Mooresy

Delving into Dark Valley: the launch of Tassie’s latest dram

Posted by: Nick

nick-and-dark-valley

Independent bottling in Tasmania is a relatively rare thing. Sure, there’s the mighty Heartwood leading the way and a few others coming on board, but by and large, it’s an unexplored market. One person who realised this a long time ago is whisky fanatic and Whisky Waffle guest contributor, Alex ‘Moorsey’ Moores. Despite maintaining a fledgling full-time career in law, he has achieved what most whisky lovers can only dream about – he has created his own whisky: Dark Valley.

mooresy-and-dark-valley

Dark Valley was named after the area of Hobart in which Alex grew up, Glen Dhu. While the temptation was there to name his drams simply ‘Glen Dhu’, being a qualified solicitor he was aware of the legal dangers of such a Scottish sounding name. He instead opted to translate the Gaelic into English and name his bottles ‘Dark Valley’, setting the tone for the gothic labels and imagination-stirring individual release titles such as ‘Raven’s Roost’ and ‘Hunter’s Keep’. Importantly for Alex, he did not wish to tinker in any way with the whisky – he wanted to showcase it in as close to its natural form as possible. This meant no diluting, no blending, no finishing and no filtering. His aim was to create a whisky that was the next best thing to getting it straight from a barrel.

While the first releases from Dark Valley feature whisky distilled at Lark Distillery, it is Alex’s hope that one day all Tasmanian distilleries will contribute spirit for his range. He already has Redlands on board and northern-Tassie’s new boys Adams are next on the list. For now though, there are three different bottlings in existence, all of which I was lucky enough to try at Dark Valley’s Hobart launch.

dark-valley

The first I tried was the 60.3% sherry matured ‘Raven’s Rest’. My initial reaction was “Yes. Yes yes yes. Yes. Yes.” It was like cooking raspberry jam – so warm and fruity. Next up was the ‘Widow’s Watch’ – bourbon matured and 65.8%, it was full of vanilla and baked goods. I decided on cupcakes, with orange icing and poppy seeds.  Finally was the port matured 62.7% ‘Hunter’s Keep’, and it was my favourite of the lot. It combined the flavours of the other two beautifully while adding hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, creating an effect I described as ‘mulled whisky’. It was superb.

The drawbacks of setting up a new whisky brand is, of course, the cost. Dark Valley will certainly not be going into mass-production any time soon. In fact, these releases came from tiny 20 litre casks, meaning just over 30 bottles of each were made. However, this doesn’t mean you’re unlikely ever to see sight nor sound or them. Alex’s very firm goal is to get Dark Valley into whisky bars – and not into the hands of collectors. He intends to get his product into various establishments in Melbourne and Tasmania, with a few in Hobart showing some interest after the successful launch. In the coming months, if you happen to be near a whisky bar in any of these locations, ask after Dark Valley, because once people discover how good it is it’s not going to last long.

dark-valley-bottle

Finally, on a more personal note, I’d just like to offer my sincerest congratulations to Alex for achieving the spectacular feat of getting his whisky to bottling stage. Moorsey is a genuinely top bloke and I know he’ll be another wonderful torchbearer for Tasmanian whisky.

Scapa 16 Year Old

Reviewed by: Mooresy

Whisky n Chocolate dram 1

There is something utterly unique about the Scapa 16. The distillery is one of two located on the Orkney Isles and doesn’t have a huge number of variants compared to its neighbour Highland Park or nearby north highland distillery Old Pulteney, but it is a rare event that someone deems Scapa a poor performer.

Usually classed as one region, the Islands group produces a very diverse range of whiskies. The Islands of Skye and Mull have the smokier sea-spray flavours typically associated with the Islands, due to their closeness to Islay and how most people think of the Islay big three when they think of any distillery off the Scottish mainland.

The Islands at the north of Scotland bring something different to the table. Without the peat and brine, flavours can be more subtle and well-defined. Scapa 16 is certainly no exception. This is even more true of Scapa which transports its water source to the distillery through pipelines to avoid it flowing through peaty soil.

The distillers at Scapa have played with its product for many years. The distillery only has one wash and one spirit still so the methodology is all about perfecting the flagship whisky. It began as a 12 Year but the distillery fell idle for a decade between 1994 and 2004. To kick-start its revival, the 14 Year was released but tinkered with five years later to create the 16 Year, which spent an additional two years in American oak casks.

To this day I have not had such a fresh and vibrant whisky. On the nose there is an instant fresh grass smell, like blades of green by a riverbank. There are wafts of other greenery like the blooming heather on the lochs. There may even be a touch of the lyrical wild mountain thyme. There is also a deliciously light note of strawberries.

On the palate the strawberries are evermore present and develop from a freshly picked smell into an artificial or candied strawberry taste. They take one back to the kind of strawberry in strawberry ‘liquorice’, which also may explain the slight aniseed taste that also comes through towards the finish.

On the Mooresy scale of quality, if I was to write a whisky bible, the Scapa 16 would sit at a 9.5/10 (nothing’s perfect, right). It will always be personal taste, but there is something about this one: a quality about the Scapa 16 that transports you to a relaxing day on a farm in spring, with a gentle breeze and babbling brook. Do yourself a favour and set up a chair in your backyard, grab a good book, pour yourself a bumper of Scapa 16 and find your place to which the dram will transport you.

★★★★

Young Enthusiasts Meet Over Peat

Posted by: Mooresy

The first young whisky enthusiasts’ event held at the Lark Cellar Door was a huge success. The sell-out tasting session featured a whirlwind tour of some very special drops, as well as the bar staff choosing some extra whisky for people based on what they liked, and what they didn’t like.

Some people liked it so much, they bought a whole bottle of their favourite.

Whisky Business 1 whisky waffle

Whisky: the ultimate conversation starter. Especially after five drams…

In a blind tasting, attendees first had to guess the Cragganmore Double Matured Distillers Edition, with most people agreeing it was a definite step up from the entry level 12 Year Old. Second was a Jefferson’s 100% Rye Whisky which threw a few people. The spicy rye flavour was new to a lot of people, and a lot came back for seconds to help us finish off the bottle.

Back to malt whisky but not in a rush to return to Scotland, the group moved to the Yamazaki 12 Year Old (previously reviewed by Ted) which went down a treat. The night was full of gossip about Yamazaki because we had just heard about Jim Murray heaping praise on their Sherry Cask variant and that moved the conversations to sherry. This was a cunning hint by the guides because the next taste was a true sherry bomb. The group were blessed with an as yet unreleased double sherry wood from Lark, and it exploded sherry goodness all over the room.

Finally, the finisher. A Distillers Edition Lagavulin finished in Pedro Ximenez casks and probably the people’s choice for the night. The marriage of sherry and peat was a treat to witness with one member saying “it’s like you took all the things I like most about whisky and chose one based exactly on my personal taste”.

That’s the point of it all, right there.

Following the success of the event, the group – now called Whisky Business – will be having another tasting event at 7:30PM on Wed 17 December at the Lark Cellar Door in Hobart. If you are a novice and keen to come along, learn more and pick up some tips and tricks, please contact Alex Moores on 0417 382 542 or at alexandermoores@gmail.com.