North West

Ironhouse Release Tasman Whisky

Posted by: Ted

Whisky Waffle IH Launch book

With Tasmanian Whisky Week just around the corner, it is only fitting that another distillery has joined that ever-growing band of Tassie producers offering mature whisky to the people. East Coast outfit Ironhouse Brewery & Distillery recently launched into the scene with the first release of their ‘Tasman Whisky’ label.

Better known (currently) for their Ironhouse beer range, the brewery and distillery (brewstillery?) is located at White Sands Estate, just north of Bicheno. Brainchild of head brewer and distiller Michael “Briggsy” Briggs, the distillery came into existence as a way to utilise excess wash generated by the brewery. According to Briggsy “we had a plan to sell our excess wash to whisky producers, but we hit a load of roadblocks along the way, so in the end we said ‘bugger it, we’ll just make our own!'”

Whisky Waffle IH Launch Briggsy

Whisky Waffle recently had the chance to sample the fruits of that decision at the North West leg of the official launch series, luckily held in our hometown of Burnie. Burnie might seem an odd place to host a whisky launch for an East Coast outfit, but this is Tasmania, and there is always a local connection to be found.

Craig ‘Spilsy’ Spilsbury, Ironhouse Brand Ambassador and Briggsy’s right-hand man, grew up in Burnie and was excited to be able bring his new baby back to his old stomping grounds. “I got most of the scars on my head working at the Beach Hotel in Burnie back in the 80’s,” he quipped to the crowd assembled upstairs at the historic APPM paper mill building at South Beach. The venue was fitting in the context of local connections, as Briggsy revealed that his in-laws had met at the paper mill, while both fathers of the Whisky Waffle lads were employed there in the past too (and no doubt a good chunk of the audience could claim similar connections).

Whisky Waffle IH Launch crowd

Our hosts were keen not to waffle on too long though (good thing we weren’t hosting) and instead let the whisky speak for itself. Briggsy revealed that the decision to brand the spirit as ‘Tasman Whisky’ rather than Ironhouse came from the intimate connection they share with the Tasman Sea, which provides the spectacular coastal setting for the brewstillery.

The Tasman Whisky first release consists of three different vatted cask expressions: bourbon, sherry and port, all bottled at roughly 47% ABV. We agreed that the bourbon cask, a light, sweet drop with a bit of a spearmint/menthol prickle, was quite Scottish in nature, with hints of its American heritage popping through occasionally.

The quirky sherry cask would have been at home in a sweet shop, sporting a fruit, malt and dark Lindt chocolate nose (milkshakes anyone?) and a fruity mouth reminiscent of red snakes and wine jelly. The winner for us, and most others too when a vote was held at the end, was the port cask. Much more classically Tasmanian in nature, the port was robust and spicy with fat fruity jam notes across the palate.

Not only does the Tasman Whisky range taste good, but it also looks good, thanks to the use of some rather *ahem* novel packaging. The box has been designed to look like a book, complete with first page, and will make an elegant addition to any collection. A rightfully smug Briggsy informed us that “it’s all about the story, about where we came from, hence the packaging looking like a book.” Spilsy chipped in with a useful bit of advice, noting that “it’s also useful for sneaking it past the trouble & strife”.

The evening concluded in a somewhat dramatic fashion, with Whisky Waffle’s own Ted trying to execute a dance move, in memory of attending a paper mill dance at the venue with his dad when he was 5, and instead managing to do a pretty comprehensive job of breaking his leg. Luckily the Tasman Whisky proved to be an excellent source of pain relief and kept spirits buoyed as the hours spent in the emergency department wore on.

For those looking to use Tasman Whisky recreationally rather than medicinally, bottles will begin to be released to the public in the next few weeks. Briggsy and Spilsy have always intended their whisky to drunk by humans rather than hidden away within the glass cabinets of collectors, and the price is therefore thankfully within reach of we regular people.

Tasmania’s whisky history is becoming richer and more storied with every passing year. It is with great pleasure that we officially welcome Tasman Whisky: the start of a brand-new chapter.

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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…

★★★★

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.

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.

★★