Vault Collection – Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish 46.2%

The Vault Fine Spirits has single handed expanded the range of whiskies and other spirits available in India – more specifically through our Duty Free. Which is exactly the theme of the session – exploring a trio from this collection.

First up in the “The Vault Collection” trio was a blind tasting of a whisky from Tasmania, Australia. Our guest writer Nikkhil had the following tasting notes to share.

Pour 1: Hellyers Road-Pinot Noir Finish 46.2% | Non Chill Filtered | NAS

  • Color: Gold
  • Nose: Dense sweet chocolate, sweet and lactic at the same time. Light varnish notes, burnt matches. Then starfruit citrus with curious notes of paan and nutmeg. Most unusual nose and certainly non-Scottish. Let’s see how the palate lives up
  • Palate: Intensely roasted coffee beans. It was literally like chewing on the beans. Then came the sweet fruity flavors of pears and overripe pineapples. That lactic, porridge flavor was back. With a little time, it got spicy with bitter tannic notes at the back of the throat. This seems young and confused. Bottled a tad too early?
  • With water and about 20 mins of rest it didn’t change much. On the palate, it was now a tad oily with some cold coffee but the bitterness continues.
  • Finish: Very dry and the tannic bitterness continues.

As usual it was time to guess. This was most definitely non-Scottish. One member nailed it down to Tasmanian. And there it was, Hellyers Road! A very challenging whisky certainly not for the novice. Would like to revisit it once it settles down in the bottle. But based on the first impression it was certainly not my kind of a dram.

Official notes:  

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.

The Vault Collection trio:

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“Trans Tasman Tour” – Hellyers Road Pinot Noir 46.2%

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…

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 the Hellyers Road Pinot Noire side-by-side with the No 99 Red Cask. His vote? The Canadian blend – though also a bit different and not for everyone, called it “not off” with the wine finish working with the rye spice. Whereas the Pinot? Nope. Didn’t care for it considering 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 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?

Curious about more “Trans Tasman” drams? Check out the Australia and New Zealand section in the Asia Pacific whiskies page.

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Whisky Ladies “Trans Tasman Tour” to New Zealand & Tasmania with a nod to Crazy Uncles!

The Whisky Ladies adventures continue… this time waaaaay down under with drams from  Tasmania and New Zealand.

Often with our Whisky Ladies sessions, there is a particular bottle which “anchors” an idea and we build a theme around it. In this case, over two years ago our host picked up from Australia Whippersnapper’s Crazy Uncle Moonshine. She then stumbled across in the UK a pair of New Zealand whiskies from a closed distillery… and thus a Kiwi plus Australian dram discovery in Mumbai theme was born!

And while we technically had 3 bottles, our core focus is whisky, so when we learned another Whisky Lady had been hanging on to a celebrated Sullivans Cove from Tasmania, it naturally had to join the mix! And I had a “back-up” Hellyers Road Pinot Noire…. just in case it was needed…which proved be handy as traffic conditions on that particular evening were atrocious!

So what specifically made it into our “Trans Tasman Tour” explorations?

We closed with regaling each other with personal tales of our crazy uncles toasting to their quirks, maddening qualities that sit side by side with remarkable generosity and sparks of brilliance… with the spirit that kick started the evening idea in the 1st place:

Those who successfully navigated Bombay traffic to reach on time were rewarded with a birthday bonus:

It was indeed a memorable malty evening of fabulous fellowship over a different dram or two or three or four or more! 

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Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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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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