Travel

Ardbeg Perpetuum

Reviewed by: Ted

Ardbeg Perpetuum

200 years might not be infinity, but it’s certainly a long time to be producing whisky. Ardbeg distillery, nestled on the coast of Islay, is to be heartily congratulated for reaching such a momentous milestone.

The distillers at Ardbeg love a good special edition release, and in celebration of their big birthday they have brought forth the Perpetuum. The whisky celebrates the love, dedication and skill of its creators, acknowledging that while times and technology change, no machine will ever be able to recreate the spark of the human touch.

It’s certainly a beautiful object to gaze upon, with shiny silver labels, a Celtic braid infinity symbol and PERPETUUM surrounding the box in monolithic black letters. Oh my goodness the 47.4% spirit inside is a worthy representative of Ardbeg’s art. Just to look at it’s a gorgeous pale, silky gold with a subtle peach tinge.

The nose is delicate and creamy, and has delicious buttery shortbread infused with a hint of sea salt. Twining through is a touch of fine smoked meats, smouldering driftwood and hot malt. The first sip delivers rich, woody smoke to float over the tongue. Underneath sits a pool of salty mineral-rich water with the occasional mandarine bobbing around in it, counterpointed by a sharp bittersweet herbal finish that lingers on. As the bottle says, it almost seems to be never ending.

The Perpetuum is a snapshot of the last 200 years of whisky making at Ardbeg, and hints at the way forward into the next 200 years. Like the infinity symbol the represents it, hopefully we will be coming back to the Perpetuum, and indeed all Ardbegs, again and again for many years to come.

★★★

Ardbeg: a journey through time – the beginning

Ardbeg distillery, one of the true greats of Scottish whisky, is turning 200 – and may we add looking mighty good for its age! Whisky Waffle take this moment to celebrate by looking back at the history of this wonderful distillery in a new two-part adventure…

Ardbeg Day 2

Ardbeg: A journey through time – the beginning…

Posted by: Ted

1798
Fàilte traveller. You have been summoned here to witness the birth of a distillery, one that will become powerful and then dwindle to smoking peat embers, only to be stoked once again by the howling Ileach winds and rise even stronger than before. Look ye now to the peat bogs, for cometh the man, but perhaps not yet the moment. Duncan McDougall is his name, and he travels to rent the farmlands on the South East coast of Islay known as Ardbeg, Airigh nam Beist and Ardenistiel. Come; let us step forward in time to see what will be. I am sure one such as you knows the way of it.

1815

Now friend, the true moment. Here is Duncan, and with him his son John, and grandson Alexander. They have fashioned themselves as McDougall & Co. and raised a distillery on the land known as Ardbeg. Watch closely, ye silent observer, as they flicker across the years, crafting a dram with a heart of smoke.

1835

The fire that was Duncan burns no more, and John works the land in his place, while Alexander is tasked with tending the waters of life. Woe to the makers, insolvency falls, and Ardbeg changes hands. Let your gaze pierce across the sea to Glasgow, where the coffers of Thomas Buchanan Jr. now stoke the Ardbeg fires. But the McDougalls work on, leasing their creation from the new masters and tending to their amber child.

1853

Alexander is lost to time and the Ileach wind. Turn your gaze watcher, for new players walk the stage. Here is Flora and Margaret McDougall, sisters to the old wolf and distillers in their own right; Colin Hay, proprietor newly made; his son Collin Elliot Hay, distiller at the helm; and John Ramsay, great owner of not only Ardbeg, but Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardenistiel too. This small god of the Ileach tends his emerging villages and their vaunted distilleries well, ensuring that their leases endure long and the water flows unimpeded.

1887

Can ye feel the power in the air? The reek of the mash and the thrum of the industrious as they transform barley, water and yeast into more than a million litres of smokey whisky. These craftsmen are the kings of the island and their work a champion of the blend, although the true believers know to take strength from the untransmuted Ardbeg spirit. I see you watching me traveller, and seeking the nature of the fall. Step once again and we shall see.

1944

War. The venerable whisky makers of Scotland weep golden tears as their industry bleeds. On Islay, the once mighty Ardbeg is now only a shadow of itself. The distilling bans of this terrible world struggle are just another blow after the horrors of the Great War, and the harsh realities of economic depression. The old guard are no more, and a pall drifts from men who know how to be bankrupt or creative with bookkeeping.

1981
Here is the true nadir my friend. Ardbeg is closed and all but a few chosen gone. The village mournfully quiet and the air wrong, missing the tang of fermenting barley. The future uncertain. After the war life returned, but never recovered. The McDougalls passed their torch to the Ardbeg Distillery Ltd, and the distillery became a bauble for giants, a speck of smoked quartz tumbling in their collections. Your eyes betray you wanderer. What room is there in this bleak world for the distilleries of Islay they ask? Listen to the capricious Ileach wind my friend, for it blows from the east and whispers a name, Glenmorangie. I told you at the start of our journey that Ardbeg would rise once again, and here is its saviour. An amber crusader by the name of Bill Lumdsen will take Ardbeg and reforge it in smoke and fire into a legendary single malt famed across the world and even to the stars themselves.

But the how and why of that great transformation you must discover for yourself. Here our paths split and I must walk another road. I bid you farewell my friend, fellow watcher of the ages.

Sláinte

Click for part two

Ardbeg day 1

Glendronach 12 Year Old

Reviewed by: Nick

Glendronach 12 Year Old

Now, be honest with me. Raise your right hand if you have bought, with your own money, in the last six months, a bottle of sherry? Anyone? I thought as much.

The once proud sherry industry is declining slowly, but surely. While on the surface this may not seem to really affect we drinkers of distilled barley, there is, in fact, much cause for concern. Because without sherry, specifically, without the barrels that once contained the stuff, many of the most wonderful whiskies in the world would not exist.

Case in point: the Glendronach 12 Year Old. And it is a great little drop. Vibrant, spicy, balanced and heavily sherried. The latter is not a subjective tasting note. The whisky does indeed possess a highly sherried character because it has been matured in a mixture of Pedro Ximinez and Oloroso sherry barrels.

The flavour this imparts is obvious on the nose in the form of sweet creamy raisin aromas. There is a golden syrup-like quality, too, alongside dried figs and orange peel.

On the palate the flavours are, surprisingly, not as sweet as the nose suggests. However it has a smooth mouth feel and the creaminess is still present. There is a nuttiness about it as well, and more dried fruit with perhaps a touch of glace cherries. Little wonder sherry-matured whiskies are regularly likened to fruitcake.

The finish is short, disappointingly, as up to this point I was immensely enjoying the ride. Wait – there it is, ever so subtly lingering at the back of the throat with the remnants of the grape flavours. I had to go searching for this one, but I found once discovered it glows faintly, like the last few embers of a campfire.

The sweetness of this whisky is nice, although it would probably discourage me from having too many drams of this in the one night. Instead, this is the perfect choice to directly follow a bourbon-aged malt at a tasting, to really show just how radically different sherry matured whisky is.

We may as well enjoy it for the time being. Because as time rolls on there will be fewer and fewer sherry barrels around to put whisky in.

★★★

Tasmanian Whisky Tours: a story worth telling

Posted by: Nick

Before there were convicts there was whisky.

But before there was Tasmanian Whisky Tours, there was a distinct lack of access to Tasmanian whisky distilleries.

Enter Brett Steel, a man with a vision. He realised that Tasmania was entering a “golden age” of whisky creation and wanted to give the public a chance to travel to these distilleries, meet the people that make the whisky and hear their stories. Thus Tasmanian Whisky Tours was born.

I caught up with Brett to find out a bit more about the tours.

WW1 TWT Brett

“From my first visit to Tasmania in 2008 I fell in love with the place”

Brett grew up, not among whisky makers, but instead with a strong wine background. This is hardly surprising, as he lived near the great wine region of McLaren Vale. He moved from South Australia to Hobart in 2011 with intentions of starting up a bar selling Tasmanian whisky, assuming that once he was in the state there would be easy access to the distilleries making the product he intended to sell. However, he quickly found this was not the case.

As more distilleries opened up, Tasmania rapidly became a join the dots puzzle. The state suddenly had a whisky trail! And Brett? Well he had a car! He realised that no one in their right mind wanted to drive themselves to distilleries and now there was a real touring opportunity. So Brett took the plunge and decided to become… a professional designated driver!

There is, of course, more to it than that. Brett is a man after our own hearts. He is a waffler. As well as tasting the flavours of the drink, he was passionate about hearing the tales told by the people behind the whisky.

WW2 TWT at Redlands

“I wanted this to be about storytelling, as much as whisky”

Brett’s aim for the tours is not so much to give an educational and scientific description of how whisky is made. Instead he is more interested engaging with the people who make the product and hearing about the struggles and adventures they have had along the way. After all, the whisky-makers are just ordinary people doing something they love and they certainly have a tale or two to tell. Brett believes that whisky and story-telling are “perfect bed-fellows” and his guests, after meeting the story-tellers themselves, cannot help but agree.

WW3 TWT at home base 2 bnw

“The trick is to try to cater to all levels and not to have anyone feel excluded”

Brett’s first tours began running in early 2014 and the business has been growing in popularity ever since. The rise in profile of whiskies made in the state has given the business a boost, and Brett has found himself chaperoning journalists, whisky experts, and even cartoonists!

The tours run on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and visit a wide range of southern distilleries – and also get to taste some from further afield. Sessions begin at 9am at the Lark cellar door, and proceedings commence by reclining in comfortable chairs and chatting about the history of Tasmanian whisky. Guests are then loaded into the van and driven around the beautiful Derwent Valley or Tasman Peninsula.

There are many highlights on each tour for Brett: the picturesque setting at McHenry’s Distillery in Port Arthur, the paddock to bottle experience at Redlands Estate, and the unforgettable yarns spun by “renaissance moonshiner” and “champion sand-sculptor” Pete Bignell at Belgrove.

Of course, much like everyone has a favourite whisky (or gin, or brandy, or apple schnapps – which are also sampled on various tours) everyone has a favourite stop, and you won’t know which is yours until you travel there.

WW4 TWT at Nant

“To me whisky is the perfect social lubricant”

I absolutely adore this quote and cannot agree more wholeheartedly. Brett believes, as we do, that whisky is a very social experience, and when presented with context, such as the people who create it and the processes they use, guests will get so much more out of every sip.

He says that sharing the narrative of Tasmanian whisky, past, present and future, is half the experience of the tour. The characters that are met along the way and the real passion they exhibit, gives true meaning to the boutique hand-crafted product that we at Whisky Waffle love.

WW5 TWT at Bothwell

Brett, like all of us, confesses to loving Tasmanian whiskies and their rich flavour. But he is also fascinated by the history and stories behind each of the distilleries.

“When you put the two together and add the dynamic of a mix of different people, it’s pretty hard to beat that experience – no matter where in the world you travel.”

Find out more about Tasmanian Whisky Tours at their website.

Photos by Andy Wilson at  Everything Everything.

Royal Lochnagar Distillers Edition

Reviewed by: Nick

Royal Lochnagar Distillers Edition

Every now and then what you really look for in a whisky is one that you can drink. I realise that this may sound a ludicrous statement for something which is, undoubtedly, a liquid, but bear with me and I shall explain.

I’m always on the lookout for interesting and unusual new drops to challenge me and set me off waffling about the subtle complexities that can be discovered from dram to dram. However, if every dram I consumed affected me in such a way then, apart from having no friends, I would risk straying too far from the very essence of whisky; that is: it is made to be drunk (with the possible exception of the Macallan Cire Perdue).

With this in mind I believe there is no better candidate for the position of ‘drinkable whisky’ than the Royal Lochangar Distillers Edition. A rather underrated distillery, Lochnagar got it’s ‘Royal’ tag by impressing Queen Victoria on a visit, although the scale of this achievement is questionable as it was reportedly very easy to please Queen Victoria with whisky. Nevertheless the title stuck and it is now the smallest of Diageo’s 28 distilleries.

The Distillers Edition is aged for a period in ex-Muscat casks, adding a layer of silk and sweetness without making it overly-sugary or syrupy. The extra maturation seems to round off some of the sharper edges, making the whisky smoother and easier to drink, though this does not take away from the overall flavour; there are still many appealing elements to discover.

This is immediately apparent on the nose, which is heavy with alluring caramel. Citrus notes follow as well as a dash of rose essence. It has a smooth and creamy mouth feel, retaining the caramel elements and adding flavours of almonds coated in layers of honey and chocolate. There are also the faintest hints of berries to be discovered, lingering in the background. The finish is light and short but the butterscotch theme continues until the end. The overall effect is that of the sauce to sticky date pudding. And those who know me understand what a large compliment I am paying it.

The Royal Lochnagar Distillers Edition is certainly not the most complex or intriguing whisky going around. Nor is it in any way dull. It is a very easy drinking whisky, and this is in no way bad thing. In fact, I believe that it is this dram’s biggest strength.

★★★

Lark Double Sherry Cask Limited Release

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

Lark Double Sherry Cask Limited release

We make no bones about the fact that we are ardent lovers of Lark. We will go to our graves swearing blind that our superlative wafflings are not just a bunch of old guff (in fact, many top whisky critics agree with our views). For those willing to make the journey, proof of Lark’s greatness can be found at their cellar door.

If you are one of the lucky acolytes to enter Larks lair, you will be met with a sherry monster of epic proportions. The Lark Sherry Double Cask Limited Release is matured for most of its life in a first-fill barrel, and then transferred for the last six months into another first-fill barrel. Apparently the transfer process causes high amounts of evaporation, helping to intensify the flavours.

Our first impressions of this whisky were huge. This is, without a doubt, one of the biggest, boldest noses we have ever come across; something that makes the entire cast of Asterix look like Tintin. This is Pinocchio if he embarked on a career as a lawyer. As soon as the glass enters the vicinity of your nostrils you are enveloped by a huge, warm blanket woven from raisins, figs, chocolate, golden syrup, honey and oak.

The first sip instantly hits you with a warm lively glow. Thanks to the 59.2% alcohol the mouth rapidly dries, leaving a satisfying bitterness across the back of the palate. This is a complex and challenging dram to be sure. Each sip reveals more layers of flavours, both subtle and bold.

Sadly for those with no immediate plans or means to travel to Tasmania, the Sherry Double Cask Limited Relase is only available at the Lark cellar door. For those who are within reach (hooray!), make sure you have a taste before the very finite number of bottles evaporate like the angels share (or before the Whisky Waffle boys drink it all!) Sitting at Lark’s bar, sipping double sherry matured whisky can only be described as pure ‘Larksherry’!

(Cheers to Dave at Lark for coining that one after mishearing a comment)

★★★★

Hanging out at Hellyers Road: our trip to the North West Coast’s first distillery

Posted by: Nick and Ted

Waffling at the bond store whisky waffle

A bit of ‘bonding’ time for the Whisky Waffle boys

Hellyers Road is the ultimate modern distillery. You will find no creaky wooden washbacks or hand beaten copper stills here. It takes multiple glances to realise it is even a distillery at all. However, there is one tell-tale giveaway: the smell. As soon as the door separating the visitor centre and distillery is opened you are greeted with the unmistakable scent of the angel’s share escaping. There can be no doubt: whisky is made here.

Located in Burnie on the North West coast of Tasmania, the architecturally modern visitors’ centre is incongruously wedged between beautiful rural countryside and the looming industrial hulk of a dairy factory. You can guess which view Hellyers Road have made the most of, with large floor-to-ceiling windows looking out across the Emu Valley.

The good view whisky waffle

The better of the two view options

Our tour begins with a friendly introduction to the distillery by our guide Dianne, detailing the history of the establishment. Hellyers Road is owned by the Betta Milk Company next door and is the result of their desire to diversify their product range. Already possessing the production knowhow, they laid down their first barrel in 1999. Flash forward to today and the company proudly distributes to 26 countries, in particular supplying the major emerging market in Europe.

Ted checking out the milk factory... er I mean distillery whisky waffle

Ted checking out the milk factory… er… I mean distillery!

Hellyers Road have certainly used their knowledge of production lines to full effect, with the capacity to produce more whisky than any other Australian distillery. Indeed, their bottling machine, sourced from Italy, is capable of churning out up to 2000 bottles per hour. This is just one example of their ultra-modern approach to equipment. Elsewhere stainless steel takes the place of the traditional oak and copper, and the neck of the still follows an unusually horizontal angle. The entire distillation process can even be controlled remotely by head distiller Mark Littler, wherever in the world he happens to be.

The oddly shaped still neck whisky waffle

The oddly shaped still neck – Glenmorangie it is not

An excellent view of the bond store is provided by a balcony on the second floor, revealing hundreds of barrels quietly maturing thousands of litres of Hellyers Road whisky. Most are ex-American oak, although directly below our vantage point are a number of sherry butts, a recent addition to the Hellyers Road stable. We cannot wait to sample some of this whisky, though we are fully aware we may be waiting for some time!

Many barrels whisky waffle

We learned how to read the numbering system on the barrels – and instantly felt like we were part of a secret society!

Nestled on the second floor are two barrels that Hellyers Road are kind enough to allow their guests to sample a dram from. The varieties on offer are the Original and the Peated expressions, and as they come straight from the barrel they are of course at a powerful cask strength. Hellyers Road also offers those that do the tour the chance to fill their own bottle straight from the cask before sealing it with hot red wax. Both Wafflers will confess to each having a sealed bottle sitting at the back of their cabinets from an earlier visit.

Fill a cask whisky waffle

The dairy theme continues with a chance to milk a whisky cow!

We enjoyed sampling the Original cask strength expression, and after some prolonged prognostication can provide a panoptic portrayal of the product:

Hellyers Road Original 3219.03 Cask Strength 68.6%

Nose: fresh and caramelised apples, raisins, walnuts, orange and cherry ripe. Faint Hellyers Road buttery notes, but masked by spicy alcohol.

Mouth: Sour high strength alcohol notes, pan browned butter, oakiness and some slight briny seaside influences. Leaves the mouth quite dry.

Nick pondering the meaning of life over the cask strength whisky waffle

Nick enjoying the cask strength with all his friends

Hellyers Road is a thoroughly contemporary beast, combining state-of-the-art technology with ancient techniques to produce a whisky of the modern age. While the distillery itself may lack the rustic charm of the Old World, the friendly folk who inhabit it and the exceptional products they produce make it well worth your time to visit. As Jeff Kennett would say: “not bad for a bunch of dairy farmers!”

 

 

While at the distillery, the boys at whisky waffle also conducted a blind tasting of six different Hellyers Road expressions. Stay tuned to find out how they did!

The Greatest Whisky In The World (Conditions Apply)

Posted by: Ted

Whisky is one of those drinks that can instantly transport you back to a time and place (this is not the same as having the conviction that you are Doctor Who after downing one too many nips). The variety of flavours and feelings and imagery that come from different drams lend themselves well to creating waypoints in your mind. If you’re lucky, hopefully most of those memories are good and don’t induce too much of a mental cringe.

One of my all-time favourite whisky drinking memories is the time that we discovered ‘The Greatest Whisky In The World’. Bold call I know. But in that time and place it really was; a legend in the patchwork of our lives. Now, I’m sure everyone is biting the edge of their keyboards in anticipation of discovering the identity of this fabled drink. “What golden nectar, what ambrosia of the Gods, what mystic secret of the ancients are you going to reveal to us Ted?” I hear you cry. Well my friends, agonise no longer, for here it is (drum roll please):

The Greatest Whisky In The World:

The Claymore Blended Scotch Whisky (Conditions apply)

(Much, much later…)

Ok, now that most people have stopped shouting and/or crying, and those of you who stormed out of the room have slunk back in, let me provide you with some context, for context is king in situations like this. Hold a moment while I switch on the Flux Capacitor and power this story up to 88mph.

Flashback

Date: 5/10/2013                Location: Cambodia

Proof that Ted was definitely in Cambodia

Proof that Ted was definitely in Cambodia

Nick, our mate Stretch, and I (Ted) were skulking about in the duty free section of Siem Reap airport, having just spent a fantastic week exploring Cambodia. I will admit that I was in a small amount of disgrace; after we stumbled back to the hotel in the wee hours on our big last night out in Siem Reap, I had checked the tickets and declared that our flight left at 3:10pm. Pity that it was actually 5:10pm (I am super glad that it wasn’t the other way around. Nick and Stretch probably would have tied me up and left me there).

Hence the reason why we were prowling the duty free section; plenty of spare time. Asia is a great place to pick up some quality whiskies at wallet-pleasingly low prices. I will probably be forever haunted by the fact that I decided not to get the Lagavulin Distillers Editions that day (fool). As we made our way around for what was probably the 5th circuit of the shelves, our eyes suddenly lit upon a truly majestic sight. It was as if a ray of golden light had lanced down from the heavens.

Enter The Claymore Blended Scotch Whisky. Contained within a duty free sized 1 litre bottle. And all for a mind-blowingly, jaw-droppingly low price of US$8!!! The thing that we found truly unbelievable was that this wasn’t just some methanol-laced bottle of local stingos. The Claymore is a real honest-to-God kilt wearing Scotch whisky (I had further confirmation that Claymore is legit a few months later when I noticed the great DI Gene Hunt watering his liver with some on the TV show ‘Ashes to Ashes’, the sequel to ‘Life on Mars’).

Hardly daring to believe our good luck, we swiftly purchased a bottle. To express our emotions as an Aussie: Bonza! The next leg of our trip was a week-and-a-bit stay in Vietnam, meaning that we wouldn’t be able to take the Claymore back to Australia with us. No worries! We figured that even if we didn’t finish the bottle, for 8 bucks we were still well and truly up on the deal.

For the next week the Claymore was like another member of the crew. It was certainly a good companion during our many games of cards and Yahtzee. The morning after one particularly big night, when we were all feeling a bit ratty, someone coined the immortal phrase: “Claymore. Like a sword to the face.” Good stuff.

Ted, with a half-finished pint of Claymore. Ok, it's beer, we just didn't take any photos of us drinking whisky. Error, I know.

Ted, with a half-finished pint of Claymore. Ok, it’s beer, we just didn’t take any photos of us drinking whisky. Error, I know.

Then there was the time we smuggled it aboard on a back-packers cruise through Ha Long Bay. Sneaking back to the cabin to liven up a glass of coke added a certain daring element to the trip, and it sure beat the crappy stuff they had on board. The second night of the cruise was spent on a tropical castaway island; sitting under a palm canopy listening to the waves roll onto the white sand, with a good crew and a cheeky dram, we knew life was good.

To be honest, the Claymore wasn’t that great a whisky. Just a pretty bog-standard cheap blend, fairly sharp and raw on the palate. But for me it brings back memories of warm nights spent wearing baggy happy pants on hotel balconies, cracking jokes with my best mates, and playing cards while listening to the busy Asian night life. And therein lies the heart of my reasoning: for the size, and the price, and the good memories left afterwards, at that time The Claymore Blended Scotch Whisky was truly ‘The Greatest Whisky In The World’.

The Whisky Waffle boys, observing a minutes silence in Hanoi to mourn the finishing of the bottle.

The Whisky Waffle boys, observing a minutes silence in Hanoi to mourn the finishing of the bottle.

Rambling at Redlands: our trip to Tasmania’s ninth distillery

Posted by Nick and Ted

If you haven’t worked it out already, we’re not shy to talk about our pride in the fledgling whisky industry in our home state of Tasmania. Currently there are nine operating distilleries and as whisky writers, it is our duty-bound quest to visit each and every one of them.

This quest begins with a distillery so new that we left without even tasting a single drop of their whisky… the reason being that it is currently in oak barrels and will not be ready for the best part of a year!

The distillery in question is of course Redlands Estate, Tasmania’s ninth distillery. As we approached the estate, the elm-lined drive provided glimpses of the red bricks of the 19th century heritage farm buildings. Constructed using thousands of bricks made on-site by convicts, the estate summons up a picture of old world rustic charm.

Vintage beauty... and some old building, too.

Vintage beauty… and some old buildings, too.

Redlands Estate was originally founded as an innovative farming complex, the fields fed by the waters of the Plenty River, which was diverted into a system of canals throughout the property, devised by the very Tasmanian sounding Count Strzelecki. Over the years the estate served many purposes such a hop farm, a dairy, and a granary, before falling into disrepair in the late 20th century.

Fast-forward to 2008 when the new owner, agricultural consultant Peter Hope, was contemplating the future of the property. During a lunch with the godfather of Tasmanian whisky, the great Bill Lark, the idea of creating a distillery on the site was formed. However, this was to be no ordinary distillery: the ambitious minds of Peter and Bill envisaged an establishment that would become Tasmania’s, and possibly the world’s, first true paddock to bottle distillery.

Redlands Estate is perfectly suited to this brief: fertile fields for growing barley, pure water from the Styx Valley flowing down the Plenty River, and striking buildings for housing malting floors, stills, and aging barrels. Bringing these elements together is head distiller Dean Jackson, with whom we had the genuine pleasure of spending an enjoyable afternoon.

Nick pretending to look at the scenery.

Nick pretending to look at the scenery.

We began our tour with a walk around the grounds, taking in the historic buildings, the Plenty river (Dean was keen to get the “there’s plenty of water” joke out of the way early) and the barley fields. The newly emerging shoots were of the Gardener variety, a brewer’s barley rich in oils and flavours. After harvest in late summer, the barley is steeped in an old water trough left over from the estate’s time as a dairy.

When Dean decides the barley is ready, he transfers it to the malting floor. In his own words: “gumboots on, spade in hand, shovel through window”. The malting room is an ex-granary and shearing shed, and due to the lack of underfloor heating, can only be used in the warmer months. Dean then hand turns the grain three times a day for a week until germination reaches the optimal point. After that, it’s into the purpose-built kiln, a large rotating stainless-steel drum, contrasting wildly with the brick chimneys and pagodas found in Scotland.

Ted contemplating the precise function of doorways.

Ted contemplating the precise function of doorways.

We wandered back inside to the room which houses the mash tun, the wash back and the solitary still, and embarked on a discussion about the flavours imparted in the earliest stages of the creation of the spirit. Different temperatures in the mash tun create different sugar types: lower temperatures can create honey and floral notes, whereas higher temperatures induce brown sugar and molasses flavours. Too hot, and less pleasant notes can emerge. Dean references this as a crucial process: “Stuff it up and you’ll get bad spirit”.

We were lucky enough to sample some of the wash straight from the wash back: Ted described it as sweet unhopped homebrew, while Nick claimed it was better than actual beer. Next we tried some new make spirit from only the 26th distillation completed at Redlands. In the absence of a single malt, we thought we would provide some tasting notes for the new make:

Redlands Estate New Make Spirit:

Rather unsurprisingly, this spirit was very clear in appearance and had high alcohol on the nose. Once we finished congratulating ourselves on this line, we did discover some other flavours, such as floral and oily notes, with a whiff of match smoke. Rich across the palate with hints of almonds and plums.

The one and only still, with the one and only Dean Jackson.

The one and only still, with the one and only Dean Jackson.

We were then offered the chance to visit the maturation room housing all 42 barrels laid down by Dean to date. Unfortunately we cannot reveal the location of this fabled room, as we were forced to swear on our miserable lives to keep the location secret before being allowed in (blindfolds and top-secret rituals may or may not have been involved too).

Once inside, our noses were immediately greeted with the glorious scent of potential whisky. Dean told us to inhale as much as we could whilst there, to ensure the angels didn’t get too much (greedy sods).

The mission of Redlands Estate is to create a purely Tasmanian whisky, so you won’t find any ex-bourbon or European sherry barrels lying around. Instead, Redlands matures its spirit start-to-finish in ex-Pinot Noir casks sourced from three southern Tasmanian wineries. This is a departure from not just traditional Scotch whisky, but also from fellow Tasmanian distilleries. What effect this will have on the finished product we can only guess at, but Dean tells us that it’s shaping up as something very special.

The newest barrel: number 42. The water of life within the meaning of life.

The newest barrel: number 42. The water of life within the meaning of life.

Our tour concluded with some tastings, not of whisky, but of three apple based products crafted by Dean. It was here that we received an insight into his tasting philosophy:

All the flavours are already in your head from a young age. Practise gives the ability to draw them out and differentiate between them. The flavours that you discover come from your own life experiences, and will vary from person to person.

Therefore he took no offence when Ted describe the brandy on offer as smelling like ‘damp fridge’, having himself described a prestigious whisky at a TWAS tasting event as smelling like ‘wet fish’!

"I also detect notes of burnt shoes and the tears of grown men"

“I also detect notes of burnt shoes and the tears of grown men”

Redlands presents itself as a rustic, idyllic, countryside establishment which provides a true all-encompassing Tasmanian experience. While for some businesses this image would be merely a façade, a means to an end, we were pleased to discover that this was not the case at all; it is every bit as genuine as it claims to be. The ethos of Redlands is shown in the dedication, passion and care taken in every aspect of the whisky making process. We believe that these elements will be expressed in the Redlands single malt when it is finally released, and we will be excited to sample this unique Tasmanian whisky.

Ardbeg returns from space!

Posted by: Nick

My good friend and drinking guru Scott once successfully fooled me into believing the bottle of Ardbeg Galileo he was pouring me a nip of had actually been into space. As in the very bottle he held in his hand. I was naturally overawed and sipped my drink reverently, commenting stupidly how the lack of atmosphere did not diminish it’s peaty flavours. He eventually came clean and confessed the reason that it’s peaty flavours were undiminished was because it had never actually left earth. It was created in honour of the Ardbeg space project, where a barrel had indeed been sent into space. I had just not been drinking it.

Fast forward to the present and the Ardbeg space program has now landed! Three years and 15 570 orbits later, a barrel of Ardbeg’s finest is currently being inspected by men in white coats, and of course, Ardbeg whisky creator, Dr Bill Lumsden, to find out about the effects of zero gravity on the maturation process. The question remains, however, what will these effects be? Will my learned whisky drinking friend Bonnie be correct in her assertion that the whisky would have spent three years in a ball in the centre of the barrel, not interacting with the wood at all? Or could this be the birth of a new super-whisky?

What is certain, however, is that Ardbeg are celebrating in the best way possible – by bringing out a new release of their famous (and currently out of stock) Supernova! Plus, you can play an Islay-themed version of space invaders, so it’s worth checking out the site simply for enjoyable procrastinatory reasons alone!

Space travel and Islay-whisky. Life surely does not get more exciting than this.

Ardbeg in space