Our Whisky Ladies evening exploring drams from Australia and New Zealand kicked off with a jaunt to Tasmania’s Hellyers Road. For those curious to know more about the distillery, check out their story or take a tour with my favourite Tassie Whisky Wafflers with their trip to Hellyers Road.
Yet this was no ordinary Hellyers Road offering. Nope! This whisky was with a wine twist… Red wine finishes are popping up all over the place these days… and let’s be honest, it has been a mixed experience…
- We sampled a Pinot Noire finished whisky from Alsace AWA Pinot Noire 42% which was a playful uncomplicated dram
- The Merlot in Wayne Gretzky No 99 Red Cask Whisky 40% is a bit odd but somehow pulls it off as a blend
- By contrast, the Arran Amarone Cask Finish 50% was simply fantastic! Completely worth tracking down for a sociable enjoyable afternoon or early evening with friends.
So what did we think of it?
Hellyers Road Pinot Noir 46.2%
- Nose – Dusty musty distinctly different, a bit of plasticine, one called it summery, juicy berries, very sweet, shifted into peanut brittle or chikki, vanilla, some flowers, metallic, kept changing from creamy to fragrant to buttery to something else entirely
- Palate – The initial reaction from some was that it was really yummy, caramel, so much better than the aroma… but then wait… it took on a bitter (almost rancid) walnut, coffee, chai masala, rich
- Finish – Iron, nutty, long lightly spicy finish
- Water – Don’t, please don’t…. I do believe “skunk” was mentioned
- Revisit – After setting it aside for some time, it was revisited and revealed a distinctive bitter burnt orange
It was a bit of a puzzle, with many contradictory elements. A slightly cheeky comment was that it went from a summer day at the fair to an entirely different “play” in an S&M dungeon.
Bottom line, it really is “alive” – certainly not a whisky to reach out for when you just want to relax and unwind. But perhaps one when you wish to challenge a guest, keeping them guessing at what exactly they are sipping.
Putting this theory to the test, I later shared with India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula, pitting the Hellyers Road Pinot Noire with the No 99 Red Cask. His vote? The Canadian blend – though also a bit different and not for everyone, it was declared “not off” with the wine finish supporting the rye spice. Whereas the Hellyers Road Pinot? Nope. Didn’t care for it. Considered it a bit “weird”, though did note its interesting “toffee coffee” quality. So in the contest between two ex-British colonies – the Canadian blend beat the Tasmanian experiment.
And yet – that is half the fun with whisky. Not all experiments work for everyone but if you didn’t try, you wouldn’t know!
What do the folks over at Hellyers Road have to say?
Our Original Single Malt Whisky, aged in American Oak (ex-bourbon) finished in French Oak (ex-pinot noir) to provide a tantalising point of difference for single malt lovers. Imaginative and unique, this delightful spirit evokes all the complexities of a Tasmanian rainforest. Judged a Global Whisky Master and one of the World’s Ten Best Value Whiskies in 2015 (United Kingdom).
- The nose is immediately drawn to crisp summer citrus, lemon and orange that obediently withdraws on the palate to manifest a sweet, gentle layer of pepper and spice – a persuasion of the red wine cameo.
- Burnt blackberry sauce lingers in the aftertaste foreclosing a treasured confusion of the senses.
PS For those curious about pricing, this whisky was purchased in Indian duty-free for Rs 9,750 (approx USD 150).
So what else made it into our Kiwi and Taz explorations?
- New Zealand’s Willowbank 10 year Doublewood 40%
- New Zealand’s Willowbank 22 year (1989) Barrel No 58, 52.8%
- Tasmania’s Sullivan’s Cove Double Cask (2008/2015) 40%
- Whipersnapper’s Crazy Uncle Moonshine 43%
Curious about more “Trans Tasman” drams? Check out the Australia and New Zealand section in the Asia Pacific whiskies page.