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I recently attended A Tasmanian Whisky Appreciation Society (TWAS) tasting night, where the theme of the night was the state of Tasmanian whisky. We tasted the Sullivan's Cove Double Cask, the Nant first release single malt, the Trappers Hut 9 year old, a Lark Distillery special TWAS bottling, a small batch Hellyers Road, an Old Hobart Distillery Sherry Barrel, as well as young spirit from the new Mackey's Disitllery and from a barrel from independent bottler Tim McDuckett (I'm really not sure of the spelling of this person's name - so if I got it wrong, I do apologise!).
The first of the night was the Sullivans Cove Double Cask. Sullivans Cove is also known as 'The Tasmanian Distillery, and by pure luck I happened to end up being seated next to Patrick Maguire, the Chief Distiller! He mentioned that this was the first 9 year old bottling they had done, and that it was matured in two different barrels, a 200 litre american oak bourbon barrel and a 300 litre french oak port barrel, and the spirit was completely unpeated.
He said it was bottled at 40% to reduce his excise as much as possible to maximise his profits, and that if we wanted stuff at a higher percentage we could drop by the distillery and he had plenty of single cask bottlings that would 'knock our socks off.'
The nose was malty, sweet, full of red fruits, raisins, and really heavy, thick and rich. You can really notice the influence of the port, but it's not overwhelming, like the bourbon barrels are keeping it in check. This really surprised me, and was very complex. It was one of those noses where every sniff brought out something different, and I never felt like I completely got to the bottom of it (and I got the feeling that it might take several, very enjoyable, glasses to get there). So I spent quite a while sniffing!
The taste was warm and rich, full of cinnamon, hints of nutmeg, red fruits, port notes, and a taste like the fruit mince in good christmas fruit mince pies. Really full on and heart-warming. For something that is unpeated and bottled at 40%, this really punches way above what I was expecting and was very nice!
The finish was long and warm, and full of the sweet christmas pie fruit mince, cinnamon, malt and just a touch of alcohol spirit. Keeps going for a number of minutes. Given how quickly we were being pushed through malts, I felt a little rushed with this one, and would have liked a bit longer to get into it.
I thought this was a truly great little christmas warmer of a malt, and Sullivans Cove is now on my buy in my next whisky splurge list!
Sitting next to Patrick was also quite an experience. He mentioned that he has been visiting throughout South-East Asia trying to flog his product to various people and distributors. Unfortunately everywhere he goes he is told that they love his bottles, love his whisky but that he needs to come back when he has a 12 year old. Advice I find astonishingly shallow to be honest! If this were a base bottling it would be as good as anything form any of the major distillers out there. Just because something has an age statement on it doesn't make it good! Just ask the Aberlour A'bunadh or the Ardbeg Uigeadail!
That said, he seemed pretty intent on coming out with a 12 year old, so I guess I have something to look forward to in 3 years time!
For those who are interested, the website for Sullivans Cove is: www.tasmaniadistillery.com