bite you too hard. But maybe it’s just like the note I stuck on the box says: “Because I like to live… dangerously.”

★★★

The Bruny Island House of Whisky

Posted by: Nick

Nick and neck

Nick at the Neck: obligatory photo when on Bruny

My home state of Tasmania is rather famous for its natural beauty. From untouched beaches to spectacular mountains, there are some incredible sights to see. Tasmania is also rather famous for being small – however, small is a relative term. It takes the best part of a day to drive from one end of the state to the other and then all you’d see is the boring Midlands Highway (no offence Tunbridge, but you are unquestionably dull).

If you want to see Tasmania in microcosm, the place to do so is Bruny Island in the State’s south. Spanning only 50-odd km north to south, most of the island can be explored in a well-organised long weekend. On such a weekend you will be able to see all that Tasmania is famous for: picturesque coastline, unspoiled wilderness, classy wineries, boutique cheese factories and amazing seafood restaurants. Most importantly however, you will also find a stunning range of locally produced whisky.

Scenic lighthouse

Which Tasmanian whiskies do I refer to? Simple. All of them.

Whisky Waffle at the House of Whisky

If you ever find yourself anywhere near the vicinity, a trip to the Bruny Island House of Whisky is a must. The range of Tassie drams, from the everyday to the ‘impossible-to-find-anywhere-ever’ is astonishing. The knowledge and passion of owner Lee, his family, and his staff is spellbinding. And the choice of just four drams to include in your personal flight is almost too hard. But not so hard I didn’t manage it.

I began with a rare Lark Distillers Edition. For those who haven’t picked up on it, I am of the belief that there is possibly not a more perfect whisky in the world than a Lark Distillers. Although I have to say, the others did their best to challenge this theory. Next was a dram of the Mackey Single Malt, one of Tassie’s new kids on the block in terms of recent releases. Trying this got me well and truly excited to see what is in store for the future of the distillery. Perhaps Whisky Waffle will have to call in there soon.

My Flight

My flight, and Lee’s hair

Next I returned to Lark for a cask strength: this one aged in ex-bourbon barrels, a maturation process I hadn’t tried from Lark before, and it was everything I hoped it would be. Finally, I finished it off with another strong contender for best Tasmanian whisky – heck – best whisky full stop: the Overeem Port Cask cask strength. I rarely get a chance to try this one and loved every morsel in the glass.

To conclude my tasting Lee allowed me a discounted price to try the mysterious ‘Exile’: a cask strength dynamo with a past connected to both Lark and Sullivans Cove, but mostly shrouded in secrecy. It also blew me away – another strong contender for best of the day.

Whisky Wall

This is the smallest of multiple whisky walls…

I left the House of Whisky buzzing – partly because of all the cask strength I’d just knocked back, but mostly because of the warm, welcoming and friendly atmosphere and the enjoyable conversation I had found inside. I was also tempted to march straight back in and try all the wonderful drops I had missed off my flight, such as the powerful Heartwood and the fascinating Trappers Hut. Sadly I had a ferry to catch and needed to leave the tiny model of Tasmania and return to the full-scale version. I think that it’s safe to say that I’ll be back sooner rather than later and once more enjoy the charms (and drams) of island life.

Glenlivet Nàdurra 16 Year Old

Reviewed by: Ted

Glenlivet Nadurra 2

We are quite fond of The Glenlivet. The 12yo is a dependable drop that hits straight down the middle, perfect for when you just want to sit back and have a dram (although the introduction of the Founders Reserve may change all that). So what happens if you knock things up a notch?

If you think that your glass of Glenlivet needs a bit more punch, then look no further than the Nàdurra. Gaelic for ‘natural’, the Nàdurra is a cask strength release from the Speyside distiller. Glenlivet claims that it is a traditional 19th century style dram, evoking the character of the whiskies originally created by founder George Smith.

Using first-fill American oak casks, the Nàdurra is aged for 16 years and then bottled between 54-55%. My particular example stands at 54.7% and was bottled 06/13 from batch 0613X. As you would expect from a bourbon-aged whisky, the colour is fairly light, although the strength keeps it at a weak amber rather than straw-like.

The nose is fat and rounded, with melted brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa, peach, malt biscuits and apricot jam. It’s fairly direct on the nostrils too thanks to the strength, but the sweet, gooey nature means that it oozes seductively, like the smell of pudding wafting from the kitchen on a cold night.

On the mouth the Nàdurra is hot and slightly dry, with a nice spiciness. When you take a sip it zooms straight to the roof of the mouth before plonking down onto the back of the tongue. A bitter caramel finish lingers around the mouth, although I suspect it would be rather shorter at a lower strength.

The Glenlivet Nàdurra is no everyday dram to knock back after work. Instead it’s perfect for snuggling down on the couch at the end of the evening, or, and I speak from personal experience, keeping warm while gazing up at the stars on a perfectly clear night. If you’re looking for a friendly companion cask-strength dram, then the Nàdurra is a natural choice.

★★★

Henry’s Legacy continues: Hellyers Road release ‘Saint Valentines Peak’

Posted by: Nick

Hellyers Road St Valentines Peak Whisky Waffle

North West Tasmania boasts some of the most diverse and beautiful landscapes found in Australia. From Cradle Mountain to The Nut, there are no shortage of scenic vistas. Many of these landmarks were first discovered by the explorer that the state’s largest distillery is named after: Henry Hellyer. And it is this man who is honoured by Henry’s Legacy – a range of special release bottlings by Hellyers Road. The latest in the series is named after a local landmark discovered by Henry over 180 years ago: Saint Valentines Peak.

The release is limited to only 480 bottles and is a fiery 60.1% – reflecting the volcanic-like nature of the mountain. The single barrel that matured the spirit is an ex-port cask, imparting flavours of apricot, raisins and buttery dried fruit, or, in the words of head distiller Mark Littler: “delicious”.

Mark was rather pleased with his newest release when I caught up with him – and little wonder: the bottle has already received a silver medal at the World Whisky Masters. I couldn’t help but wonder however – with all this emphasis on the collectability of this bottle – will anyone actually dare to drink it?

“People will buy this bottle for a number of reasons,” admitted Mark. “Some people are looking to collect the whole Henry’s Legacy range, some are after a specific number bottle while some intend to hand it down to their children”. And of course others are pouring themselves the occasional dram and enjoying the flavours immensely!

St Valentines Peak Cordell Richardson

Saint Valentines Peak: the mountain of love…ly whisky     Image by Cordell Richardson

Saint Valentines Peak is rugged, windswept and not for the faint of heart. This whisky emphatically reflects this, bringing together a wonderful Tasmanian product with a spectacular Tasmanian landmark. It is, as the label claims, a dram “for those unafraid of experiencing great heights”.

You can find out more about the Henry’s Legacy range and purchase bottles at the Hellyers Road website.

Bakery Hill: the final frontier

Posted by: Nick

Bakery Hill Tasting 5

Many bakers. Many hills.

Lark? Check.

Nant? Yep.

Limeburners? Sure have!

Hellyers Road? Of course.

Starward? Been there, done that.

Bakery Hill? Ah.

There it was: the one black mark on my record of Australian whisky tasting. I had never tried anything from Victoria’s acclaimed Bakery Hill Distillery. This had to be rectified. But how?

I decided to employ the tactic used by whisky drinkers throughout the ages: I would go to a bar.

The bar in question was the Woodlands Hotel in Coburg. And despite not being near any trees, let alone woods, it was an excellent establishment. As well as providing me with multiple pints of locally produced cider and one of the best burgers I’ve had in my life, they also stocked not one, not two, not even three, but four (I know, FOUR!) different bottles of Bakery Hill.

I glanced across the table at my friend and drinking-buddy-of-the-moment Viv, and nodded. Either by telepathy or the fact that we had previously discussed doing a tasting, we both knew: tonight was the night.

Bakery Hill Tasting 2

My drinking buddy Viv (sadly Ted was in the wrong state)

The four varieties were each as tempting as the next. There was the classically titled Classic Malt. Next to it was the doubly exciting Double Wood. I had a strong urge to try the Cask Strength. And finally, how could we resist the Peated Malt. One of each, we demanded.

One sip into the Classic Malt, I knew that I was onto something. It was an enormous revelation: an elation! Which was also my reaction upon trying it. Raisins, condensed milk, limes, dates. Deliciousness. Viv concurred, labelling it simply: “tasty” and admitting he could drink an entire bottle.

The Classic Malt smelt amazing, but the Double Wood smelt better with notes of vanilla, even dark rum! It was longer, more complex and nuanced. Viv decided it was “tastier”, and “what whisky should be like”.

The Cask Strength was next. And boy was the finish long. It was warm with caramel, spicy cinnamon – even garlic. Viv decreed it “tasty” and claimed that it was so smooth you would not think it 60%.

Finally came the Peated Malt. We possibly had saved the best til last. There was smoke and there was vanilla. There was smoke and there was fruit salad. There was smoke and there was… plenty. This was no Islay peat monster. It was subtle, without compromising on the smoke. Viv agreed: “tasty smoke”.

Bakery Hill Tasting 3

This is the one. Equal best. With three others…

We left the bar oblivious to the cold, kept warm by our whisky coats. It had been a fascinating night, tasting the range of Bakery Hill products vertically while not ending up horizontally. If you are ever near the Woodlands Hotel in Coburg, nip in for a nip. It is well worth it. I already had a huge level of respect for Australian whisky when I entered the bar. And I left it with even more.

Bakery Hill Tasting 1

Mmm… tasty…

Talisker 57˚ North

Reviewed by: Nick

Talisker 57 degrees north whisky waffle

Whenever I pour one of my non-whisky drinking friends a wee dram (watching in amusement as they splutter noticeably and their face flushes a conspicuous shade of red) I tell them to picture themselves in a small rugged hut on the west coast of Scotland as a fierce Atlantic storm batters the walls and ceiling. That, I proclaim, is the ideal location to enjoy whisky. While a fireplace may sufficiently heat your extremities, a dram of whisky will warm you from the inside out. And if I were huddled in this rugged hut on such a night, the drop I would turn to first is the Talisker 57˚ North.

This whisky, made on the Isle of Skye’s sole distillery, is named for two reasons: firstly (and I may be biased, but I would claim foremostly) because the spirit is bottled at a practical 57%. Secondly (and perhaps more poetically) because the town of Carbost, home to Talisker, is found at 57˚ North of the equator. In this part of the world, your insides are quite often in dire need of warming.

To put it into perspective, Canada’s 2010 Olympic Winter Games host, Vancouver, is situated at a mere 47˚North while my often freezing home state of Tasmania is at just 42˚South. Talisker Distillery is only two degrees further south than notoriously icy Scandinavian capitals Stockholm and Oslo. So it stands to reason that a warming dram or two is created there.

On the nose, there’s no doubting this is an Island whisky. Smoke wafts liberally out of the glass, although possibly more subtly than some Talisker expressions. Other elements are noticeable too: pepper, chorizo, and cured meats. It is like inhaling deeply at a gourmet barbecue.

There is certainly a woodiness about this whisky on the palate – although not reminiscent of your standard oak notes. Instead the flavours are dustier, earthier, more akin to a tree’s bark than the wood underneath. Elements of honey and marmalade hint at typical Talisker sweetness, though it is more toned down than the 10 Year Old. Instead, wonderful new flavours are present such as bacon and buttery toast, as well as some less pleasant bitter sappy elements which give the impression of burning wood that is slightly too green.

The good news is, this whisky leaves the best until last: the finish is undoubtedly the highlight of the dram. It is long – so very long – and hot and lively. After the spiciness fades, the smoke returns gently, bringing your tasting full circle.

Drinking this whisky, I find that I take my own advice. I close my eyes and picture the howling gale, the bucketing rain and the crashing thunder. Scotland is no stranger to wild weather. And in the eye of the storm, the Talisker 57˚ North is the dram you need.

★★★★