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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Another French whisky? Guillon Banyuls 43%

Once upon a time if you spoke of whisky from France, folks might look at you with a rather puzzled expression. Whisky? France? Surely you mean the other W – Wine, right?

Fast forward and there are an increasing number of contenders vying for a place in the world of whisky… including from France. And with France the 2nd largest consumer of whisky after the UK and before the US, no wonder French distilleries are popping up and getting into the act.

This Guillon spirit was our 1st in a quartet of NAS whiskies with our original Bombay Whisky tasting group – sampled completely blind.

Guillon Banyuls (2015) 43%

  • Nose – Some chocolate cherry, almost a rum quality, fresh lemon then vanilla, light banana fruits, a ginger oil, then shifted into some cereals with a hint of sweet spice
  • Palate – Mirchy pepper hot with raisins, young, no body and oddly flat
  • Finish – Short – just alcohol warmth with a bitter
  • Water – Doesn’t enhance – if anything makes it a bit dry

It initially reminded us of a bourbon – not with the typical brash banana caramel but instead a softer, fresher approach.

With the reveal and the decanter styled bottle, we started joking about whether we were having perfume or whisky or something else entirely?

While new to us, Guillon Distillery has been producing spirits since 1997. Owner Thierry Guillon has been aging spirits in oak barrels from French vineyards of the AOC regions of Champagne, Banyuls and Sauternes.

This particularly spirit was matured in Banyuls wine casks – a French dessert wine similar in style to Port.

But is it whisky? Turns out… it is not. After I originally shared this post, a wee twitter flurry commenced which clarified this is a ‘malt spirit’ rather than whisky… as Franck Debernardi   pointed out “They use white alcohol mixed with malt extracts/flavors and sugar. They were forbidden to sell their spirit as whisky.” 

What this meant was during our evening of sampling, we were under a misconception. Where talk had turned to French whiskies… Given the range of wine casks in France, it is entirely logical that French whiskies play around with maturing in wine casks. Our Whisky Ladies recently sampled a whisky from Alsace (AWA) matured in ex Pinot Noir cask and another (Brenne) in ex Cognac casks. But was this particular liquid in that category? Apparently not!

What else did we try in our NAS evening?

French whiskies sampled over the last year or so include:

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