Mark Littler

Hellyers Road 15 Year Old

Reviewed by: Nick

hellyers road 15 year old

Since the dawn of Whisky Waffle (way back in the dark ages of 2014) the Tasmanian whisky scene has completely blown up. I don’t mean that Bill Lark dropped a lit cigar in a bond store, I mean that it has taken the world by storm, impressing whisky critics and Jim Murray alike with its creativity, it’s unique flavour and it’s hard-to-buy-ness. The Tassie distilleries have largely achieved this by sticking to the Bill Lark model, using similar stills, grains, yeasts and cuts to those used by the man himself upon returning from his fishing trip. Except, from almost the beginning, there has always been an outlier; one distillery with a flavour profile sticking out like a delicious sore thumb.

That distillery is Hellyers Road from Tasmania’s north west. While many Tassie establishments chase the big broad zesty orange and caramel notes, Hellyers Road has always been about butter and vanilla and shortbread. While this is not necessarily to everyone’s tastes, most will agree it is certainly different and intriguing. And, upon closer investigation, most Hellyers Road critics have only tried the ‘Original before making up their minds and missed out on trying the stellar older releases.

It is one of those aged bottlings to which I turn my attention today, as Hellyers Road has recently released a 15 Year Old. Whisky Waffle have been pre-emptively excited for the release of this one ever since the arrival of the 12, and head distiller Mark Littler agrees, stating he and the Hellyers team are “very proud of what we have achieved”. I grabbed myself a bottle as a Christmas present in the best self-Santa tradition and have finally got a chance to stop and put my thoughts to digital paper.

I’ll start off by saying that it’s the best core-release Hellyers Road have produced. It takes all the good elements of previous Hellyers bottlings and makes them sexier. The nose is alluring, still buttery but with a fat dose of caramel nuttiness oozed over the top like a Belgian dessert. It’s smooth and slinky across the tongue; the vanilla is now accompanied by ginger and nutmeg, while any rougher notes have been ironed out by the extra years in oak. While the Hellyers Road finish has always had a distinct linger – their whisky is normally bottled at 46% or above – this one is subtler and leaves your palate with a Queen of England-style wave of the hand, rather than an energetic high five.

Claiming that the oldest release from a distillery is the best is truly an unoriginal standpoint and there’s a part of me wishing I could say ‘it’s not bad, but will never match the 10 for me’. But I can’t. This is where Hellyers Road is at in 2019 and I suggest you give it a taste before it runs out. That is, until the 18 Year Old is ready…

★★★★

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Tasmania and Whisky Waffle launch Tasmanian Whisky Week

Posted by: Nick

It seems we Wafflers are not the only ones who love Tasmanian Whisky! We reported recently that Whisky Live is coming to Tasmania for the first time. But, why stop there? The Tasmanian whisky community has decided to crash the party and create the inaugural Tasmanian Whisky Week.

TWW Logo

While we say ‘week’, it will in fact last for nine days between Friday July 22 and Sunday July 31 and will feature a number of industry events at Tasmanian distilleries, bars, restaurants – even barns! Throughout the week a number of distilleries will open their doors to host tours, rare whisky tastings, gourmet meals and more. You’d better hurry, though – tickets are selling fast!

Of course, Whisky Waffle will also be taking part in this week of festivities. Throughout the seven days leading up to Whisky Live we will be releasing a series of articles and reviews celebrating some of our favourite Tassie drops. Even if you are from another part of the world, log on to Whisky Waffle throughout the week to celebrate along with us.

Hellyers Road Whisky Waffle

Two Hellyers Road Whisky Walks for the price of one!

Among the many events taking place are exclusive tours of Lark, Overeem, Sullivans Cove and Hellyers Road, or a combination of the above, with Drink Tasmania.

For something more extravagant why not check out the whisky and cheese afternoon at Redlands, a whisky and food matching masterclass at Launceston Distillery, or the Shene Estate after dark tour.

Mackey Shene photo Paul County

Mackey AND Shene Estate! Wait… they’re the same thing? Picture courtesy of Paul County Photography

Perhaps you’re after something a little stronger, such as trying a range of amazing Heartwood products – or maybe you’d like to try some boilermakers with Belgrove’s Pete Bignell and his son, brewer Tom Bignell. Nant are not missing out either, hosting a meet-the-distiller two course lunch.

For those looking for something even more special, there is the Founders Dinner, a three course meal complete with rare Tasmanian whiskies and four of the most important men in the business: Bill Lark, Casey Overeem, Patrick Maguire (Sullivans Cove) and Mark Littler (Hellyers Road). If you have a little more time and money, there is the option of a two day jaunt around the Tasmanian highlands, visiting multiple distilleries and the very location of Bill Lark’s epiphany.

Drink Tas tour

Brett Steel, Pete Bignell and some happy whisky drinkers on a Drinks Tas tour

Finally, there is Whisky Live, the catalyst of the week and a compulsory visit for fans of Tasmanian and Scottish whisky alike.

It’s going to be a huge week. Our only regret is not being able to attend each and every event. One thing is for sure however – when it comes to Tasmanian whisky, there is a lot worth celebrating!

Wafflers and Brett

Cheers Brett! Tas Whisky Week. Let’s do this!

Whisky Live comes to Hobart

Posted by: Nick and Ted

Whisky and Tasmania have become synonymous, like MONA and controversial works of art. Surprisingly however, Australia’s premier whisky tasting event has never reached our spirited shores.

Well folks, the wait is over. Whisky Live 2016 will be setting up camp in Hobart on July 30th, bringing along with it a carnival of whiskies from all over the world.

Whisky Live Brisbane 1
According to event organiser Ken Bromfield, the purpose of Whisky Live is to “… invite those new and old to the golden spirit to taste the range of whiskies and hopefully discover something they love.”

Whisky Live Hobart 2016 will be held at the Grand Chancellor Hotel, with two sessions available: 1pm and 6pm. Tickets are $99: an especially reasonable price considering that they include a large range of tastings from Tasmania and around the world, such as:

⁃       Lark, Sullivan’s Cove, Overeem and Hellyer’s Road from Tasmania
⁃       Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Laphroaig and Talisker from Scotland
⁃       Paul John from India

Whisky Live Mark Littler

…and come with a chance to meet distillers! Hi Mark!

As well as the whiskies, the tickets also include an assortment of food to graze on while tasting and a Glencairn glass to keep. In addition, event attendees can visit the Old & Rare Bar, where tastings of hard-to-find drams are available for purchase.

The Whisky Waffle boys will be there on the day to cover all the action and ramble on about all the fantastic whisky on offer. We’d love to see as many locals come out and support Whisky Live Hobart 2016 as possible; if you happen to spot us come over and have a waffle about whisky.

Tickets are available online at: www.whiskylive.com.au/hobart/buytickets.html

To get a feel for event if you have never been, have a read of our experiences at Whisky Live Melbourne last year. It was a fun day…
https://whiskywaffle.com/2015/07/31/waffling-at-whisky-live/

Happenings at Hellyers Road

Posted by: Nick and Ted

“Twelve months ago, we couldn’t have foreseen the growth that has occurred”.

Hellyers Road Distillery has always been a welcoming and friendly place to we Whisky Waffle boys, a fact that was abundantly apparent when we sat down to lunch with Master Distiller Mark Littler and media manager Don Jennings.

Whisky Waffle and Mark Littler

In 8 to 10 years these babies are gonna taste great!

2015 has been a busy year for the distillery with sales increasing by 50% in Australia, as well as expanding distribution throughout 30 European countries and tapping a new market in Japan. Due to demand, Mark has fired up the stills once more, originally planning a 30 week brewing program which has now been extended indefinitely. 

One of the new priorities of the distillery is exploring the connection to its namesake Henry Hellyer. With the limited release Henry’s Legacy range continuing to fly out the door, and future releases in the pipeline, Don envisages an interpretation centre telling Henry’s story and pointing out his discoveries.

New Henry’s Legacy bottlings are not the only future releases to look forward to, as Mark tells us his new sherry barrel stock, while young, tastes amazing. Within the core range consistency and value are the priority, although this has led to depletion of 12 Year Old stocks. The 12 will soon only be available at the cellar door and in travel retail, so if you see one in your local bottle shop snap it up fast!

Dave Warner and Mark Littler

Obligatory cricket reference: this whisky hit Dave Warner for 6! Photo courtesy of Hellyers Road

Whisky isn’t the only spirit being made by the Hellyers Road stills. In partnership with Dean Lucas, the distillery is producing 666 Pure Tasmanian Vodka, a premium spirit which is part owned by Australian cricket vice-captain David Warner. Dave apparently caused a stir recently when he dropped by in a helicopter to see how his investment is made.

What resonated the most with us was the humble and generous nature of our hosts. It is fascinating that despite their growing success and international awards, the biggest whisky distillery in the southern hemisphere still consider themselves to be small-town Burnie boys, just enjoying making a bit of good quality whisky.

WW shirts

Mark doesn’t have any writing on the back of his shirt

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.

An evening at Hellyers Road: 12 years in the making

Posted by: Nick and Ted

The Whisky Waffle boys watched with bated breath as Mark Littler, head distiller at Hellyers Road in Burnie, turned to the guest of honour. “What do you see in your glass?” He asked, offering a dram of Australia’s first 12 Year Old single malt.
“I see fluid!” came the rumbled reply.

When the guest of honour is Jeff Kennett, former premier of Victoria, recent president of Hawthorn Football Club, current chairman of beyondblue Australia, and whisky fanatic in general, you can be assured of an entertaining night of pithy banter, some of it directed at the crowd (we were dubbed the ‘Blue Ties’ for the striking colour of our neck adornments supporting beyondblue, as the charity was to be the beneficiary of the nights proceeds).

Mark Littler and Jeff Kennett investigating the "excellent leggings" in the glass

Mark Littler and Jeff Kennett investigating the “excellent leggings” in the glass

The Whisky Waffle boys were at Hellyers Road in an official capacity, though to be honest wild Celts could not have kept us from attending. On Tuesday the 28th of October 2014 we were both delighted and proud to have the opportunity to attend the official launch of the distillery’s new 12 Year Old single malt, a milestone achievement for Tasmanian whisky.

The night was hosted by Julian O’Brien, editor of local newspaper The Advocate, although he claimed not to be there as a reporter (Jeff: “But I’ve met journalists before.”). Guests were treated to a five course degustation menu pairing local produce with whisky (Hellyers Road of course!). We must admit to being slightly sceptical about the concept of deliberately pairing whisky with food (surely a good malt goes with anything!) but we were more than willing to be won over. Helping the meal to go down was the stunning view from the Hellyers Road visitors centre restaurant out across the Emu Valley.

First cab off the rank was Hellyers Road’s only previous age statement whisky, the 10 Year Old, a drop that Mark Littler referred to as “possibly Australia’s number one selling single malt”, and was matched with a delicate dish of natural Tasmanian oysters. On our first attempt at food and whisky pairing we decided that one did not overpower the other, and the saltiness in the oysters accentuated the sweetness in the whisky.

Course 1 whisky waffle

Tasmanian oysters usually come armed with a tiny fork. Naturally.

After the oyster course came the moment that we were all waiting for, the unveiling of the new 12 Year Old. Mark invited his guests to not just taste the whisky, but to ‘chew’ it, claiming they would find greater depths of flavour if they did so. “Are you with me?” he asked.
“Only out of sheer curiosity,” replied Jeff, who had joined him for the tasting.

We are delighted to say that we were very impressed by the excellent quality of the 12 Year Old. Ted thought he could detect a familiar flavour in the scent: “Macadamias?”
“Very astute,” returned Jeff “And most certainly wrong!”
The 12 was paired with a dish of Petuna hot-smoked ocean trout, the whisky’s natural oiliness working well with the fish.

Course 2 and Nick whisky waffle

Nick: a slightly fishy character

The next course was the Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish coupled with a sumptuous dish of duck, however our pairing notes were cut short at this point because the guest speaker began his formal address.

Course 3 whisky waffle

We took to this course like ducks to water

Jeff Kennett began by praising the quality of the Tasmanian whisky industry. He revealed that he had a long time association with Hellyers Road and was pleased they had done so well and come so far, admitting that it was “a hell of a risk for a bunch of dairy farmers to start up a distillery.”

He also regaled us with a number of humorous tales, telling us of his ‘Man Cave’ which contains a large proportion of his 700-odd strong collection of single malt whiskies. Julian then commented that the Whisky Waffle boys might like to pay a visit to the ‘Man Cave’ to sample the wares. “Not wearing those ties!” retorted Jeff.
“beyondblue!” we protested.
“Well in that case you’re definitely invited.” We are pleased to say there were over 50 others present to witness this offer.

Jeff says that beyondblue is by far the thing that he is most proud of and will always be, unless (as he claims) he lives to 150 and something else overtakes it. His one wish is to end discrimination, and if we can do this he feels that we’d be much happier as a society.

Having spent much time in Tasmania he is passionate about the future direction of the state. Julian asked “If you were Premier for the day, what would you do?”
“Well, to be honest it would only take half a day!”
On a more serious note Jeff feels that if the Tasmanian whisky industry is properly supported then it could become a major drawcard for the state, helping to provide much needed money and jobs and raise its global profile.

The fourth course of the night was a curious combination of King Island Dairy triple-cream blue brie with quince paste on honey spice bread. For this dish Hellyers Road brought out their whisky best suited to complement the rich flavours on offer, the excellent Port Cask. We were both very impressed by this single-barrel release, which combined the typical Hellyers Road buttery notes with rich winter fruit flavours.

Course 4 and Ted whisky waffle

Ted: a cheesy character

As we sipped our Hellyers Road whisky cream liqueur and nibbled on our final course: orange vodka fudge tartlets, we mused on our evening. The whisky was definitely a highlight, but perhaps even more so was meeting the people that made it, and the passion and delight they radiated when sharing their craft with others. We hope to continue this friendship, as we all share the same hopes for Tasmanian whisky, and are proud to have a local distillery producing drams of such quality.

course 5 whisky waffle

Cows with guns: at the end of the night, this stuff goes down dangerously smooth

At the end of the evening Mark Littler, and Hellyers Road visitor centre manager Sharon Deane, presented Jeff with a bottle of the 12 Year Old. “One to add to the collection Jeff?”
“Collection? No chance, I’ll have drunk it by the time I get home!”
You certainly couldn’t say fairer than that.

Hellyers Road Officially Launch 12 Year Old

The new Hellyers Road 12 Year Old expression may have been available for a short while already, but Head Distiller Mark Littler has something special in mind for its official launch.

Hellyers Road Logo

Held at the distillery on the 28th of October, the night will feature many treats for Tasmanian whisky fans, including a master class session on the 12 Year Old and a four course degustation meal with each serving paired with a different single malt.

The night also features a high profile guest speaker and is appropriately titled: ‘An evening with Jeff Kennett’. The ex-Victorian Premier and former president of Hawthorn Football Club is also chairman of beyondblue and all proceeds from the evening will go to the charity. Kennett is fond of a dram or two and has been a fan of Hellyers Road for a number of years.

The boys at Whisky Waffle have been intentionally avoiding tasting the 12 Year Old until this very night and will post their thoughts on the new expression, as well as the whole event in the coming days. If you have any questions for Mark Littler or for Jeff Kennett, post them in the replies and we will endeavour to get some answers!

For more information about the event, consult the Hellyers Road official site.