Side by Side: Heartwood Vat out of Hell at Tetsuya’s

Whilst out dining with the girlfriend at Tetsuya’s to celebrate our anniversary, I was frankly surprised to see Heartwood being listed on the whisky list, a list well priced and curated with a clear focus placed on quality Australian whiskies. With some helpful suggestions from fellow malt mates online, I selected the Vat out of Hell, a Heartwood bottling I have been meaning to try.

A vatting of Lark sherry cask and bourbon cask from Tasmania distillery, at 67.4% it hardly seems like the whisky to be had with fine food, however, the reckless rebel in me does not particularly subscribe to such conventional sentiment. Still, I only nosed the whisky whilst being served the last savoury dish of Wagyu Tenderloin with Salsify & Shishito Pepper..

The wagyu tenderloin is immaculate , full of natural meaty characters and with a cotton like softness that simply melts away without the oil oozing out and leaving a fatty mouthfeel. This coincides with aromas of the dram, initially muted but in time blossoming into a grand mahogany note with a touch of tobacco. It is sweet and buttery, with semi-melted brown sugar and a lace of smoke that comes later on. Hint of dried fruit peels with a natural tree gum note as well.

The Pear & Custard Apple Cream with Leaves is truthfully a wondrous work of art, the lively leaves have been finely crafted and the creaminess of custard is accentuated by the whisky. It’s unapologetically big with the syrupy sweetness as expected, but the sweetness is actually quite sophisticated, with an elegant touch of raisins that goes with the general flow of things instead of making a big sherry scene. Paired with slices of well cured pears, it’s not as heavy a dram as one would anticipate.

The sweetness of the dram is actually quite restrained by a dryness that is most welcomed in this instance. Robust citrus honey with the toffee lolly slowly melting away, all the while there is an underlying floral tone that is much uplifting. The delivery expands and contracts like it has been given the breath of life. It is pure indulgence to pair with a spoonful of Tetsuya’s Chocolate Cake; countless layers of different chocolate moose coated with a rich outer layer of smooth molten dark chocolate. The interaction between the chocolate and toffee is rather heavenly, with the richness of the two somehow balancing one another without being excessive, perhaps aided by the spices infused burning sensation from the high proof whisky.

The dram finishes off with sticky semi-dried strawberries, immensely juicy with a robust sweet barley note that dries out slowly and eventually with wood chips and eucalyptus.

I think what made the pairing so special was that having a Heartwood with food wasn’t supposed to work, but somehow it did. A superb fine dining experience with an outstanding curveball of a dram to cap off a well enjoyed evening, it doesn’t get much better than that.