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Single Pot Still, The Most Irish of Irish Whiskeys

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Single Pot Still, The Most Irish of Irish Whiskeys


With today being St Patrick's Day, I thought it only appropriate to write a piece on Irish whiskey. Irish whiskey (spelt with the 'e') comes in many forms but the only thing that makes a whiskey Irish, legally speaking, is that it comes from Ireland. Sure, it has the same base rules as any whiskey regarding ingredients and minimum age etc. but it doesn't need to be produced in any special way to be considered Irish whisky. It does not need to be triple distilled, plenty of Scotch is triple distilled and plenty of Irish whiskey is double distilled. So if the only difference between Irish whiskey and Scotch is the country of origin, is there really any difference?

Amongst all the Irish whiskey there is one variety produced under very few labels that in my opinion, is quintessentially Irish and is so, for an equally Irish reason - sticking it to the English. Let's start with a quick history lesson. The Irish are commonly recognised to have invented whiskey some time in the 15th century, but it soon crossed the North Channel to Scotland. By the turn of the 20th century, the Irish whiskey industry dominated Scotch sales until the Irish War of Independence cut off exports to Commonwealth countries and the rise of the temperance movement in the US, one of the biggest export markets for Irish whiskey, led to the introduction of prohibition. These events and further unrest in Ireland, crippled the once great Irish whisky industry in a matter of decades. The Scotts, on the other hand, lacked the affinity to the temperance movement that many Irish had and pounced on the opportunity to break into the now illicit North American market and never looked back. Ironically, the Scotts ramped up production through the use of an Irish invention, the Coffey Still, allowing them to produce large quantities of 'blended' whisky that better suited US tastes.

Now while the Irish may be credited with the invention of whiskey and the Scotts with its commercialisation, the English, are credited with the taxation of whiskey. In the 18th century, Scotland was home to hundreds, perhaps thousands of unregulated 'backyard' stills as farmers used whisky to convert bulky barley supplies into far more profitable, less likely to spoil and transportable whisky. The exact number of stills was unknown and that was precisely the problem as far as the tax man in London was concerned. You see, in 1785 it was ordered that whisky was to be taxed as it was a far too lucrative commodity for the Crown not to get a cut. The Scotts did not take well to this news and kept producing from illicit stills hidden away in the highlands for decades but the Irish took tax evasion to a whole new level.

Malted and Unmalted Barley

When producing whisky, barley needs to be malted (made to sprout or germinate) in order to release essential plant enzymes. These enzymes are what convert hard starches within the barley into soft starches that are able to be converted to sugars when mixed with hot water inside the Mash Tun. The sugars provide a source of food for the yeast during fermentation. The English knew that malted barely was essential to whisky production but not for traditional farming, so naturally, they taxed it. Now, this is what makes Single Pot Still whiskey so wonderfully Irish. The Irish were not stupid, they also knew a thing or two about whiskey (they did invent it after all) specifically, they knew that only around 30% of the total barely used had to be malted in order to produce enough of the essential plant emzymes. Since only malted barely was taxed, they tried making whiskey with just 30% malted barley, slashing their tax bills by seventy percent! Well played Irish whiskey makers, well played.

The term Single Pot Still (it used to be called 'Pure Pot Still') is confusing because it means one thing literally and another in the context of Irish whiskey. A pot still is a copper vessel that is heated and used for distilling whisky wash into a clear spirit. Many whiskies are made with just one or a 'single' pot still but they are not Single Pot Still whiskey. Single Pot Still whiskey, in the Irish whiskey context, is whiskey made with a combination of malted and unmalted barely and in my opinion, is the only true Irish whiskey.

Single Pot Still Irish Whiskeys

Sadly, there are very few Single Pot Still Irish whiskeys on the market today, in fact, you can count them on one hand; Redbreast, Green Spot and Yellow Spot, Powers and Middleton are about the only labels readily available. They are characterised by their unique flavour profile and this uniqueness is why I consider Single Pot Still whiskey to be the quintessential Irish whiskey. The mixture of malted and unmalted barley (and sometimes other grains) produces a full body (think red wine mouth feel) and a spicy character. Single Pot Still whiskeys are fruity on the nose and fresh smelling. I find them very easy to drink neat and quite moreish, it is always difficult to settle for only a single dram. So if you feel like an Irish whiskey this St Patrick's Day (or any day for that matter) try a Single Pot Still Irish whiskey, the most Irish of Irish whiskeys.
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What Is Independently Bottled Whisky?

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What Is Independently Bottled Whisky?


The Internet is a wonderful tool for the whisky enthusiast. Discovering and acquiring whisky has never been easier, with a dizzying choice of both old and new whiskies just a few mouse clicks away. I often browse my favourite websites checking prices and availability, reading tasting notes and writing wish lists of my next whisky purchases. For example, I am currently holding out for the latest Springbank 12 Year Old Cask Strength and Laphroaig 10 Year Old Cask Strength expressions. Historically, both tend to arrive in Australia in very limited quantities and sell out quickly.

During these online browsing sessions, especially when I was first getting serious about whisky, I kept stumbling across odd whisky labels. These whiskies were not produced by a particular distillery, but rather were sourced from a variety of distilleries and bottled under a different branding such as Gordon & MacPhail, Signatory, Rest & Be Thankful and Heartwood. This process, I would eventually learn, was called independent bottling and it was a practice that had been going on for almost as long as whisky had been produced.

So what is independent bottling exactly?

To understand independent bottling, you must first understand the fundamentals of whisky production. Whisky is an alcoholic spirit made from distilling a fermented cereal and aging it in wooden barrels or casks (the terms ‘barrel’ and ‘cask’ are interchangeable). When the fermented cereal (usually malt, in the case of Scotch whisky) is first distilled, it is a clear liquid distillate referred to as new make. This new make is not whisky in a legal sense, although it will become whisky once it has been aged in wooden barrels for a minimum legal period or longer. During this aging process, the new make and wood undergo a variety of marvellous chemical reactions and tannins from the wood leach into the liquid imparting a more familiar whisky colour. Many factors affect the interaction between distillate and wood; such as how long it remains in the barrel, the type of wood used in the barrel, what the barrel held if anything prior to being filled, the thickness of the barrel staves, the amount of char inside the barrel, the size of the barrel and the average temperature, temperature variations and barometric pressure within the storehouse etc. That is a lot of very influential factors that occur after distillation.

The decisions about how to use these factors are the tools of the independent bottler. An independent bottler will source and provide their own barrel or barrels to a distillery, to be filled with a new make (or very young) spirit. This spirit may be the same used to make the distillery’s signature expressions, but that is where the similarities end. Whatever whisky is produced from that independent bottler’s cask will be unlike anything else the distillery makes and will quite often be unique to that particular cask or casks.

So now that you know independent bottling is more than just filling a barrel with someone else’s whisky, here’s an interview with ‘Caskologist’ George Koutsakis of Whisky Foundation, a new e-commerce venture specialising in independently bottled whiskies.

WD: Welcome George, what is a ‘Caskologist’ and what is your involvement with Whisky Foundation?

GK: We are a small, yet passionate, team here at Whisky Foundation and we all take on a variety of different roles. The term ‘Caskologist’ is an invented term which best describes the part I play in the organisation.

My job is basically to manage and stay on top of anything to do with the Whisky Foundation website. Working closely with our sales team, I add, research, and sample new products and observe the statistics to find which bottles are of greatest interest to our customers.

With my past expertise in whisky tasting and events, and my experience writing, I also manage the Whisky Foundation blog, and try to create the most educational and captivating content to keep our readers entertained. In order to do so I closely follow industry news and new releases.

WD: What do you look for when selecting a cask and do you already have a potential new make spirit fill in mind?

GK: This is a question better answered by the independent bottlers themselves. The wonderful Italian independent bottler Wilson & Morgan, who select the finest Scottish casks to join their collections, have produced a few exclusive bottles for Whisky Foundation. Their brand ambassador Luca Chichizola, who is co-responsible for selecting casks alongside chairman Fabio Rossi, had this to say:
It must be exciting to us. We have tasted more than 3000 malts in our lives so far. So it must be ‘different’, it must shine. It must not induce a yawn or an ‘OK, more of the same’ thought. Even if it's still immature and rough, it must have personality. About new make... not very interesting to us, if I may say so. We always buy whisky that is already 3 years old, so that it has lost its most undesirable traits of immaturity and it's easier to see where it will go. With rum on the other hand (Wilson & Morgan has a sister company called Rum Nation) we definitely buy new make either for bottling white rum or for maturation.
WD: Mass produced whisky is commonly chill-filtered and even non-chill filtered, non-cask strength whisky is usually allowed to rest to separate the less soluble particulate matter or ‘floc’ before bottling. What are your thoughts on whisky filtration and how does this affect Whisky Foundation bottlings?

GK: When it comes to whisky filtration, I am a firm believer in sampling the whisky in its most natural form. I find non-chill filtered whiskies provide a ‘fuller’ and ‘richer’ mouthfeel, due to the presence of fatty acids and proteins, which are removed throughout the process of chill-filtration.

Non-chill filtration gives drinkers a more natural and organic experience. That cloudiness should be welcomed. Most of the independent bottlings we have at Whisky Foundation come just like that, at cask-strength and non-chill filtered, giving the raw, intense, unique flavour I love most in my whisky.

WD: What are some of the things that independent bottlers could do that would not be possible or perhaps financially viable in a large distillery?

GK: A large distillery needs to focus on consistency. Several flagship releases take up most of the distillery’s production capabilities, which, sadly, can restrict distillers and make it hard for them to create unique, one-off releases.

Independent bottlers, however, only create unique, one-off releases, which means their sole purpose is to experiment, observe, and release whiskies that have matured for the right amount of time, providing balance above all else.

The fact that these organizations hold so many different casks from different distilleries means that they can choose exactly how they treat the whisky. They can create unique blends, and use unique methods to age and bottle a whisky. Two casks of the same Scotch can be aged in different kinds of oak, for a different duration, and at different temperatures. Experimentation takes the front seat when it comes to independent bottling.

WD: A lot of whisky drinkers enjoy the familiarity and availability of a large distillery’s flagship whisky. How do you convince these people to buy an independently bottled whisky that is often much more expensive and likely to never be repeated?

GK: Firstly, people’s preconceptions need to be challenged. I look at large distilleries and independent bottlers as two completely different entities, in the same way I might look at a hotel and a villa. We need both, and both provide us with an amazing, yet very different service.

A large distillery will give you your favourite dram over and over again, whenever you need it for years, even decades. An independent bottler will give you something different every single time, challenging you to explore, learn, and delve deeper into the world of whisky.

It all comes down to education. Whisky tastings, promotions, and a whole lot of information can make all the difference. Step by step, we simply need to introduce people to independent bottling and show them what makes the experience so special and satisfying.

With a little knowledge about independent bottling and a willingness to explore, it’s possible to find a wealth of under-recognised whisky gems.

WD: Thanks for your time, George, and for sharing your thoughts on independently bottled whisky.

GK: Thank you for having me, it’s been a pleasure.



If you consider yourself a whisky enthusiast, you shouldn’t ignore independently bottled whisky. Independently bottled whisky present an opportunity to try unique expressions sourced from your favourite distilleries. A lot of thought goes into the cask selection process yet even with years of experience the results can be anything but predictable. This dramatic and often unpredictable effect that ageing whisky in wood has, is one of the things I love about whisky. It is comforting to know that no matter where the whisky was distilled, I can always be surprised.
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Compass Box Peat Monster Impressions

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Compass Box Peat Monster Impressions

What is it?

Distillery: Compass Box
Name: The Peat Monster
Make: Blended Scotch whisky
Extra Info: Compass Box is a bit of a rebel in the Scotch whisky world, having the first edition of their Spice Tree blend ordered off the shelves by the Scotch Whisky Association in 2006 and for being an active campaigner for total transparency in whisky labelling, contrary to current UK and EU laws which state only the age of the youngest whisky component in a bottle can be declared on a label or packaging.

Why did I buy it?

I am all for Compass Box's campaign for transparency, which was what first put the company on my radar. You can read about Compass Box's position and show your support hereSome of their bottlings are easier to find than others and The Peat Monster is one of the easier ones to locate in Australia. It may be more expensive than your average blend, but that is partly because The Peat Monster is made up exclusively of single malt scotch whiskies. There is no cheaper grain whisky used in this blend, which is common with most blended whiskies on the market.

What did I think of it?

Presentation: Some of the Compass Box labels (especially the limited editions) are works of art. The Peat Monster's label is unlike any other whisky bottle label you are likely to see. Gold text and imagery on a dark brown background, it conjures images of a cross between a Lovecraftian Cthulhu and Audrey II of the Little Shop of Horrors. I love it and it proudly displays whiskymaker, John Glaser's name, which should be done more often.

Appearance: Non-chill filtered and of natural colour, The Peat Monster is quite pale, being what I would call light gold coloured. A swirl results in thick legs clinging to the inside of the glass.

Aroma: The following is a no-bullshit admission and although it could be just a lucky guess, it did happened and I am quite proud of myself.

When I first opened the bottle and poured a dram, my initial thoughts on nosing were of Laphroaig and then Ledaig. As you can see from the nifty info-graphic below, provided by Compass Box, I was bang on! Perhaps I am learning something by drinking all this whisky.

© Compass Box Whisky Company

It is obviously smoky, but with a maritime element; Seaweed or wet sand. There is also an acridity to the smokiness, but it’s not unpleasant. The 46% ABV was surprisingly noticeably, suggesting this whisky is quite volatile, but that may just be because my part of Australia is suffering through a heat wave at the moment. Adding water really subdued the smoky aromas but unfortunately didn't bring much of anything else forward. There was something faint underneath that I couldn’t quite make out — pear skin perhaps?

Flavour: Oily mouthfeel, cooling menthol, lots of pepper. Lives up to its name. Strong smokiness, catnip to peat freaks.

Finish: Long and mouth coating, slightly bitter smoke, lingering spice. Slight warming deep in the chest. The empty glass smells of aromatic woodchips, like those commonly used for smoking meat.

What did Scotchology think of it?

This is a special collaborative whisky review with Scotchology.com and as such, this is what the team at Scotchology thought of The Peat Monster from Compass Box. Be sure to check out their blog for more great whisky reviews and information.

Adam - I actually enjoy this scotch. It is not the most complex I've ever tasted, but it isn't necessarily simple either. There is smoke and peat, of course, but it isn't trying to be an Islay, which I appreciate. There is a sweetness right on the edge, like seeing something out of the corner of your eye. I like the complexity.

Michael - Two dimensional. It has this element of brine for me, then an element of peat. It just doesn't have a lot of layers. This one is fairly simple and consistent. It has a decent flavor and I don't mind it.

Peter - It's strong. It definitely. It lingers. It stays a while. It's peaty. it has a lot. It's aggressive (there's the monster). I think it is fun. I like it.

Jenny - The nose is pretty simple. Like I just get peat and smoke. Not much outside of that. Oddly enough, it's better after peated chips and humus. The palate is pretty straightforward. It's peaty. A little bit of smoke. Lingers for a bit. It's enjoyable, just not complex. Straightforward, enjoyable whisky.

Caitlin - My general feeling is "eh". It's underwhelming. Ben - I expected this to be much more aggressive with a name like "Peat Monster." I've seen this on the shelf at the store before and been curious about it. The whisky itself is very fine but I feel a little misled by the name.

Would I buy it again?

Yes, but I am in no rush. I would like to sample more of what Compass Box has to offer before returning to The Peat Monster. One for peat freaks and better than your average blend partly because it is made up entirely of quality single malt Scotch whisky without the addition of any grain whisky.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to have the nose and palate of a Master Sommelier, however, I am working to train my senses to better identify whisky aromas and flavours. Consider all my whisky 'Impressions' to be a work in progress and I hope to come back to each of them in the future to see if I notice anything different. Most importantly, I'm not just throwing around random aromas, flavours and adjectives for the hell of it; I am trying really hard to critically describe each whisky I taste - WhiskyDad.
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Got Punched in the Nuts, Moved House & Started a New Job

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Got Punched in the Nuts, Moved House & Started a New Job


I write this entry from a hotel room in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. This will be my family’s home for the next ten days, as we wait for our belongings to be delivered from Tasmania to our new house and is my eleventh house move in thirteen years! This time last week, I was enjoying a final bounce on the trampoline with the kids prior to dismantling it, but our fun frolic ended abruptly when my four year old son lined me up and dragon punched me square in the plumbs.

It hurt, a lot; I swore, a lot, but the pain subsided after a few minutes. It wasn’t until 24 hours later that the real pain began. By the following day I was flat on my back, unable to stand since the force of gravity felt like a troop of angry gibbons swinging from my nads. This was the day before we were due to move house and needless to say I was of little use to anyone. I couldn’t pack my own boxers without it hurting, let alone pack any boxes.

I got the all-clear from an ultrasound and eventually made it through the uplift; arriving in Canberra yesterday, via a relatively pleasant day trip across Bass Straight on the Spirit of Tasmania. I started my new job today and my balls have pretty much stopped hurting now so I am officially back in business…And by that, I mean Blogging.

I closed off 2016 with 42 published blog posts and over 1,000 followers on Twitter. Not bad for three months work and I really do appreciate all the support and encouragement.


So what is in store for WhiskyDad in 2017?

Having moved interstate, I now have access to a whole new part of Australia and plan to explore some of the distilleries nearby. That said, I still have an article about three very different Tasmanian distilleries to share. I also have a few new whisky reviews on the way and a guest blogger review with the team at Scotchology. I will also start sharing my progress in planning a trip to Scotland with Dad-of-WhiskyDad in 2018 and hope you will have some suggestions to help make it a trip of a lifetime.

Keep an eye out for more original WhiskyDad content coming soon.
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Whisky vs Wine, Do You Know The Differences?

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Whisky vs Wine, Do You Know The Differences?


At face value, the differences between whisky and wine may seem obvious but it's not as straightforward as you might think. If you are a wine aficionado, don't expect to be able to simply transfer that knowledge to whisky and vice-versa. Some of the differences if ignored, could be very costly, especially if you are a collector.

Aging

Whisky ages in the barrel or cask and ceases to age once bottled. Wine, on the other hand, continues to age in the bottle. Don't assume that holding onto a 10-year-old bottle of whisky for 10 years will turn it into a 20-year-old bottle of whisky or that it will taste any different.

Storage

Wine (if sealed with a cork) should be stored laying down so that the cork does not dry out. Whisky corks are different to wine corks in both construction and intended use. Wine corks are softer, absorb liquid and once removed, expand and are not put back in the bottle. Whisky cork stoppers are harder, often sealed and are intended to be removed and replaced multiple times. Whisky is also much higher in alcohol by volume (ABV) than wine. The average wine is about 12% ABV whereas whisky is 40% ABV or higher. A spirit of such a high ABV will degrade the cork over time, therefore whisky must be stored upright so that there is no contact between the spirit and the cork stopper. If you store whisky for extended periods lying down, it is likely the cork will break down and contaminate the whisky.

Additionally, whisky is more robust when it comes to temperature changes than wine so you do not need to store your whisky in a temperature controlled environment like a wine fridge or cellar. You may want to limit exposure to direct sunlight and high humidity, however, because fading or moisture damage to a whisky bottle's label will affect its resale value for collectors.

Vintage

Whisky has no vintage in the same sense as wine. You may see a year printed on a whisky bottle but it is not common. Wine is greatly affected by seasonal changes at the winery where the fruit is grown. Whisky is not affected in the same way and most distilleries go to great pains to ensure consistency across every production run. There are some exceptions and declared whisky batches are perhaps the closest comparison to a wine vintage. If a whisky has been bottled from a single barrel or cask, there will likely be some differences from barrel to barrel. This will be more often the case with smaller craft distilleries rather than larger mass producing distilleries.

Food Pairing

There is no doubt that wine is more commonly paired with food and this is a practice that has been going on for hundreds of years. But as whisky has become more popular, so has pairing particular whiskies with certain food. If pairing red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat is an accepted simplification of wine/food pairing, the following should suffice for whisky. Pair Scotch style whiskies with rich food such as heavy cheeses, sausages or fatty meats like rare waygu steak. Pair sweeter American whiskey like Bourbon with sweeter dishes such as any based on chocolate, ice cream, fruit, sweet vegetables, light cheeses or anything caramelised. 

Wine may be easier to pair with food, but whisky taken neat (or however you prefer) is a great digestif following a meal. If you want to have whisky prior to a meal as an aperitif, then best to stick to light whiskies and mix it with either soda water or in a cocktail of your choice to bring down the ABV. I would avoid drinking peated or smoky whisky prior to an expensive meal as this is likely to coat your mouth and may even annoy other nearby diners if they are particularly sensitive to the peated whisky aromas, which are quite volatile.


Shelf Life

Different wines have generally accepted time frames when they should be consumed once opened. White wine lasts 1-2 days, red wine 1-2 weeks and fortified wine 1-2 months once opened. Whisky, on the other hand, has a near infinite shelf life, even when opened. Some people may claim the taste of a whisky changes over time once opened and that may be the case, but for the majority of people, the changes will be indistinguishable. What's important to note is that whisky will not go off, so you do not need to throw out your whisky if it has been open for a few years. But I would question whether you should really drink Grandma's bottle of port that has been open since Christmas five years ago.
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Belgrove Peated Rye Impressions

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Belgrove Peated Rye Impressions

What is it? 

Distillery: Belgrove, Tasmania, Australia
Name: Peated Rye Whisky
Make: Tasmania Single-Barrel Peated 100% Rye Whisky
Extra Info: Belgrove sets a benchmark for sustainable craft distilling. Founder Peter Bignell grows his own rye, made his own copper still from scratch, collects rainwater from the roofs of his sheds, heats it with biodiesel that he makes himself from waste oil (which also powers his tractors, forklift and truck), feeds his livestock used whisky mash and recycles waste water for irrigation. Lastly, the whisky is aged on site and hand bottled by Peter. How's that for environmentally responsible farming and Ozzy ingenuity?

Why did I buy it?

It has been two years since the last Belgrove Peated Rye was bottled (I know this because Peter said the file he uses to print the label himself, was last opened on his computer two years ago). I had heard good things about the Peated Rye but had never been able to find a bottle until now. It is aged for a little over two years in a single 100L ex-Overeem malt whisky cask and peated with locally sourced, tea tree swamp peat from Waterhouse on the north-east Tasmanian coast. Peter pops up from time to time at local markets, but you can always buy directly from the Belgrove website if you cannot make it to Tasmania. Peter will be at the Taste of Tasmanian festival in Hobart this year if you needed any more convincing to spend the lead up to New Years in Tasmania other than beautiful weather, award winning local produce and the finish of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

What did I think of it?

Presentation: The small square-profile 500ml bottles with home printed and hand written labels have a delightful craft market look to them and the black wax seal and stamp add an air of elegance. Unfortunately, the wax seal hides a plastic screwtop underneath, rather than a cork stopper, but it is of little concern to most.


Appearance: Naturally light Amber in colour, non-chill filtered and bottled at 52.3% ABV.

Aroma: Candied smoke. Notes of sweet mints and vanilla rise above a restrained smoke. Inhaling at varying distances from the glass help isolate each aroma since it doesn't belch smoke as soon as you pour, like some of the peatier Islay malts. Clove spice presents momentarily, encouraging me to dig for more aromas with my nose in and out of the glass like one of those drinking bird toys.

Flavour: It is not until you take your first sip, that this whisky fully comes alive. The mouthfeel is deliciously oily and full bodied, urging you to delay swallowing with flavours that seem to develop endlessly. The smoke that appeared a little coy on the nose, blasts forward evoking memories of crunching singed clumps of grass underfoot while walking through a freshly burnt out section of Australian bush. Some fruity sweetness and powdered ash settle on the tongue. Draw in some air to bring out new intense aromas of smouldering bark, rising into your sinus cavity from the gently warming liquid in your mouth. Spices tingle on your taste buds as the whisky warms to body temperature, but it never reaches the pins & needles intensity of some other high-alcohol whiskies. It is smooth, measured and balanced.

Finish: Just when I thought it had given all it had to give, the Belgrove Peated Rye continues to deliver. A smooth, medium to long finish of cooling menthol and fading spice with one last parting puff of smoke leaving behind a slightly bitter aftertaste. What a whisky!

Would I buy it again?

Yes, $200 AUD for 500ml isn't cheap, but it is probably at the lower end of typical Tasmanian craft whisky prices and is fully justified considering the locally sourced ingredients and personal care that goes into every bottle; not to mention the very limited supply of around 150 bottles. The Belgrove Peated Rye is a delicious and truly unique 100% Tasmanian whisky from an innovative sustainable craft distillery and a must try for any peated whisky fan or fan of Australian whisky in general.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to have the nose and palate of a Master Sommelier, however, I am working to train my senses to better identify whisky aromas and flavours. Consider all my whisky 'Impressions' to be a work in progress and I hope to come back to each of them in the future to see if I notice anything different. Most importantly, I'm not just throwing around random aromas, flavours and adjectives for the hell of it; I am trying really hard to critically describe each whisky I taste - WhiskyDad.
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Westland American Oak Impressions

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Westland American Oak Impressions

What is it? 

Distillery: Westland, Seattle, USA
Name: American Oak
Make: American Single Malt Whiskey
Extra Info: Westland whiskey is made with five different malts: Washington Select Pale Malt, Munich Malt, Extra Special Malt, Pale Chocolate Malt and Brown Malt. The peated expression is made with six malts since an additional peated malt from Scotland is used to introduce the smoky character.

Why did I buy it?

Westland whiskey had been on my radar for a while because they produce an American whiskey but not a bourbon or rye. I was lucky enough to attend a local tasting event and got to try the three standard Westland expressions and walked away with a bottle of the American Oak.

What did I think of it?

Presentation: I absolutely love the Westland label; a diamond shape that mirrors the distillery logo set in front of the four corners of a rectangle displaying map imagery with topographical lines that mimic the grain of milled wood. I also love the colour scheme and the heavy based bottle. I would go as far as saying it is one of my favourite designs to date. One thing I was disappointed with however was the inclusion of a plastic screw-top lid rather than a cork stopper. I know it may seem odd, but I enjoy hearing the pop of a cork when I open my whisky and feel a screw-top cheapens the product. Bottled at 46% ABV.


Appearance: Non-chill filtered, dark gold in colour, with no additional colouring added; no mean feat considering it has only been aged for two and a half years. 

Aroma: Quite fragrant, somewhat floral, citrus notes and coffee beans.

Flavour: Velvety mouthfeel, a little spice, cherries.

Finish: Short, some lingering spice and mild warming.

Would I buy it again?

No, nor would I buy the Peated or Sherry Matured expressions either. That is not to say that Westland is onto something special here, it is just a little too young in its current form. Age the same whiskey for a little longer and I think there is great potential once the wood has had more time to interact with the spirit. That said, the only real giveaway to the whiskey's young age is the very short and mild finish. The aromas and flavours are there, but in my opinion, this isn't as good as the Westland spirit could be. A decent whiskey that should mature into a great whiskey. Keep an eye on Westland.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to have the nose and palate of a Master Sommelier, however, I am working to train my senses to better identify whisky aromas and flavours. Consider all my whisky 'Impressions' to be a work in progress and I hope to come back to each of them in the future to see if I notice anything different. Most importantly, I'm not just throwing around random aromas, flavours and adjectives for the hell of it; I am trying really hard to critically describe each whisky I taste - WhiskyDad.
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Interview with Anne Gigney

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Interview with Anne Gigney



Welcome Anne, please introduce yourself and your role in the Tasmanian Whisky Academy?


Thanks, Shane. I’m the Director of the Tasmanian Whisky Company and primary controller of traffic on course day. I am also the grunt behind the operation, so if something needs doing I better get in and get my hands dirty.



How did the Tasmanian Whisky Academy begin and is it based on any established model?


A couple of years ago the company I was working for was doing some agriculture work on the lovely Redlands Estate where the original Redlands Distillery was based. At the time we got talking to distiller Dean Jackson and our mate Bill Lark and the conversation of how you learn to be a distiller came up.

At the time, in early 2013, there wasn’t much around if you wanted to learn about distilling. The guys here in Tas had been learning on the job, reading up when they wanted to know something or asking other distillers (primarily Bill Lark) if there was something a little bit tricky.

We thought there had to be an easier way for distillers and people who wanted to work in the industry to gain those skills and knowledge; the idea of the Academy was born.

From there, my partner Chris who is passionate about training that works, and I started looking around at ways we could help create a pathway for people interested in getting into the industry and those looking to increase their skills and knowledge in distilling.

We tested the idea with Bill Lark and spoke with Patrick Maguire (Sullivans) to see what they thought and with a positive “yep, reckon it’s a goer” we took off.

The model is loosely based on the Irish Whisky Academy and is based on the premise of connection. Connection to experts. Connection to Tasmanian distilleries. Connecting people who love whisky, with people who know about it. We wanted to create an amazing Tassie experience that also gave students full exposure to the process of whisky making – from idea to market. That course has become the Tasmanian Introduction to Distilling and was first run in November 2016.

Our next goal is to be able to create a better learning pathway for the industry itself so that the people in the industry who have the skills are recognised for these and if they want to learn new skills, there is an avenue for this.



What does the Tasmanian Whisky Academy hope to bring to the Tasmanian and Australian whisky industry?


It would be great to think Tasmania, and by default Australia, can gain a global reputation not just for our amazing product but for our people as well.

In short, we’d like to think that when aspiring distillers from other parts of the world look at honing their craft, that Australia becomes a desirable place for that learning to occur. If we can play a role in progressing that reputation it would be fantastic.



What services, training and support does the Tasmanian Whisky Academy provide and to whom is it available?


Currently, the Academy offers the Tasmanian Introduction to Distilling course. This 1-day course is targeted to people interested in getting into the industry, those who love whisky or want to write about it and anyone trying to work out if distilling or brewing is what they want to do with their career.

We’ve also become a bit of an unofficial go to place for info about Tassie whisky and we’ve created the Tasmanian distilleries map with the view that if people are thinking of coming to Tassie, that they might come and do the Intro course, then stay a while and check out distilleries and tours around the state. We’re super happy to talk to anyone about whisky and what roads they should travel while they’re here.

We also have a few other things up our sleeve for 2017 and we’ll be sharing those soon.



So, if I wanted to start my own distillery, what unique opportunities could the Tasmanian Whisky Academy provide me?


The most relevant thing is the end to end overview. We’ve priced the Intro to Distilling so that if you are thinking about entering the industry, or you’re thinking about opening a distillery, the course will give you enough info that you can then make informed decisions about where to go next. It’s also an awesome fun day.

There are some other avenues around that may help, but the Intro is set out as a structured course, designed to be a great experience and provide a bit of business, info about barley, mashing, fermenting, distilling, bottling and market with pointers that help people on their journey.

The best part is getting out there amongst it at Moo Brew and see the grain and the mashing and Sullivans Cove Distillery to go through the process from receiving wash to bottling. Our mate Rex from Nonesuch Distillery also got to show our students a bit about gin, so that is a pretty cool too.

For people coming from interstate, we’d like to think we can offer them a little part of Tassie that they might otherwise not get to see. And while they’re here look after them, introduce them to people who might be able to help and create a worthwhile connection to the Tassie industry.



What work is being done to provide official accreditation and recognition for Tasmanian Whisky Academy courses and qualifications?


This is still being discussed but we’d like to think that in the future Tassie will be leading a distillers course that will help the industry. But that’s still a ways off and for now, part of the interest is that anyone can enter the industry and be trained on the job.



What was the local whisky industry’s reaction to the Tasmanian Whisky Academy?


Largely the reaction to The Academy has been positive and we’ve had some tremendous supporters, especially Bill Lark and Patrick Maguire who helped us fine tune the idea in the early days, and Rex at Nonesuch who has opened his doors to our students.

Our hope is that we will be able to run our Intro to Distilling in other parts of the state as well and we’ve had quite a few discussions with distillers around the state who are interested in being part of the fun. That will be great for students who want to experience diversity within the distilleries.



Does the Tasmanian Whisky Academy have any partners and if so, who are they and what is their involvement?


Our main partners are Moo Brew and Sullivans Cove who have provided the venue and the knowledge to ensure the students have the most amazing experience possible. These two venues, with support from Dave Magill and Pat Maguire are great Tassie icons and we’re proud and delighted they have been able to join us.

Hadley’s Orient Hotel provide a home for The Academy in Hobart and is a tremendous venue to return to for a whisky or gin at the end of the day. Our host Todd from Destination Cellars brings colour to the story of whisky and Rex at Nonesuch has been a great support offering a complete picture of how distilling can be done. We’ve a heap of other friends and supporters for our journey, the least of which is the Tassie industry as a whole – they are the reason people head down south and for that – 25 thank yous.

Pat Maguire (Sullivans Cove), Dave Magill (Moo Brew) and Anne Gigney (TWA)

What is the vision for the future of the Tasmanian Whisky Academy?


We’d just like to see more people heading south to learn about whisky. Tassie is really where it’s at. You can’t head more that 50kms from any major town in Tassie before stumbling over a distillery. We’d like more people to make our state a destination. Come and do a course, visit a distillery, take a tour and also experience the beer, cider and food that make Tassie great. And yeah, we’d like to play a role in making all that possible.



Are there any similar organisations to the Tasmanian Whisky Academy in other states and could there be an Australian Whisky Academy one day?


We think we’re pretty unique. There are a number of distilleries around Australia delivering unique and amazing whisky experiences but no single place to come for a complete education experience.

An Australian Academy? Not sure! But we think it possible the Tasmanian Whisky Academy will be offering Introduction to Distilling and more formal training to the industry in other parts of Australia in the future.



Thank you very much for your time, Anne. How can anyone interested in the Tasmanian Whisky Academy contact you?


The best place to head is the website www.whiskyacademy.com.au or Facebook www.facebook.com/whiskyacademytasmania.

The website has the links to the booking page for the Introduction to Distilling course and more information about us.

We’re offering two Summer courses in 2017 – 19 January and 16 February for people who are interested. $645 all inclusive with spots filling fast for January.


More Info

For more details on the Introduction to Distilling course, see my three-part feature here:

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Tasmanian Whisky Academy Intro to Distilling – Part Three

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Tasmanian Whisky Academy Intro to Distilling – Part Three


After leaving Moo Brew Brewery, the Intro to Distilling course enjoyed a lunch of beautiful local Tasmanian produce at Frogmore Creek Winery in the Coal River Valley. Just beyond the manicured gardens and fields of grapes sits an unassuming tin shed; many a tourist would sip their wine admiring the view without realising the tin shed is where Bill Lark’s famous award-winning Lark whisky is aged.

It was only a short trip from Frogmore Creek to the Cambridge-based Sullivans Cove Distillery. We were greeted at the distillery by Sullivans Cove Head Distillery, Pat Maguire, who wasted no time showing us were the whisky wash (from either Moo Brew or Cascade breweries in Sullivans Cove’s case) is pumped into the distillery. Sullivans Cove is set up to receive 12,000L of whisky wash at a time, although the distillery only operates a single 2,400L pot still. The whisky wash is transferred to a storage tank on the outside of the distillery to be pumped, when required, to the pot still inside. The distillery is open to the public for tours and cellar door sales throughout the business week and has a viewing platform overlooking the copper pot still, tucked away in a corner of the bond store. From 1996 – 2003, Sullivans Cove distillery occupied the old gas works site in Hobart and employed two people; the distillery was then sold and moved to Cambridge in 2004 where it now employs 12 people.


The distilling setup at Sullivans cove consists of a single 2,400L French designed (originally for brandy distillation) copper pot still, connected to a condenser via a lyne arm with a swan’s neck kink at the still end and six spirit collection tanks. The first step in the distilling process is to create 'low wine', which is what you are left with after the wash run or initial pass through the still. Whisky wash is pumped into the pot still from the wash receiving tank outside. Since Sullivans Cove start with 12,000L of whisky wash and only have a 2,400L still, they need to do five wash runs to process all the whisky wash. The still is filled and heated to 81˚C causing the alcohol to boil off but leaving most of the water behind. The vapour rises up the still and into the lyne arm where it partially condenses. So much of the distilling equipment is made of copper because copper chemically reacts with the condensing vapour. This property of copper was a serendipitous discovery, much like the effects of ageing spirit in wooden barrels. The copper reacts with sulphur in the vapour to form copper sulphate and draws unpleasant compounds and oils out of the spirit.

Next the spirit reaches the vertical column shaped condenser, where as the name suggests, the vapour is cooled and condensed into a liquid. The low wine is collected in the various storage tanks until all the whisky wash has gone through the pot still. At this point, the low wine is at about 25% ABV and is ready for the first of two spirit runs which will eventually become Sullivans Cove’s double-distilled newmake spirit. After the first spirit run, the spirit is transfer back into the still and the process begins again. This time the liquid that leaves the condenser is of a much higher alcohol concentration (around 71% ABV) and the copper strips away more unwanted compounds.

It is not a simple matter of just collecting all the liquid that comes out of the condenser however; more than one type of alcohol is distilled and not all alcohol is safe to consume. The first liquid distilled in a spirit run is mostly methanol, a strong smelling and poisonous alcohol. The distiller must separate this and other unwanted components in order to capture the ‘heart’ of the spirit run which is mostly ethanol. To achieve this, the distilled spirit is diverted at the beginning and end of each spirit run into a separate storage tank. The point when the spirit is diverted is called a cut and the first portion of cut spirit the ‘foreshots’ and the last portion the ‘faints’. The ‘fores & faints’ are not wasted, but rather added to the next spirit run since they still contain a portion of usable alcohol. Cutting the spirit can be an automated process or done manually as is the case at Sullivans Cove. You can smell, taste and sometimes see when the spirit run changes from mostly methanol to ethanol and a distiller uses all these indicators and their own experience to decide when to cut the spirit.

During those two or more years, the spirit and wood undergo an almost magical metamorphosis where the wood releases organic chemical compounds into the spirit that introduce new colour, flavours and aromas. 

The spirit that is produced from the distillation process is not yet whisky. In order to be legally labelled as Whisky, the freshly distilled newmake, must be aged in wooden barrels for a minimum of two years (in Tasmania) or three years (in Scotland). During those two or more years, the spirit and wood undergo an almost magical metamorphosis where the wood releases organic chemical compounds into the spirit that introduce new colour, flavours and aromas. Sullivans Cove do not print age statements on their bottles, but they do list the distillation and bottling dates so you can work out the age of the whisky for yourself; often around 10 years which makes it some of the oldest Tasmanian whisky available.

The final process is to bottle the aged whisky, but once again it is not as simple as syphoning the whisky straight from the barrel and into a bottle. The compounds released by the wood that impart so much flavour and aromas to the whisky have varying solubility depending on alcohol concentration and temperature. This means, that they will tend to solidify and clump together over time. There is nothing wrong with this other than the cosmetic effect of having a cloudy whisky or seeing sediment in the bottom of your bottle. For this reason, most whisky bottled under 46% ABV has undergone some form of filtration. Chill-filtration is a fast, industrialised process where the whisky is chilled to force the wood compounds to solidify so they can be removed from the whisky. This will produce the clearest whisky and is common where whisky is produced on a massive scale. The other method is called flocking. Flock is the name given to the solidified wood compounds that accumulate over time and Sullivans Cove employ the flocking method since they bottle their whisky at 40% ABV and in relatively small quantities; flocking requires a lot of time and space.

The barrelled whisky is poured into plastic containers and filtered water is added to bring the alcohol concentration down to a bottling level of 40% ABV. The diluted whisky is then left to sit for months at a time. As the whisky rests, the heaviest and least soluble wood compounds clump together and settle on the bottom of the containers. The whisky above the flock, is drawn off and placed into another plastic container so that the process can be repeated and the whisky drawn off again. I have been told that the whisky flock is quite delicious and is highly sought after for culinary purposes. Once the distiller is happy with the clarity of the whisky, it is bottled, labelled and ready for sale.

Having followed the whisky making process from malt to bottle, the Intro to Distilling course returned to Hobart. A lucky few who did not have to dash away, were met at Hadley’s Orient Hotel by none other than Bill and Lyn Lark and shared a dram or two with the first-family of Tasmania Whisky.

This concludes the three-part feature on the Introduction to Distilling Course but check back soon for an interview with Anne Gigney, Director of the Tasmanian Whisky Academy.
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Destination Cellars Whisky Tasting Events - Nov 2016

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Destination Cellars Whisky Tasting Events - Nov 2016



Last month I attended the final two Destination Cellars whisky tasting events for the year.

Westland American Single Malts, Benromach Organic & Port Askaig 100 Proof

Our host for the first evening was Ian McKinlay, Managing Director of Alba Whisky. Ian began with a product that demonstrates some of the things I love about whisky, it has an interesting story and takes considerable effort to produce. When the Benromach Organic was launched in 2006, it was the first single malt whisky in the world to be certified organic. Gaining official organic certification is no easy task and in the case of Benromach, the Speyside distillery had to meet the requirements of the UK Soil Association. Certifying the ingredients and distilling process was relatively straight forward but when the auditors asked what happens after the spirit is distilled, they were not too pleased with the answer. As is normal practice, the spirit would be aged in used barrels, previously filled with either (non-organically certified) bourbon or sherry and constructed from oak of uncertified origin. To overcome this, Benromach had to use virgin (unused) American oak barrels, made of timber sourced from a free-growth forest in Missouri, USA. The result I am glad to say, was worth the effort. The Benromach Organic was a pale amber in colour, having been aged for five years in the custom-made sustainable virgin oak barrels. The nose was delightfully fresh and creamy with a hint of spice. It was smooth on the palate and tasted of sweet malt and pepper. The finish was medium length with fading spices. I really enjoyed this one.

Next up was three American single malt whiskies from the Seattle-based Westland Distillery in the north-west corner of the USA. First up was the flagship Westland American Oak. I actually purchased a bottle of this whiskey, so I will save the notes for my full impressions. Next was the Westland Sherry Wood single malt, aged only 2.5 years in ex-sherry casks. All three Westland single malts are aged 2.5 years and would not be able to be called ‘Whisky’ if produced in Scotland, which has a minimum age requirement of 3 years. But many factors contribute to how quickly whisky matures such as barrel size, average temperature, humidity, fluctuations in barometric pressure and agitation. The Westland distillery can be found in Seattle, however, their bond store (where the barrels of whisky are taken to age) is located in the port city of Hoquiam, some 100km to the south-west. Hoquiam has lower average temperatures to Seattle, but less snowfall and twice the annual rain levels.

The Westland Sherry Wood single malt was dark gold in colour, belying its young age. The nose was subtle and hard for me to pick up much with the small sample I had. The palate was pleasant but unremarkable, once again hindered by only having a small sample; I would have liked to have spent some more time with this one. The finish was what really gave away the whisky’s age, it was very short, with slight spices on the tongue fading away quickly once swallowed.

Last from Westland was their peated expression. The Westland Peated single malt poured light golden straw in colour, much lighter than the Sherry Wood. The nose was only slightly smoky, which given its age suggest it was not peated a great deal. Westland uses a combination of five different malts and only one of those is peated for this expression with peat sourced from Inverness, Scotland. There are plans in place to use locally sourced peat in the future. On tasting it was difficult to identify any dominant flavours and like the Sherry Wood, the finish was quite short.

The final whisky for tasting on the night was the Port Askaig 100 Proof. Port Askaig is made with undisclosed Islay single malts and the 100 Proof expression is a NAS (no age statement) whisky, bottled at 57.1% ABV. The colour was extremely pale, close to clear in fact, meaning it was either very young and/or aged in very lightly charred or seasoned casks. The nose was smoky but there was something else there that smelt quite strange and I could not put my finger on it with the single sample. The whisky had a nice oily mouthfeel with a rush of spices. The finish lingered for a medium length and consisted of fading spice. A good, if not a little odd, peated single malt. Thanks to Ian McKinlay and his lovely wife Noreen for a very enjoyable evening.

Hyde Irish Whiskey

The last Destination Cellars tasting event for the year was hosted by Scott Farrow of Wonderland Drinks and covered five Irish whiskies from the Hyde portfolio. Hyde do not distill their own spirit (sourced from the Cooley Distillery) but rather operate as an Independent Bottler under their own label. Hyde age the spirit in first fill ex-bourbon casks before finishing the whiskey in either Oloroso sherry, dark Caribbean rum or Burgundy red wine casks in County Cork, Ireland. All Hyde whiskies are bottled at 46% ABV and are non-chill filtered.


The first whiskey of the evening was the Hyde No.5 The Aras Cask Irish Whiskey. This is a single grain Irish whiskey that has been matured for 6 years and finished in Burgundy red wine casks. It was light gold in colour and I found it to have a fresh, somewhat powdery nose that released sweet berry fruit notes with the addition of water. On tasting, it was light and sweet with flavours of grapes and berries. There was little to no spice or heat. The finish was short but sweet.

Next was the first of two dark Caribbean Rum finished whiskies. The Hyde No.4 President’s Cask Irish Whiskey is a single malt aged for 6 Years before being finished in ex-rum casks. Light gold in appearance, like the Hyde No.5, the whiskey smelt of sponge cake and banana bread, with notes of sweet raisins and sultanas. It tasted sweet with obvious rum flavours and a peppery spice building as it warmed in the mouth. The finish was medium length with fading spice concentrating on the end of the tongue.

The third whiskey for the evening was another single grain whiskey, this time, Hyde No.3 The Aras Cask Irish Whiskey which is aged for 6 years exclusively in ex-bourbon casks. The No.3 had a golden colour, slightly darker than the first two whiskies. The nose was subtle with hints of vanilla and nuts. The taste was anything but subtle however, with strong bourbon flavours, a result of using corn to make the spirit and maturing it in first fill ex-bourbon casks. As expected, it tasted sweet but with little spice. The addition of water cuts the spiciness ever further. The finish was medium length.

The fourth whiskey from Hyde was a special offering since it is now sold-out worldwide. The Hyde No.2 President’s Cask Irish Whiskey is finished in dark Caribbean rum casks like the No.4, but is aged for 10 years rather than six. This was my favourite Hyde whiskey on the night, purely because it was so different to any whisky I had tried before. Similar in colour to the No.3, the nose was of sweet tropical fruits, mostly pineapple. On tasting, it was lovely and smooth with hints of citrus and chocolate. The finish was medium to long in length with lingering spices tingling the tongue. Quite unique although almost impossible to find now.

The last Irish whiskey on offer was the Hyde No.1 President’s Cask Irish Whisky, aged for 10 years and finished in ex-Oloroso sherry casks. Golden in colour like the No.3 and No.2, the nose was subtle with hints of citrus, dried fruits and chocolate. On tasting is was smooth with some of the dried fruits coming through with some sweet caramel. The finish was medium to long length with an initial burst of spice before fading.

Heartwood Dare to be Different

The last whisky on the night was a special thank you from Todd Morrison of Destination Cellars. Having convinced a friend of mine to buy his first bottle of the now sold-out Heartwood Dare to be Different, Todd saved his only other bottle to share with us on the night. Bottled at a whopping 65.5% ABV, the Dare to be Different is not for the faint-hearted but for the seasoned whisky drinker, it is amazing! This was only the second time I had tasted this expression and I wish I had bought that other bottle for myself. Heartwood is a Tasmanian independent bottler famous for very high ABV cask strength and very limited release bottlings. Aged in Heartwood owner Tim Duckett’s Kingston bond store with a few extra days ‘cooking’ in the hot room, Dare to be Different stretched to only 330 bottles and sold out very quickly. This is a huge whisky, bottled from a single ex-Oloroso sherry cask filled with peated spirit from Tasmania’s iconic Lark Distillery. Dark amber in colour, the nose was rich and creamy with notes of dried fruits, raisins, sultanas and apricot. It has a sumptuous, thick and oily mouthfeel, flooded with spiced Christmas cake and dark chocolate flavours. The finish is long with slowly fading spices concentrated along the centre of the tongue. Alas, I only got a single pour of this beauty but I do have a full bottle of Heartwood We are Cousins at home.

Thanks to Ian, Scott and Todd for another pair of great whisky tasting evenings. If you are ever in Hobart, be sure to track down Destination Cellars and have a chat to Todd while admiring his impressive whisky selection on offer.
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