Sullivans Cove 16 year 47.5%

Sullivans Cove shot from quiet quality in a special niche corner to global prominence a few years ago thanks to a few well deserved awards. Since then, tracking down a bottle is challenging… even more so to find one with an age statement.

Our merry Mumbai malters were earlier introduced to the Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask and not so long ago our Whisky Ladies went on a Trans Tasmanian Tour which included  Sullivans Cove Double Cask, yet these glimpses into what Tasmania has to offer and more specifically Sullivans Cove remain rare opportunities here in Mumbai.

Which made it all the more interesting to discover, sampling completely blind this beauty…

Sullivans Cove 16 year (05 Dec 2000/22 Feb 2016) Barrel No HH0561 47.5% Bottle No 74 of 120, Non-chill filtered, American oak ex-bourbon cask

  • Colour – Dark gold
  • Nose – Sharp, distinctive, came across as high alcohol initially, then opened into a tropical fruit paradise, some biscuit, compost and wet earth, moss, it then rapidly dissipated closing up… with a few deep sniffs could discern rubber, cashew feni… quite tricky on the nose as it was on the one hand a bit sharp and on the other hand shy… After the 1st sip revealed pears, dry copra, beyond the coconut, the tropical fruits really came to the fore, quite lively… After quite some time and a revisit, there was paan betel nut too!
  • Palate – Barley water and really rather sweet, then the spice grows, not harsh but surprisingly forceful, chew and get cinnamon. It had this most amazingly deceptive quality of seeming mellow and yet take a good swish and breath in to find SPICE!  Yet equally take a small slow sip and it was like honey water with just a dash of pepper,  so so smooth
  • Finish – A funny sort of finish… An immediate ‘flash’ then just holds you gently for quite some time
  • Water – Most were not tempted. Those that did found it took the sharp and spice mellowing it to modest and nice.

While initially the nose gave a sense of alcohol strength, the palate clearly put this into perspective with a determination it must be below 48%. There were many aspects of this whisky that were ‘tricky’ – in a very interesting way. It also was one that demanded time and attention. Sit back, relax and enjoy the dialectic.

With some whiskies, we find the flavour profiles are fairly universal – accessible to practically anyone in the world. In cases like this Sullivans Cove, we found many qualities that fit perfectly with the palate of Indian fruits, spices, country liquor and deserts. Which made it all the more meaningful and memorable to enjoy in India.

What else do we know about this Tasmanian dram? Here is what they say…

To create this exceptional Single Malt Whisky our distiller has selected the highest quality local ingredients and American Oak ex-Bourbon casks. The award winning result is elegant and creamy exhibiting sweet malt, vanilla and citrus notes with a lingering finish. Taste our splendid isolation, indulge your senses.

Our host admitted this bottle set him back a pretty penny. I do believe something like $400 was mentioned, in large part as a rather hefty “Angel’s Share” made the remaining liquid all the more precious.

What did we try in our “pedigree” evening?

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Pedigree Malts – Midleton, Sullivans Cove, Kilkerran

There is no doubt that the world of whisky has changed and will continue to change. What has emerged are a few players that are truly “pedigree” even if their origins are not your typical Scottish… Brands that are being recognized for their consistent calibre…

We were treated to such a trio on a fine monsoon swept evening in Mumbai… Each was sampled completely blind with the reveal done only after all three were given our full and careful consideration.

What did we try in our Pedigree Malts?

While none of these are the “traditional” pedigree vintage whiskies, each has a dedication to quality that shines through.

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“Trans Tasman Tour” – Sullivans Cove Double Cask 40%

After some experimental whiskies from Australia and New Zealand, it was time to turn to one we had high hopes would satisfy our craving for something a bit more complex and perhaps even a bit more classic…

Based in Tasmania, Sullivans Cove is one of the distilleries that put Australian whiskies on the world map. And with good reason.

Tasmania’s Sullivans Cove Double Cask (2008/2015) 40%

  • Nose – Fruity, spice, finally a “proper” whisky, a bit of Amarula creaminess, some ripe bananas, forest greens, mud and moss, nice and earthy, then flowers
  • Palate – Comes together beautifully, some coriander, full and well rounded, some raisins, accessible yet satisfying
  • Finish – The icing on the cake, fabulous light yet has substance morphing into cherry, dark chocolate, cinnamon

There is a certain elegance to this whisky. It is both classic and modern. What we also remarked is that though only 40%, this was a proper full whisky that left nothing out.

We sampled the DC080 which is a combination of a French Oak Australian Port Cask and American Oak Bourbon Cask, using barrels HH0203, HH0206, HH0272, HH0408, HH0437 with the youngest from 22/08/2000, Bottled 13/07/2015. We sampled Bottle 1,458 of 1,556, freshly opened that evening.

Here is what the Sullivans Cove have to say about their Double Cask, appreciating there is variation between editions:

  • Nose – Vanilla, soft malt and orchard fruits
  • Palate – Honey, boiled lollies and buttered scones
  • Finish – Mild spices and soft oak with lingering creamy sweetness

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

Curious about more? 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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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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