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N.Z. Malt Whisky Co Doublewood 10 year old

Good Looks + Substance = Danger

0 1490

@jdcookReview by @jdcook

31st Mar 2012

0

  • Nose
    24
  • Taste
    22
  • Finish
    22
  • Balance
    22
  • Overall
    90

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

About a week ago I received a PM through the site from @tomholder who works for the NZ Whisky Company mentioning that I looked familiar from one of the Tasmanian Whisky Appreciation Society pissups, uh, I mean 'meetings!' These are of course very sober serious affairs which are in no way an excuse for a group of people to get together try several different whiskies and have fun. Ahem.

He was wondering, seeing as I obviously don't mind the odd drop and don't mind expounding my thoughts about them, if I was willing to try some of his product and put together a review. Having been through a dry spell recently due to having a young child (soon to be children) and moving to a single income, I thought why not!

We got in contact via email and he dropped by my work a couple of days later to hand over a bottle of DoubleWood 10 year old, and here we are!

Firstly, some history.

The Willowbank Distillery was originally opened by the Baker family and they were soon distilling and marketing whiskies and blends under various names, including Wilsons and 45 South. During the 1980s a large Canadian company, Seagrams, purchased the distillery and made various improvements, and started to release single malts under the moniker 'Lammerlaw.' Production finally ceased in 1997 when Seagrams rationalised the world-wide holdings and the distillery was sold to Fosters, who mothballed it in 2000, and shipped the stills off to Fiji to make rum.

In 2010 the remaining stock, after passing through a few different hands, was set to be appraised by Greg Ramsay and (I believe) Bill Lark (of the Lark Distillery) in order to set a value for the liquidators to try selling off. Instead Greg decided to make an offer on the remaining 600 barrels.

Since then they have released several small range bottlings, which do very well in New Zealand (unsurprisingly) but are fairly hard to come by elsewhere.

Anyway, on to the actual whisky in question!

According to the various bits of blurb Tom sent me and that I have gleaned from around the place, it is a blend of 70% single malt and 30% premium grain whisky. It is matured for 6 years in American oak bourbon barrels and then finished for up to 7 years in French oak red wine barrels (according to Tom there were various types of wine barrels, but all were red). It's labelled as a 10 year old for legality reasons - they are absolutely certain the stock is all at least that age, but with some barrels they purchased not being stamped with any dates, they have to err on the side of caution.

Tom assured me that no colouring was added, however on a (slightly) negative note, it was filtered (although I forgot to ask how, although I'm assuming he meant chill-filtered - Tom could you clear that up in a comment?).

Without doubt it is one of the finest whiskies to look at I've ever come across. The bottle has an outline map of New Zealand printed in white onto the glass with minimalist labeling, which means there is no distracting from the very deep rich coppery-burgundy colour of the whiskey itself. You can see the influence of the red wine barrels even when it sits by itself, but next to other whiskies, this is really very dark. It certainly is nice and enticing to look at on the shelf!

The nose is full of syrupy rich red fruits and toffee, with subtle floral and vanilla highlights. I'm not a big red wine drinker, but there is a hint that this smells like an excellent fruity red wine that has had the slightly acidic edge taken off it with the bourbon cask undertones. It's also very strong for something bottled at 40%, don't sniff too quickly or you will start to get a little spirit burn in the nose. The first glass I had took me a while to even start, the nose really is that good!

The taste is initially gentle and sweetly creamy. This builds slowly and starts to dry my mouth out as we get some oak, nut and dried red fruits. Over several seconds the similarities to a good dry fruity red wine start to just hover in the background. All-in-all, a bit gentler and tamer than the nose, but very pleasant and dangerously easy to come back to!

The finish is moderate long, smooth and gentle, being pleasantly warm with initial notes of toffee, oak and nuts, fading leaving just the gentle fruity dry red wine notes.

In a nutshell, this was a pretty nice surprise. The nose is up there with the best of them, and the taste and finish are dangerously smooth and enticing. It's the kind of dram that is easy for people starting their whisk(e)y journeys, but that will have old salts raising their eyebrows with appreciation when they try it.

Normally when I try a new bottle I have a glass and then leave it a few days before coming back to it to see if my first impressions were accurate when I come to reviewing. This one is a little charmer though, and keeps drawing my eye back to it. Something that looks this good shouldn't be allowed to have this much substance... :p

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14 comments

tomholder commented

Great review, really happy that you liked the whisky. Yes, it is a chill filtering process that we use. However, we watch the process very carefully, and take much pride and care in it. As I'm sure jdcook will back up, it hasn't effected the flavour or colour, and we certainly don't add anything to it. We also have a range of non-chill filtered malts: thenzwhisky.com/products/cask.html.

For any Aussies reading, the DoubleWood is available at Dan Murphy's.

7 years ago 0

@jdcook
jdcook commented

It would be good to try this one at cask strength, but I understand with the excise in Australia the way it is, it's virtually financial suicide to do cask strength bottlings in any real volume.

7 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

An excellent and informative review, JD. Thank you! This sounds like a whisky I would very much like to experience. I hope that I get the chance in the US. Maybe version 4.3. I sort of like the "pick-up game" effect of various unaccounted for different 'varietals' of wine barrels being used for maturation, though I suppose that puts this into the status of a 'one-off' kind of offering. Yes, maybe I'll get to try version 4.3.

And thanks @tomholder for participating in Connosr, weighing in on this whisky, and working to bring more and different whisky to the world.

7 years ago 0

@jdcook
jdcook commented

@Victor - there are a few decent little distilleries and offerings in this part of the world, but the industry, while pretty vibrant is really being held back by the tax excise system on alcohol raising the price of producing a finished product ridiculously. I sat down and worked out that according to the formulas I could get my hands on, abover a certain percentage, it cost $6 in excise every percentage point of ABV. So the difference between 40% and 43% would be $18 in terms of how much it costs the distillery.

That's why a lot of distilleries here basically bottle at 40% (because they have to), and the various cask strength offerings are pretty expensive (or loss leaders).

Hopefully the ridiculous 19th century taxation on alcohol system gets fixed up here.

Still, despite all that some of the produce is a lot of fun to drink, and never boring as everyone is still experimenting!

7 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

Sorry to hear of the governmental industry obstructions. There is always hope for change, though.

7 years ago 0

@jdcook
jdcook commented

@Victor - it's no biggie - everyone here who knows anything about whisky knows the score and expects it to change at some point, but give the current economic climate the government is unlikely to make changes in the short term that reduce their current levels of cash flow.

7 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

I consider interference with my Australian friends' hobby to be a very big deal!

7 years ago 0

@jdcook
jdcook commented

It will make a huge difference if and when it happens. Most distilleries around are labours of love (which has its benefits), but aren't enormously profitable. There will be a bit of an explosion (no doubt some of which will be a bit cruddy initially as pure profiteers try entering the market) when things change, but there is certainly enough local expertise to handle it given how creative the distillers around here have to be to make top shelf product under the ridiculous budget constraints they are operating under.

7 years ago 0

@fastpoose
fastpoose commented

Spot on, great review JD. I picked one of these bottles up tentatively a few months ago and was extremely suprised! What a little rippa! Reminded me of good XO cognac..in mouthfeel and flavours (I also got a lot of 'creaming soda' which was different but great. A great whisky from NZ, I'll be definitely getting some more.

Just a teeny wheeny point to tomholder, many whisky aficionados do disagree with you about chill filtration not affecting whisky flavour etc.. But well done on a great dram.

7 years ago 0

@Pudge72
Pudge72 commented

Thanks for a detailed and thoughtful review, 'jdcook'. This bottle has actually made it to Ontario for Can$90:

lcbo.com/lcbo-ear/lcbo/…

It is being added to my wish list to hopefully pick up at some point as an Australasian companion for my newly acquired bottle of Sullivan's Cove Double Cask (thanks also to your review of that bottle)!

6 years ago 0

@jdcook
jdcook commented

@Pudge72 - Both are very worthy drams - now if we could just sort something out about taxation on our whisky industry down here it would be far more affordable too!

6 years ago 0

@Pudge72
Pudge72 commented

No kidding @jdcook, I looked at the NZ Whisky Co. site and...ouch on the cask strength pricing! :(

Can$90 for a 10 yo whisky from a 'non-standard' country (i.e. not Scotland/Ireland/US/Canada) is actually pretty decent. Even with Scotch, the LCBO's pricing is inconsistent for 10 yo's. Laphroaig 10 is $80, Ardbeg is $100 (thank you Ardbeg hysteria), Macallan 10 Fine Oak is $65, while Aberlour 10 is $45. Balblair 10 is $80 and Longrow 10 is also $100 (after being recently discounted).

6 years ago 0

@jdcook
jdcook commented

I sat down a while back and did a back of the napkin calculation and figure out that it costs around $6 per percentage point above 40% in tax excise when producing whisky in Australia. So a 48% percent whisky costs around $50 more than one bottled at 40%.

Note that this was a back of napkin calculation a while back based of some formulas I was trying to understand off the Australian Tax Office website, so there may have been several inaccuracies in both math and interpretation of formula. But everyone over here thinks the current taxation regime is ridiculous.

6 years ago 0

@Robert99
Robert99 commented

@jdcook and @Pudge72, I don't know what had changed but I will get this bottle in Ottawa next week for 69$ which seems a fairly good price for this stuff in Canada. @jdcook, I was wondering for how much goes a bottle of Sullivans Cove in your area, say the double oak french and amercan. I know I will cry but I am curious anyway. I don't know about your tax system but I assure you that the price for a good whisky are ridiculous in Montreal. For example , the Uigeadail goes for 147$. You can have it for half of it in N.Y. And even for less in California... Go figure. Anyway, I will let you know what I think of this bottle later when I'll get my hand on it. Keep the good job, I really like hearing of what is going up down under.

5 years ago 0

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