Lovely labels – Australia’s Starward 43%

Starward was introduced in our Whisky Ladies May session, part of whiskies our host selected based on labels she found attractive and interesting! Produced by New World Distilleries in Australia, Starward is a new entry to the growing Australian whisky market.

Unlike many terrific Australian whisky distilleries based in Tasmania, New World Distilleries is located just outside of Melbourne – apparently in an old Qantas hanger. They use Australian barley and age their whisky in reconditioned Australian oak casks. In the case of Starboard, the casks were previously used to age an Australian sherry called Apera. This makes for a novel fresh and distinctly Australian approach to their whisky.

2016-05-17 Starward

Starward NAS 40%:

  • Nose – Apricots, prunes, a sherry-like influence, honey, demerra sugar. Then a hint emerged of a flowery woodsy perfume… like faded lavender sachets in a cedar closet. As it aired more, out came some pepper, toasted coconut and even a little sour curd
  • Palate – Quite deceiving and a contrast to the nose with a much deeper profile than expected, topped with sweet spices, an almost tingling sensation yet smooth, intense flavours yet well balanced, more pepper, ginger, even apples or a citrus twist
  • Finish – Short and sweet
  • Water – Though a few hesitated to add, after initially punching up the spice it brightens and opens up the whisky. While not needed, doesn’t kill it either.

Overall a sense of youthful intensity with depth. Not massively complex yet had a teasing quality that danced along a spectrum of possibilities.

Bottom line… did we like it? Absolutely!!

Based on this introduction, am quite interested in seeing what more comes from this distillery.

Here’s what the New World folks have to say about their whisky:

Starward represents a new world where experience is respected but boundaries are challenged. This world class malt is youthful, rich and bright; a fine balance of tradition and innovation – of passion and analysis.

Bold but delicate, youthful but mature; rich and contemplative, and surprisingly crisp. It’s the essence of a determination to explore, discover and enlighten.

Starward. What whisky can be.

And Starward‘s tasting notes:

  • Rich amber colour
  • Aroma of ripe orchard fruits: pears, bananas and apples with vinous raisins and dried figs. Caramel, vanilla and marzipan balance the fruit.
  • The palate is filled with rich, toasty caramel, creme brulee, more fruit, pepper, sandalwood, nutmeg and marzipan.
  • A full, sweet, juicy mouthfeel, with a youthful, spicy, dry finish.

Here’s what others have to say:

Other whiskies sampled in our ‘I like the label!‘ session:

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“I like the label!” Great King Street, Starward, Smoky Goat

There is the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” However let’s face it, we can’t help but be swayed by the ‘packaging’ sometimes!

The theme for our May Whisky Ladies evening was a trio of whiskies selected by our host simply because “I like the label!”

One was a familiar favourite and the other two were completely new to both her and our merry bunch of whisky women.

2016-05-17 Great King, Starward, Smoky Goat

We sampled:

With some very clear ‘wins’ – the ever lovely Compass Box treat and the surprisingly fabulous Starward from Australia.

2016-05-17 Great King St + Starward

And a very clear ‘no!’.. yeah this one decidedly got our goat for being unpalatable…

2016-05-17 Smoky Goat 2

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Hellyers Road 12 year 46.2%

In our October tasting session, nestled between the light Aultmore 2000 (Gordon & MacPhail) and the rich, complex and delightfully mature seeming Benromach 100′ Proof 10 year, was an unusual whisky from Tasmania.

Now, I must admit, I’ve only tried one whisky from Australia so far… the much coveted Sullivans Cove that catapulted Tasmanian whiskies to the top of the world (in Jim Murray’s ever  not so humble opinion!).

However thanks to the lads over at Whisky Waffle, I’ve read with great jealousy their reviews on various Tasmanian whiskies. Hence distilleries like Lark, Nant, Overeem and – yes – Hellyers Road are distressingly familiar names yet completely out of reach… until our host managed to acquire the Hellyers Road 12 year.

Welcome back to Tasmania

Love the packaging!

Hellyers Road 12 year 46.2% (Tasmania)

  • Colour – Bright gold
  • Nose – Instant overripe banana and jackfruit, a little cod liver oil, bursting with character not at all subtle. Gives you a flash. Yet interesting. Unique. Good then not so good with that undertone of overripe on the edge of rot. Quite vegetal. Needed to wait a bit. Soaked rice like sake. Sweet raisins. Just kept evolving. After sampling, had that red pill coating that pretends to be sweet but is actually medicine. A little wood furniture smell after adding water.
  • Palate – Boom! In your face coffee, the dry bitterness of tea, chocolate, not sweet, a little overpowering, a flash that is very bitter, mocha without sugar, then a little grape peel. Such a contrast between the nose and palate.
  • Finish – Think green tea.
  • Water – The coffee explodes because of the spice. Then once it settles… we could hear remarks like “I’m absolutely loving it!” “Me too!” Clearly this is way to have this whisky – just a few drops of water. And the finish? It becomes fruity rather than bitter tea alone… After some time, that little bit of pani adds magic – transforming it from being a bit of a difficult character to becoming completely enjoyable.

Impressions – This is a very challenging whisky. Not one for novices. If you have an evening with a true whisky explorer – this is without a doubt one you would like to pull out and enjoy together.

Speculation – Who cares about age! Not Scottish. Not Indian though has a certain boldness of character. Stands out as unique. Guessed the strength to be mid-40s.

The reveal… Yeah! Another whisky from Tasmania!!

As our conversation continued, we kept discovering something new, another element… from not quite being sure whether we liked it to clear converts. This is definitely not a whisky for the faint hearted. It demands attention, time and an opportunity to grow on you. Once you get past its highly unusual contrasting qualities, it reveals remarkable depth and character. There is simply something ‘more‘ going on here.

For those not familiar with Hellyers Road, it is the largest single malt whisky distillery in Australia. Once upon a time (that’s 1825), a gent named Henry Hellyer came to the interiors of north west Tasmania as  chief surveyor of the Van Dieman’s Land Company.

As the story goes

“Hellyer had nothing more than a bullock gang and the most basic of tools to carve a dirt road into the ferocious wilderness. Henry Hellyer’s tenacity and vision proved inspirational and changed people’s lives.  Almost 200 years later, his road now guides the way to the Hellyers Road Distillery.”
As for the whisky? Here’s what they have to say about their 12 year:
  • The 12 Year carries all the attributes of its highly-acclaimed predecessors, aged in American Oak, non-chill filtered and bottled at 46.2% alc/vol.
  • Our distilling process ensures an enhanced single malt flavour delivering a well-balanced and very smooth spirit.
  • Released in 2014, this superb whisky imbues a calming softness, reflective of its age. An elegant, gentle spirit that extols an oily sweetness over tones of vanilla and citrus. The mellow aftertaste provides reward for effort and a subtle reminder of the pleasures this hallmark spirit embodies.

Here’s what others have to say:

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Top 10 whisk(e)ys… sort of…

Anyone heard this before: “Oh, you drink whisky? Which is your favourite?”

I have a tough time. My whisky preferences are often tied to mood, company, and… let’s face it… accessibility!

Let’s also be honest… folks that drink blends are a loyal lot. They have a ready answer to the ‘favourite’ question.

Those of us tending towards single malts are rather promiscuous… always looking out for something ‘new’ to try. We’d rather end up with a disaster than miss a possible gem.

However when Whisky Girl from the Netherlands gave a challenge to share a Whisk(e)y Top 10, I had to rise to the occasion!

Whisky Lady in India's current favourites

Whisky Lady in India’s current favourites

Here goes! From my Whiskies by Country list with random reasons for their pick (by country/region order):

  1. Sullivans Cove – French Oak Cask – Only Tasmanian whisky sampled so far and makes me really wanna try more
  2. Kornog bottled for The Auld Alliance – Why I’ve begged my gal pal on a biz trip to Paris to pretty please bring me back ANYTHING from Kornog or Glann Ar Mor
  3. When in a ‘desi’ (Indian) mood – Paul John’s cask strength Peated
  4. Hakushu 18 year – No surprise this old favourite from Japan made the cut!
  5. Perhaps because I sampled it recently, but the ‘Yoichi’ 10 year has character…
  6. Springbank from Campbeltown shows promise with Hazelburn 12 year
  7. Love the chocolaty coffee yumminess of Glenmorangie’s Signet
  8. Caol Ila 1997, bottled 2009 (Gordon & MacPhail) simply notches up what I enjoy most about Caol Ila
  9. My current ‘everyday dram’ is Kilchoman Coull Point
  10. The American craft whiskey that made me go ‘Oh yes!’ Westland Cask No 395 54.6%

The most remarkable “I can stop now” single malt is Lochside 1981… Completely out of my reach, but I have to mention it… it is simply that good.

And one that is completely unfair to include – blend of two discontinued distilleries (Hanyu & Kawasaki) plus impossible to buy – Ichiro’s Malt Houou-uhi (Phoenix) 46.5%.

See how hard it is? I couldn’t even restrict myself to 10!

Come on… share your top 10 (or 12)!! You know you want to!

Slainthe!

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Waffling at Whisky Live

Most envious of the whisky waffling these lads enjoyed at Whisky Live Australia!

Waffling at Whisky Live.

via Waffling at Whisky Live.

Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask 47.5%

Australia is one of those countries that I kept expecting to get to… even had a plan once or twice and then something intervened.

Knowing there wouldn’t be a trip anytime soon, when I first heard of Sullivans Cove, I did the next best thing – shamelessly ask for a bottle from Australia!

In a rather round-about plan, I was hoping it could be brought by a project cohort who lives in Australia to Indonesia and then while there for a project, I would bring it back to India.

Alas, thanks to the instant popularity of Sullivans Cove post Jim Murray‘s rave review, dreams of acquiring this dram were dashed when I discovered it was SOLD OUT at regular retail in Australia.

Good thing another member had a full year earlier acquired it in Dubai! As a result, we were lucky enough to sample this whisky – go guys!

Sullivan's Cove (Whisky Lady)

A well-travelled Sullivans Cove (Whisky Lady)

Sullivans Cove 47.5% (bottle 120 of 455)

1st impression from April 2014:

  • Nose – Instant aaah!  A bouquet of scents with a little peat, spice, citrus, pear and fig, chocolate, even coffee bean and toffee
  • Taste – Spicy sweet, licorice, peppery chillies, just oodles of character even if not as complex as the nose hinted
  • Finish – All chilli spice yuminess
  • With water – Smoother but character slightly quashed

Speculation: Clear it has a slightly higher alcohol content, guessed around 47 – 48%. While must be a young whisky, had plenty of character.

Pairing: Should be fabulous with chilli chocolate. Also aged cheddar and crackers.

Sullivans Cove close-up (Whisky Lady)

Sullivans Cove close-up (Whisky Lady)

2nd impression from March 2015

I recently revisited Sullivans Cove from the small ‘take home’  sample shared at our original tasting. Here is what I found the 2nd time around:

  • Nose – Dark chocolate with a zest of orange, then honeyed vanilla, cinnamon
  • Taste – Delightful chilli pepper, bright yet smooth, chocolate raisins, hint of liquorice
  • Finish – Dry, not a lingerer but an enjoyable nip of chilli while it lasts
  • Water – Not interested in even trying!

I jotted down these impressions without looking at our original experience… It was largely consistent with the 1st tasting and, once again, thought it an enjoyable dram.

From our original tasting, we had the following conclusion:

A remarkable find picked up by chance a year ago from Dubai duty-free. Now thanks to its award-winning status, near impossible to obtain.

This Tasmanian treasure has no age declared yet clearly takes full advantage of the warmer climes speeding up the aging process in new French Oak barrels. A treat for the merry samplers!

While I doubt will have a chance to sip Sullivans Cove again any time soon, it whetted my appetite to try other Tasmanian whiskies.

The gents over at Whisky Waffle have a good Tasmanian Whisky list… so now… let’s see if I can cook up a convoluted plan to acquire one of the more promising sounding ones!!

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