whiskies

Investigating Iron House Distillery

Posted by: Nick

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Michael Briggs, head distiller of Iron House Distillery is the most relaxed empire builder you are ever likely to meet. This is because he’s not an empire builder. He’s a bloke – who has just happened to build an empire.

Iron House is more than a whisky distillery. It is also a brewery and a vineyard, while the still is also used to create various styles of gin, vodka and brandy. With all these products on the go you’d be forgiven for thinking Iron House was an overly complicated business. Michael (or ‘Briggsy’ as he’s known to one and all) avoids this by sticking to one overarching philosophy: KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

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Iron House is located at the majestic White Sands Resort on the East Coast of Tasmania. The resort was purchased by Briggsy’s father-in-law some 15 years ago. The place was slightly run down and frayed at the edges but fell into hands willing to turn it into something special (although it is said by some that it may have bought just to get access to the boat ramp!). Once the premise was secured the next phase in the plan was to create something to sell on the taps – which is where Briggsy stepped in, forming Iron House Brewery.

The name was derived from the location – the area was once a 19th century camp ground for those travelling from the south and allegedly became home to the first tin-roofed building on the east coast, or as the locals referred to it: the Iron House.

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Once the brewery was up and running the next logical step was (of course) to make whisky. While this was always part of Briggsy’s plans, the creation of the distillery was borne out of necessity. The amount of beer production per year was exceeding their current market – and rather than expanding to the mainland or overseas, Briggsy decided the left over wash could be put to better use.

A still was duly purchased – from Germany via the USA – and it arrived in pieces with absolutely no instructions. Like a complicated box of LEGOTM, Iron House’s mechanical engineer Michael Aulich assembled it, guided by pictures he found online, and eventually Iron House became the proud owners of a copper column still and an oddly shaped pot still.

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While Iron House has yet to release its first whisky, I was able to try some new make spirit (or, to quote Briggsy: “white dog”) fresh from the still. On the nose it packed that fruity high-alcohol punch, though on the palate it was grainy and cerealy (Weet-bixy, for my fellow Australians). It was full of character and intrigued me as to what it would become.

I got a small preview of this downstairs in the bond store. There are multiple barrels within that have been filled for more than 2 years, the minimum age for a whisky. However Briggsy labelled them “legally ready, but not Iron House ready”. His plan is to blend multiple barrels in a Solera system to create a consistent, accessible product. He is a big believer that Tasmanian whisky should not be out of the reach of regular people – from the perspective of both flavour and price. Thus we can expect to have to wait until mid 2019 at the earliest to see an Iron House single malt release (however to tie you over there is some delicious virgin-oak-matured brandy which is nearly ready!).

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Briggsy admitted the biggest strength of Iron House is also its biggest weakness. White Sands Resort is found at the most spectacular coastal site and yet this location is over two hours drive from either of the state’s biggest cities: Hobart and Launceston. However, if you find yourself cruising Tasmania’s beautiful East Coast then a stop into White Sands and the Brewhaus Cafe & Bar is a must. The distillery and brewery are separated from the cafe by many large glass walls, through which you can witness the entire whisky making process. It is a truly memorable and worthy addition to the Tasmanian distilling community – and well worth a visit.

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Bushmills Black Bush

Reviewed by: Nick

Bushmills Black Bush

Ok, let’s get it out of the way now: upon reading the words ‘Black Bush’, who sniggered uncontrollably? I’ll admit that I definitely count myself amongst the sniggerers. I mean, come on… Black Bush? Snigger snigger…

Anyway, now we’re past that: onto the whiskey! It is important to note that Black Bush was not entirely made at Bushmills. A large chunk of it was – Bushmills claim 80% was aged for up to eight years in their Northern Ireland bond store – but the single malt is then blended with grain whiskey made down south at Midleton Distillery.

So Black Bush (snigger) is a blend. A cheap blend, no less, of a similar price to a Chivas or a Johnnie Walker Black Label. So there’s not going to be anything in here to get too excited about. Right?

Wrong. The Black Bush is a remarkable young whiskey punching well above its weight and displaying a depth of character not present in many Irish drams. The clue is in the name: the blackness of the bush (snigger).

This moniker refers to the maturation of the Bushmills single malt – part of it, at least – which has spent years aging in Oloroso sherry barrels. This variation in cask type has added a complex fruity element which really makes this whiskey stand out from its competitors.

The nose is packed with fruit and cereal, or perhaps fruit on cereal. Creamy strawberries nestle among grains, while marmalade and oak round off the edges. The palate is lightly spicy with the rum and raisin flavours from the sherry influence spreading out across the tongue. There are notes of dark chocolate and sweet pastries. The finish is quite dry with hints of red wine grapes and vanilla.

The Black Bush is far from smooth, but this actually works in its favour. Bushmills claim it only contains 20% grain spirit and the blender could have easily rounded off the edges by adding more. However the restraint shown adds complexity to the dram and gives the flavours within a chance to come to the fore.

In conclusion, if you are looking for an inexpensive blended Irish malt with a bit of character look no further than the Black Bush.

Snigger.

★★★

#IrishWhiskeyWeek

William Grant & Sons Masterclass: in Hobart!

Posted by: Nick

William Grant & Sons logoLike some Glenfiddich? Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t?

How about some Balvenie? How could anyone possibly refuse?

Care to enjoy a dram with the people involved in making them? Uh, how does ABSOLUTELY sound?

Come along to the Waratah Hotel in Hobart on Friday the 17th of April and you will be able to do exactly that! The Tasmanian Whisky Appreciation Society (TWAS) is excited to welcome the crew from Grants to the state to conduct a tasting of no fewer than eight of their finest whiskies!

If you’re interested in attending, email Richard Steward at richard@rnsdata.com.au and tell him you love a bit of DoubleWood!

If you sadly live somewhere that is not Tasmania, then we at Whisky Waffle will just have to attend for you. Leave us any questions in the comments and we’ll ask on your behalf!

For more information, check out the TWAS website!

Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish

Reviewed by: Nick

Hellyers Road Pinot Finish whisky waffle

Tasmania is rapidly becoming known as the ‘Whisky Isle’ of Australia. Not only are distillers here in my home state creating award winning produce, they are also experimenting with new methods to create unique whisky. Hellyers Road Distillery is no exception to this, and perhaps their most interesting expression is their Pinot finish.

The Tasmanian wine industry is already thriving, with cool climate wines such as Pinot Noir being made exceptionally well, particularly in the Tamar Valley. It is from here that Hellyers road sources barrels to transfer previously bourbon-aged spirit into for the final six months of its maturation.

The difference this process makes is marked. One glance tells you that this is a very different whisky to the Original release. Its colour is no longer light and pale; instead it is enticingly golden. The nose is equally varied. There are still the typical buttery notes to be found, but now these are infused with fruits such as raisins and dates. The palate is rather light, but gone are some of the sharper, rougher flavours of the Original. Instead there are dry, almost sour notes, competing intriguingly with the more expected flavours of vanilla and toffee. The finish is spicy, the added kick from the alcohol percentage of 46.2% clearly apparent. Finally, you are left with the trademark Hellyers Road buttery notes that remind me of not so much a cake, but rather uncooked cake batter.

The Pinot Noir cask is a fascinating malt. Undoubtedly more interesting and complex than its cousin, the Original, it is also smoother and easier to drink. While not yet a perfect whisky, it certainly shows that experimentation has more than paid off for Mark Littler and Hellyers Road.

★★★

Glenfiddich 12 Year Old

Reviewed by: Nick

Glenfiddich 12 whisky waffle

Glenfiddich is undeniably the most popular distiller of single malt Scotch whisky in the world. This is demonstrated in a number ways. Their long history dating back to William Grant himself. Their extensive range of expressions, which includes a fifty year old that is not impossible to come by. Their whopping 28 stills on site. Or perhaps, the simple fact that they sell more whisky than any other distillery in Scotland.

Their top selling bottle is their 12 Year Old. Its distinctive green packaging is synonymous with Scottish whisky. And it is a very drinkable malt. But cannot in any way be described as remarkable.

While the distillery will try and impress upon you a likeness to pears in this dram, the palate and especially the nose are in fact more floral in nature: more akin to a stroll through a florists than a greengrocers. Some spice and oak begin to develop before finally the merest hint of sweet fruit arrives at the very back-end of the finish.

Overall, this is a fairly light whisky in a pleasant and yet slightly disappointing way. After the build up concerning its popularity, the end result is somewhat of an anticlimax. Despite being the world’s best selling single malt whisky it does not convince me that it is also the best representation of Scotland.

★★