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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Tullibardine 228 Burgundy 43%

I will admit I’ve had very limited experience with Tullibardine…. My one passing sample was a 20 year old at a Winnipeg whisky bar that I didn’t even finish.

The Burgundy is part of this Highland distillery’s wood finish series with Sauternes, Burgundy and Sherry finish using the number of  litres to label the expression.

Official distillery photo

Tullibardine Burgundy 43%

  • Nose – Crisp with a piquant quality, very fruity – lots of white fruits like pear, apple then settled into a pronounced green melon like a honey dew melon, green toffee, honey
  • Palate – Light spice, quite direct
  • Finish – Spice finish
  • Water – Capers… bitter… then… believe it or not lifebuoy soap

We puzzled over the Burgundy dimension… “Where is the Burgundy” It had none of the colour or red fruit quality we tend to associate with a Burgundy finish…

To be honest, it wasn’t a “keeper” for any of us.

And what do the folks over at Tullibardine have to say about their 228 Burgundy whisky?

THE AUBURN HUE OF THIS WHISKY COMES DIRECTLY FROM ITS TIME SPENT IN THE 228 LITRE BARRIQUES THAT PREVIOUSLY HELD PINOT NOIR FROM CHATEAU DE CHASSAGNE MONTRACHET.

  • THE NOSE OF THE 228 FEATURES RED CHERRIES AND VANILLA WITH HINTS OF CHOCOLATE AND TURKISH DELIGHT.
  • ON THE PALATE, THERE IS A REAL HINT OF RED SUMMER FRUIT, MORE CHOCOLATE AND A SWEET SPICE NOTE ON THE FINISH.

What else did we try in our “Sinful Samples” evening?

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Worthy Whiskies – Arran Amarone Cask Finish 50%

As Whisky Ladies, we have started to explore cask finishes beyond the standard with a cognac cask Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 8 years and Brenne Estate Cask 40%, pinot noire with AWA Pinot Noire 42%, rum with Mackmyra, port with Kavalan Concertmaster Port Cask.

This was our first foray with an Amarone cask finish. Amarone is rich Italian dry red wine made from partially dried grapes of the Corvina (45–95%), Rondinella (5–30%) and other red grape varieties (up to 25%). In Italian, the name Amarone literally means “the Great Bitter” as this helped distinguish it from the Recioto produced in the same region, which is sweeter in taste.

And what does finishing Arran whisky in ex Amarone casks do? Some pretty marvellous things…

Arran Amarone Cask Finish 50%

  • Nose – Light sweet cherry, a lovely sweet not candy sweet, restrained and nuanced, nothing dominant yet overall delicious
  • Palate – Yum! Starts with an interesting fresh layer, almost like sweet paan, or a Turkish Delight, some mint, a spice tingle here too yet with a light touch, super smooth and very easy to simply keep sipping
  • Finish – Subdued, cilantro, a light sweet finish

Normally we don’t remark much on colour however in this case we couldn’t help but observe how attractive this whisky is with its pink rose hue.

It was also absolutely perfect for a Sunday Sundowner – refreshing and delightful, sophisticated and utterly enjoyable. In short – it was dangerously drinkable. For many, this was the by far the preferred whisky of the evening… as it was just a perfect pick for the setting watching the sunset dip beyond the horizon of the Arabian sea.

It also very much falls into the category of whiskies that are not impossible to track down and reasonably affordable. While I’m not sure where our Whisky Lady picked it up in the UK, it is available from both Master of Malt & The Whisky Exchange for approximately $60. Believe it or not, I first spotted and coveted it in Winnipeg, Canada at the local liquor store!

What else did we sample in our Whisky Ladies “Worthy Whiskies” Sunday Sundowner?

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