Whisky Review: Hakushu Aged 18 Years Limited Edition

Style: Forest fruits, Peppery and Oaky

Nose:

Starts with a powerful herbal drum roll, vanilla barley, autumn apples and honey mead emerging afterwards. Black pepper fuses with peppermint and showers down on the whole parade. Fat blue berries leading fragrant tropical fruits, mineral peat going slightly chalky at the back. Clean, peppery with optimal sweetness.

Palate:

Bright medicinal herbs entrance. Fresh forest fruits pushing another wave of thoroughly stewed tropical fruits. Black pepper and spearmint firmly etched into the veins of this spirit. Flipping to the drier side, cool mountain breeze, mineral notes uncovered and earthy peat surfaces. Towering pine, smoke zooming in with the faintest echo of sea waves. Dry vanilla barley-malt staying till the very end.

Finish:

Refluxes of fragrant apple with Hakushu freshness, prunes and assorted fruits and a final touch of vanilla oak to give slight bitterness.

Thoughts:

Another complete display of Hakushu, each element gets to perform under the forest-themed parade. Nice and complex. Although I prefer the Hakushu 12 more, as some might find the pepper and oak in the 18 is on the stronger side. Barely made it to 1 star if you ask me. That said, it is a fresh and comfy dram.

☆ [Recommended]

[43% • Original Bottling • Limited Edition • Circa 2016 Bottled • *-]

-Esmond

Interview: Catching Up With The Hollingworths of Black Gate Distillery

You can read our last interview with Brian and Genise here.

Nicholas:  So tell me, what has changed at Black Gate since our last chat over three years ago?

Brian:  Well, we built a cool room so we can ferment during the hotter weather, and we were able to increase production from when we first started, from 3 barrels a winter to about 30 this year, 30 100 litre barrels..

We have also added a 630 litre still, and upgraded our mash tun from about 380 litres to to 700 litres.

Nicholas:And I understand you have also changed your mash bill?

Brian:  Yes, drastically, we have been doing 100% heavily peated mash for the past two years.

Nicholas What’s the reason behind this change?

Brian I think there is a gap in the market for Australian producers, no one was specialising in heavily peated and there’s a demand for it, and Australian peated whiskies tend to be not so heavily peated..

I have actually been bringing in peated barley from the UK to make it more smoky, about 45-55 but usually 52 ppm.

Nicholas And you cut down on your fermentation time, is that right?

Brian Yes we do 4-day-ferments now in the temperature controlled cool room, so our ferments more consistent and our new makes are now more consistent with very slight differences from batch to batch.

But then of course we are at the mercy of the barrels as to how they turn out as you know they can vary a bit..

We are fermenting twice and distilling three times a week these days which keeps us pretty busy through out the week, and of course Genise is still making rum.

Nicholas The barrels on the racks look bigger as well..

Brian Yes we have bought some 230 litre Port casks from SA Cooperage and we have also got some 230 Litre ex-Bourbon casks which we think will suit the heavily peated new make quite well.

Nicholas:  Three years ago you were one of the first craft distilleries that started releasing whiskies after Sullivan Cove’s WWA win, how has the market for Australian whiskies changed since then?

Brian Definitely, when we first started, we had no idea that people would come from Sydney to come and visit us!  The interest has definitely grown.

Genise:  Especially at the markets!

Brian We started out at the farmers market so it’s amazing to see how different things are now.

Nicholas Talk about your experiences with regional markets, not a lot of  Australian distilleries are focusing on that slice of the pie, what has inspired you to do that?

Genise:  It gets our name out there and it gets people noticing us and noticing what’s around.  Half the time I go to these markets I get asked where we are from.  And when I say we are from Mendoorin they would say they didn’t even know we are out there so it’s basically just letting people know we are here.

Brian:  We have enjoyed sales at the capital cities and we are just sort of branching out to new customer bases in the regional areas who are more savvy about local products these days.

Our earlier customers are already active in the whisky circle but there are so many more people coming abroad, people who are just discovering craft whiskies.  There is a growing interest for sure!

Nicholas: So, Genise you have started marketing whiskies directly.

Genise:  Um, I am full time at the distillery now; it seems like a natural progression.

Nicholas:  Becci is at university now..

Genise:  Yeh, there’s sort of no one here anymore and I have more time on my hands to do the sales part of things.

Brian: I think with the change in distribution, or the dissolving of partnership it was just sort of us going in a different direction for a bit.

Nicholas So what changes can we expect?

Genise:  Hopefully people will like talking directly to the makers, I think it makes a little bit of difference to talk to people who have been through the entire process.

I hope they would like that whoever they are speaking to is the person making it so they can get a more direct answer.

Brian:  We are excited to be interact more with the actual customers.

Genise: whereas we didn’t know them before.

Nicholas:  So we can expect to see you more often then?

Brian:  Yes we aim to be at more cities and do more tastings.

We really enjoy meeting the customers.

Nicholas And the price?

Genise:  We are excited about that too!  As we up our production we should be able to drop the price a bit which is great as it is making the product more accessible to people..

Thank you Brian and Genise for your time, it was great catching up with you both, until next time!

For those who are interested in trying their whiskies, their next cask will be imminently released here.

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Ardbeg Lord of the Isles

[46.0%・25 Years Old・Official Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

Mellow, delightful white fruits laced with faint hints of ash and finely dried coastal peat, some flannel seeds and a subtle layer of burnt oranges to create the depth.  The wood is elegant and soft, whilst the warming bonfire sensation subtly builds, the iodine is restrained and balanced by the French vanilla.

Palate & Finish:

The white fruits fare bright and sublime, crisp apples, lychee, Maraschino cherries, caramelised banana together with some burnt oranges, strawberry lollies forming something truly elegant and complex, with hints of cured ginger and white pepper to even out before the smoke begins to sink in and the dry peat effortlessly takes over.  The oak along with some bitter chocolate and more burnt oranges on the back palate lightly sucks out the moisture.

The dram finishes with sea salt seasoned chocolate as the peat drags on, a tad on the dry side with a hint of menthol

Thoughts:

Ahhh, a seasoned and an immaculately detailed Ardbeg.  The oak cuts in a bit soon, but a beautiful dram nonetheless..

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Straight From The Cask Glenburgie 1963 Aged 39 Years

[58.0%・39 Years OldDistilled in 1963・Bottled  2002・Signatory Vintage Bottling Selected by La Maison du Whisky・Cask No. 4750Single Cask Release of 185 Bottles]

Nose:

The dram opens with a clean, mellow dose of stone fruits, then it is like opening the wardrobe to find your Barbour Bedale freshly brushed with wax together with your oil finished tin cloth jacket from Filson.  The oak is stately and is met with this golden sweetness from the clean malt, all the while with that old school Sherry cask creaminess running underneath. More tan leather with fine creamy cigar leaves giving a bit of weight, with a delight dose of Paris-Brest filled with caramel cream.  Dig deeper though and there is something dirty lurking beneath the exquisite fineness, something peaty and smoky.

Palate & Finish:

White oak infused soft syrup with some tender lemony edges, a waxy honey sweetness.  Caramelised pineapples with a hint of vegetative note and traces of peat smoke; slightly on the earthy side with some cloves and walnuts as the tannins seeps through. Though the green grapes do bring out this wee hint of salivating acidity.

Lemony, wHite oak infused soft syrup, cooked pineapples, a hint vegetative with some traces of peat smoke, rather earthy with quite a splash of peppery spices as tannins keep sipping through along green grapes.

Elegant finish that elongates with these notes of wine-y grapes lingering.

Thoughts:

A splendid vintage whisky, an excellent Glenburgie, and it’s peated!

What a joy for me to write about the dram.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Michel Couvreur 1984

[43.0%NASDistilled in 1984 Michel Couvreur BottlingSingle CaskBottling]

Nose:

Brown sugar and matured pear sweetness giving off that bright yet refined scent dressed with an elegant mahogany note.  Soft egg custard and tobacco with more ripe stone fruits coming out on the lighter spectrum and the lightly toasted barley and dark chocolate giving a heavier edge.

Palate & Finish:

Brilliantly cask seasoned and oh so concentrated.  Raisins and dried Muscat grapes but also Maraschino cherries and can pineapples.  Hint of coconut as well, as the liquid cherry ripe continues to please, so well tuned with the malt just casually seeping out gradually.

The cinnamon infused sweetness drags on to reveal a wee coffee note and a bit more malt.

Thoughts:

Technically a NAS but it’s really about 30 years old. Not particularly whisky-esque with its immense cask influence but it’s got that red lip classic thing that some people like..

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Berry Bros & Rudd Bunnahabhain Exceptional Casks 1987 (Cask Ref 2484)

[49.7%・28 Years Old・Distilled in 1987・Berry Bros & Rudd Bottling・Cask No. 2484・Single Cask Release of 185 Bottles]

Nose:

A juicy number with soft pears and lemon twists, the malt lays a gentle foundation and complimented by the vanilla and sandalwood notes.  Fragrant barley aromas with hints of raspberry coulis and icing sugar.   Natural and attractive.

Palate & Finish:

Delicious burst of Nashi pears and lemons, with some Sunkist oranges and vanilla nougats also.  Golden honey and malty lager with the oak dipping in politely to give a touch of drying texture.  Some yeasty note and spices on the back palate.

Lingering traces of barley sugar and cinnamon spices in the finish with a wee touch of sweet pitted cherries.

Thoughts:

A tasty bunny that shows plenty of restraint, balanced and sophisticated.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: The Balvenie Single Barrel Aged 25 Years Cask Number 7004

[47.8%・25 Years Old・Distilled in 1989・Bottled Circa 2015・Official Bottling・Cask No. 7004・Single Cask Release]

Nose:

The nose exerts rich honey, and gooey caramel, luxurious but very refined.  Very much Balvenie-esque with a hearty dose of malt.  The wood is well and truly mellow, with hints of pure poached pears and some marzipan as more sweet custard note oozes out.

Palate & Finish:

Vanilla and honey through and through, citrus smoothly gliding alongside a wholesome shortbread note.  Nothing too difficult with some charming maltiness to meet the spices that are a tad on the sharp side.

Cereal dressed with honey and nutmeg powder in the finish.

Thoughts:

Thoroughly Balvenie, very much a wholesome dram.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Iniquity Batch No. 008

[46.0%NASBottled in 2017Official BottlingBatch Release]

Nose:

A firm sense of toffee and chocolate on the nose but it’s also slightly herbal.  Even with the leather and mahogany it is inherently sweet and as gentle as it gets for an Australian whisky.  It’s not particularly layered but certainly charming.

Palate & Finish:

Dark blackberries getting crushed on the palate, there’s plenty of life yet with the delivery!  Immense dose of that old Australian Port influence atop a rather herbal smoke base, plated with a splash of cinnamon with touches of burnt toffee and cured Seville oranges.

A soft finish that fades away, a hint of malt and a wee bit of peat, some milk powder creaminess as well.

Thoughts:

Quite rich to begin with, whether the peat adds to the dram is debatable, the cask influence is quite gorgeous as is, perhaps the peat could be more defined.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Ardbeg 10 Years Old

Style: Sweet, Smoky and Sophisticated

Nose:

Delicate lemon tart fuses with a beautiful body of peat smoke. Hint of dry hay, seaweed, orange confectionaries core with a zesty edge. Fruitiness embraced by a gentle, icy breeze. Subtle notes of smoked ham, ginger shreds, Maraschino cherry and liquorice root lurking at the back. Very nice.

Palate:

Liquorice and bonfire peat lacing onto a candied orange citrus core. Bright, perfumed lemon tone, iodine, seaside barbeque smoke surfaces in the middle. The tone drops in the second half, chocolate dust followed by a heavier dried dark cherries and liquorice root. All integrated together nicely.

Finish:

More chocolate notes, barbeque smoke and a touch of peat embedded within. Cappuccino, lemon honey drops to finish.

Thoughts:

As we are in the hunt for special editions and fancy single casks with rare specs, but sometimes we forget that some excellent drops are available to us at incredible price all along. This Ardbeg 10 is a great example of that – Lively but graceful expression, elements in harmony, extraordinary balance between light and heavy notes (I have read online that Ardbeg Ten is exclusively matured in Bourbon casks, but personally I feel there is some sherry influence involved in this, hmmmmm…). Not a super 2 star whisky, as I cannot give extra points for its price-quality ratio, but the quality is definitely in that territory. My gratitude to whisky makers who produce quality drops at such an affordable price – Whisky should be consumed and appreciated, not for social class distinction.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[46% • Original Bottling • Non Chill Filtered • 2013 Bottled • Non Coloured • General Release • **-]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Springbank Aged 10 Years

Style: Fruity and Smoky

Nose:

Starting with a spark of flint stone then we have cloudy hay smoke shrouding on delicate pear drops and lemon pop tart. Vanilla sugar absorbed by the malt. Deep waxiness, a persistent dried grass undertone. Aroma oscillating between sweet and dry planes along the way. The acidity lingers to give it a refreshing, sharp edge. Good oily weight and decent depth. Pretty nice.

Palate:

Smokey water diffuses through and reaches the bright tropical fruits core. Teasing tartness combines with peppmint spice and tannins at the front. Pineapples dipped in nectar, coconut shreds, ripe apricots tart and chunky dried mangoes in the middle. A lick of lemon candle wax and mineral notes. Malt reverts back to barley to show some dryness. Vanilla dropping lower and rendezvous with another flick of peat smoke and wood twigs. Oak rumbles till the end.

Finish:

Fruit juice gelatin coated with a thin layer of honey wax. Nashi pears, sultanas and floral notes whispering softly till the end.

Thoughts:

Hmmmm… It’s hard to describe this feeling… Okay, although this might sound very clumsy, I will give it a go – I think this Springbank 10 is “the whisky’s whisky” or “how should a whisky taste like” in my mind. No, it’s not a perfect whisky, but it has everything I want: Fruity malt with optimum peat, multiple facets on display, bold expression (actually reminds me a bit of Yoichi, or rather, it’s the other way round) with clean execution. A classy dram. I mucho mucho dig this. Close to 2 stars.

☆ [Recommended]

[46% • Original Bottling • General Release • Non Chill Filtered • 2015 Bottled • *+]

-Esmond