Dram Review: McHenry Single Malt Barrel No. 1

I was fortunate enough to be one of the first people in Sydney to try McHenry Distillery’s first release at the Oak Barrel earlier this week. Cheers to Kathleen and Scott for arranging this so the crowd can get an early taste of this rather limited release.

The Barrel No. 1 appears to be quite unusual for a contemporary Australian whisky. Turn the bottle over and you will notice that it is a 5 Yo whisky, much older than what other distilleries would put out as their first releases these days. The whisky is also bottled at a rather low abv for a Tasmanian single cask, at 44%.

My understanding is that unlike other distilleries in Tasmania, being the southern most distillery actually means that their whiskies are maturing much different than the other Tasmanian whiskies we know and love. Now that presents a unique challenge as the angel’s share is still high as compared to Scotch whilst the maturation rate is slow for new world whiskies with the abv dropping rather than increasing over time. I think that’s why Barrel No. 1 spent four years in a bourbon barrel before getting finished in a smaller French oak cask. This is hardly the full picture but one can’t help but think that these factors do create unwanted pressure on the distillery to produce quality whiskies whilst striking a fine balance between cask maturity and yield, not to mention there is the financial side of the business as well. It’s a delicate subject indeed but I am sure production methods will evolve in time to address these issues.

[44.0%5 Years OldDistilled in 2011・Bottled in 2016・Official BottlingSingle Cask Release]

Turning to the whisky itself, the first release has a refreshing nose of lime zest and green banana, a slightly thickened vanilla with a wee touch of coal smoke.

The delivery on the palate is not overly sweet initially, with notes of citrus fruits, clean wood and youthful maltiness. The stickiness from the wood finish then begins to unfold, chocolate coated almonds and burnt sugar with a custard like note before coming to a soft finish of floral notes.

I am happy to report that Mr. William McHenry’s first single malt creation is quite charming and promising. A refreshing newcomer that warrants our attention for doing things their own way. Situated at 43 degrees south, perhaps we have got a name for their standard expression!

Style: Fresh and charming