First Impression: A Duet from The Oak Barrel Australian Whisky Distillers Dinner

A wise man once said that “you are the total sum of  the people you have ever met”.. and Thursday night was certainly a big plus of my whisky journey.

The Oak Barrel has again proven to be a place for whisky lovers to gather. Kudos to Nighthawk Diner for putting together four well curated courses, and big cheers to Mr. Scott Fitzsimons for working tirelessly to ensure the night was a success.

I had the honour to be seated beside Mr. Patrick Maguire of Tasmania Distillery. We chatted at length about the whisky he brought along, the TD 60 that was aged in a re-filled cask for 10 years (more on the later), and about the industry outlook in general. It was a humbling experience to meet and learn from one of the trail blazers in the industry.

  It was also nice to hear from Mr. Jimmy McKeown and Mr. Tim Hosken of Whipper Snapper Distillers, they spoke passionately about their whiskey crafting process, including their experimentation with quinoa. I am a fan of the Upshot and I look forward to seeing more of their goodies in the near future.

We also heard from Mr. Ian Schmidt who proudly offered to those in presence a preview to the second batch of the Tin Shed Distillery’s Gold Label releases and Mr. Brian Hollingworth who took the occasion to officially launch the Black Gate #008, a wonderful addition to the collection, which I will be sure to get one for myself for a more in-depth look.

The two most anticipated drams of the night, however, came from distilleries that have yet to put out a whisky on the market.

The Joadja JW001 is a 20 month old single malt that has been aging in a 32 L white oak cask that was seasoned with Oloroso for nine long years.

The quality of the cask really did speak for itself.

Rather mineral driven on the nose initially, a hint soapy but then smooth chocolate and sticky wine notes slowly sip out along with crumbly brown sugar. Nutmeg and jamón ibérico counteracts well with the sweet notes.

Much like a mulled wine on the palate at first, ripe red apples simmering away, oozing out nectar before gradually softens out. Although it’s slightly on the raw side, there is not a lot of alcoholic burn considering the ABV at 60.3% and the short maturation time.

It’s a seriously good cask that has certainly imprinted its DNA on the spirit, Mr. Valero Jimenez is certainly onto something with his cask policy, courtesy of his Spanish connection.

 Another distillery that seems to be enjoying the availability of beautifully seasoned casks is our local boys from Rosebery.

The Archie Rose selected by Mr. Joe Dinsamoor and Mr. Dave Withers that was shared amongst the attendees turned exactly one year old on the night, and I dare say it was definitely the revelation to the crowd. It was distilled partly from heavily peated barley from the malting house that also supplies to Bruichladdich, and aged in a FIFTY year old port cask.

The result is phenomenal. Right off the nose there is a very herbal peat note. Heavy in nature but not at all sharp and offensive. The assertiveness of the peat goes well with the generous vanilla note, the grassiness and the lemon marmalade and limestone note make for a complex affair.

Rich toffee and candied orange dominate the initial narrative on the palate before the mighty peatiness sets in. Sooty with a slight lemony note. The wee sweetness comes along nicely and the transitioning to a chocolate gooeyness in the finish is delightful.

It’s by far the “peatiest” Australian whisky I have tasted so far, as progress report goes, this is well executed and should excite a lot of Australian whisky fans. A perfect wrap for the evening and a even better start for the events that will unfold this weekend.
  A big thank you to everyone who made this night special.
Until next year.