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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…

★★★★

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Hellyers Road Blind Tasting Challenge

Posted by: Nick and Ted

The Whisky Waffle boys are known to enjoy a glass of their local drop from time to time, although usually they know precisely what they are drinking! Hellyers Road create a range of different expressions that all have their own unique personalities that emerge from the overall Hellyers Road character. Nick and Ted are fairly confident at telling the drops apart when the bottles are sitting in front of them, but how well would they fare if this pretty big hint was removed?

Welcome to the Whisky Waffle Hellyers Road Blind Tasting Challenge (WWHRBTC)!

In the red corner: Nick ‘The Nose’ Turner and Ted ‘The Tongue’ Matthews, whisky critics of questionable renown.

In the blue corner:

– Hellyers Road Original

– Hellyers Road 10yo

– Hellyers Road 12yo

– Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish

– Hellyers Road Lightly Peated

– Hellyers Road Peated

The six drams were presented to us in a random order by the lovely Brea, numbered 1-6.

Hellyers Rd BTC Nick whisky waffle

Lets get ready to RUMBLE!!!

Round 1 – Colour

A quick eyeball revealed that while all were the expected amber colour (no greens or blues here), #1 and #5 were clearly darker than the others, while #4 was exceptionally light. Could #4 have the chardonnay tinted hue of the Original? Could the darkness of #1 or #5 suggest months spent in a Tamar Valley Pinot Noir barrel?

Round 2 – Smell

A prolonged nose indicated that while all smelled like whisky (no sneaky tea here), #3 packed a peaty punch. #1 and #2 both had classier bouquets, possibly hinting at more time spent in oak, whereas #4 had a rawer edge to it. Our suspicions narrowed. Hold on… was that a faint whiff of peat from #6?

Round 3 – Taste

Mmmmmm… whisky. A good start. Our peat detectors were turned up to ‘high’ for #6, and we were confident that we had a match, but they overloaded when we tasted the roar of smoke in #3. We decided that we had comfortably narrowed down the Lightly Peated and the Peated. #4 matched our previous assessment, with light herbal notes and something of a rough edge. We agreed that we had found the Original.

Here’s where the debate started. #1 and #2 were both exceptionally good, but each had their individual strengths and points of interest, causing much to-ing and fro-ing and scribbling outs. Eventually we made the decision that the full bodied character of #1 indicated the 10yo, whereas the the noticeable smoothness of #2 suggested the 12yo. The odd one out in flavour was #5, which seemed fitting for the drop that had the most unusual ageing process.

The verdict:

  1. 10yo
  2. 12yo
  3. Peated
  4. Original
  5. Pinot Noir Finish
  6. Lightly Peated

We invited Brea back to announce the results, and waited with bated breath as she revealed the true order. We were told straight away that we were correct with the Lightly Peated and the Peated, as with the Original and the Pinot Noir Finish. That just left the 10yo and the 12yo. Could we make it a clean sweep, validating hours spent waffling?

Nope.

Ahhhhh… so close, thwarted by a mere two years! We had stumbled at the last hurdle by mixing up the 10yo and the 12yo. In fairness to us, they were the hardest two to distinguish between. Our valiant attempt ended honourable defeat. So near, yet so far. Just wait though, in another three years they’ll bring out the 15yo!

If anyone finds themselves in Burnie and fancies a crack at beating our score, you can purchase the range of drams for an exceptional price. Just make sure you’re not driving. Let us know how you fare!