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Sullivans Cove Double Cask American & French Oak

Average score from 5 reviews and 5 ratings 80

Sullivans Cove Double Cask American & French Oak

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@vanPelt
Sullivans Cove Double Cask American & French Oak

With the recent award bestowed on Sullivan's Cove distillery, I'll pick up their Double Cask from my backlog and take a break from Scotch:

I decided to try this because at least one Connosr had commented that the Double Cask is preferable to the distillery's French Oak Port expression. I'd had such a great experience with the latter that I could not overlook this recommendation, and now I am tasting them head-to-head. Since I'd advised oxidizing French Oak Port for at least a month (in order for the aromas and flavors to develop), I tasted this Double Cask in two sessions: first fresh, and then aged in a closed sample container for 2 months. (Apologies for the number of "artificial descriptors". They are actually wonderful, even if they might sound less sophisticated.)

Nose: Vanilla Coke and milk chocolate; Lightness of red grape flesh. Some significant warming in the hand can bring depth to these impressions: lightly leathery and oaky malt. After several minutes, a touch of grassy green apple warns of negative youthful effects, but it is subtle.

Palate: Similar to the nose. Enters pleasantly with malty vanilla milk chocolate, but not too sweet because it's rounded out with some woody cinnamon complexity. Midpalate, I see more of the effect from the French Oak Port casks-- There is a pleasant "gummy bear" influence (but lighter) that mixes with the milk chocolate.

Finish: Continuation from the palate, with some green apple slightly sour in the cheeks.

Nose (2 months): Vanilla Coke (more vanilla-heavy than before) and milk chocolate that contains notable raisins. Beyond the raisin, there is an impression of "artificial" scents of corn-syrup-based candies: jelly beans colored orange and "pink" (cherry or strawberry), those "Circus Peanuts", or perhaps cotton candy. As before, the fruity elements change after 15 minutes or so, with some grassier green apple.

Palate (2 months): Enters with the sour-ish green apple and grass that came out of the nose. This sensation develops with oaky spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, and even allspice. Later sips seem to have more vanilla and cocoa, which is a welcome addition in lieu of the grassy apple.

Finish (2 months): Green apple hard candy, with allspice emphasized on exhaling.

The fresh whisky was very good, basically combining some vanilla/spice/green-apple with some elements I'd enjoyed in the French Oak. In this way, the Double Cask gives a "broader" range of sensations, but those elements are diluted, of course. Unfortunately, I found the Double Cask inferior to the French Oak Port, in both the fresh and aged tastings. Although quite good, it's just not in the same tier. Incidentally, I've also noticed that the texture of the Double Cask is not as thick/oily as the French Oak.

I also found the Double Cask to worsen (sour) with oxidation (whereas the French Oak had actually improved), scoring about 5 points lower. This is mostly because of the prevalence of that grassy green apple, which had been foreshadowed in the nose. So I have to recommend preventing the Double Cask from oxidation, even though it did bring out more interesting oak spice influence. In the end, drinking side-by-side, I find myself falling in love again with the French Oak-- I think even more than before.

As far as similar malt recommendations, my first impression was that this Double Cask was similar to the very good Balvenie 17 DoubleWood-- with less honey and more fruit. I rate the Sullivan's Cove higher, and it also sells at a lower price. The oxidized Sullivan's Cove is closer to the younger Balvenie DoubleWood: the inferior 12yo. But for another similar experience of roughly equal quality and lower price, look to the Glenlivet Nadurra.

@Chookster, I would think the same, from my own standpoint. But then I am continually surprised about differing tastes (more than I should be at this point). For an example of a preference for this malt yet no apparent aversion to port finishes, see @jdcook 's review of this malt and the comment added on Aug 12. (connosr.com/reviews/sullivans-cove/…)

I find it interesting that anyone rates this over the french oak expression. I'd assume you'd have to have a real aversion to port cask style whiskies to prefer this instead.

@ozmalt

After my last 3 reviews I had intended to delve a little deeper into the wonders of Islay. Tonight I did have the good fortune of adding a Bowmore 12 year old malt to the cabinet. I'm enjoying the Bowmore now while I write about the Sullivans Cove Double Cask.

So....last weekend I went in search of another Islay malt and the local bottle shop had a tasting on Tasmanian whisky. Oh well, why not give it a crack. Nothing ventured and all that. I had given my peat loving taste buds a weeks grace so it was with an open mind and a relatively clean palate that I unscrewed my first "Oz" malt.

Yes. Unscrewed. No cork to twist out and watch the first fumes wafting upwards and certainly easier to open. The vineyards and blenders do it so why not the malt distilleries. It's a fine looking stumpy bottle, good label and ok blurb.

The nose is brilliant. Lots of port, vanilla, dark pipe tobacco ( the stuff in a tin that needs to be mushed in your hands pre-pipe), and a hint of wet varnish. As a first impression its a winner and it reminded me of Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban.

The colour is a warm golden syrup with a touch of cloud thanks to it not being chill filtered.

The taste was a little disappointing after the big nose. I thought of Patricia Cornwell digging up details on Jack the Ripper and I kept searching for more but didn't find much more. Maybe its the youth of the stuff which seems to give it an almost unpleasant vitality.

I left it for while and came back after it and I had time to reconsider each other. My second impression was better with almonds and maraschino cherries. Maybe I'm a peat head now and find anything that doesn't reek of bush fires too light.

It's not a bad dram and I'm pleased to have it on the shelf. I'm curious about the other Tasmanian whisky's and will keep an eye out for more tastings. My score relates more to my taste and I suspect a year ago it would have rated higher.

What can I say another great review. I find that although I spend a lot of time in the camp of the Smokey and Peaty whiskies as well I do like the occasional trip to Speyside. As you stated so well open minded approach to the whisky journey is a great way to venture beyond Islay. I'm glad that the experience was not a bad one for you. Thanks again. :)

Thanks @PMessinger. You're right about venturing beyond the Island. I am surprised at how much my taste has matured since someone gave me a bottle Talisker 3 years ago. I feel the same sense of adventure when i open a big gutsy Shiraz and start the analysis. Cheers

@Chookster

This is bottle number 517 of 1255, double cask number DC57 from barrel numbers HH149, HH331, HH417, and HH467. A combination of American and European oak casks bottled at 40% ABV.

To smell: slightly sharp on green apple and vanilla, opens up to soft port notes and florals. Given time the port notes pin every other aroma down except for a slight ‘new wood’ smell; it’s a very enjoyable aroma.

The nose is most enjoyable once fully opened up to the port characteristics in my opinion.

To taste: the spirit seems to be drowning at 40%. A short quiet rush on again the apple then port notes which flail about for slightly longer than the ABV would usually allow. Time in the glass bulks the body up a bit, again the port side proving strongest.

Easy drinking. Not offensive in any way (it was a different story on the first dram – I thought I’d have to mix coke with it), nor is it balanced. I’m glad I received it as a gift rather than purchasing it because it’s alright, but not great, and great is what it takes for me to be happy with a purchase. It’s up against stiff competition from other local products that keep raising the bar and it didn’t quite reach the same heights, perhaps expectations were a bit too high on my part.

@SquidgyAsh

This is the last review in the series for the State of Origins Australian whisky tastings that I'll be writing unless I'm able to pick up a bottle of Limeburners M58 which was my favorite whisky in the tasting line up.

My wife, brother and sister in law had tasted quite a few different whiskies at the State of Origin, sadly many of them had left us disappointed.

We'd tried Bakery Hill Classic Malt, Southern Coast Distillers Batch 5, Lark Single Barrel and now Sullivan's Cove Double Cask.

As we sit there nosing the whisky I'm still talking to Cameron, the owner and head distiller at Limeburners.

After this review I'll be posting the interview with him. I hope to be able to snag the M58 which he brought as a special treat. We wound up trying two of his whiskies this night. The M80 which was the current release and then he surprised everyone with the M58 which was his newest peated whisky (which runs $250 or so a bottle)

But back to Sullivan's Cove.

As we nose the Sullivan's Cove everyone around the table glances at the person next to them, then to the person from across of them.

It's BORING!

The nose is strictly two aromas which we're informed comes from the American Oak and French Oak.

Vanilla and Cocoa.

That's it.

Vanilla from the American Oak.

Cocoa from the French Oak.

Nothing else.

Hopefully it'll taste better.

So we decide to taste.

Taste follows nose, exactly.

Vanilla and cocoa.

Again that's it.

Smooth, easygoing and boring.

The finish is again the same, vanilla highlights with cocoa at the end.

EPIC DISAPPOINTMENT!

I'd heard some very good things about Sullivan's Cove. But everyone at the table was so disappointed and bored with this whisky.

Even worse a bottle of the Double Cask would normally run around $100 AUS.

Too much for a bottle like this. Maybe if this had been at Cask Strength it'd be much better. Not sure.

This isn't a bad whisky as in it tastes bad or unpleasant. It's completely and utterly none offensive. It'd actually be one of those whiskies I'd introduce someone who was new to straight spirits not taken in shot form to. It wouldn't scare them.

However while it's busy not scaring the whisky newbies, my family has just fallen asleep.

I'll give Sullivan's Cove another shot, I always love trying new whiskies, but I won't buy a bottle of Sullivan's Cove until I know that the Double Cask was just a random fluke.

@Jason0142 So many of the Aussie whiskies are over expensive and part of the problem is that so many are single barrel releases which mean that quality fluctuates so much. You can have one bottle that is absolutely brilliant and then you can have another bottle that's just good. And sadly the price point for most of them is so close that you don't want to shell out $200 or so dollars for a whisky that's just ok.

I've enjoyed every single Limeburners I've had so far. Some definitely more then others. If you go here www.distillery.com.au/whisky.html I'd personally be eying the M85. I haven't had it yet, but I've had 6 or 7 different Limeburner batches so far and I'd have no problem shelling out $130 or so for a bottle. I've actually requested to be notified whenever they release a new batch so I can just automatically grab it.

Hellyer's Road is another one that I've enjoyed and from what I've seen it runs at around $85 or so a bottle. I've had I think their classic malt once and enjoyed it. Wanted to buy it on the spot. I've just picked up the Hellyer's Road Peated for around $70ish (Mind you I get a wee discount since I work for a company that sells it.) I'll let you know what I think, but I've heard nothing, but good things about it.

@Systemdown I KNOW!!! I remember you telling me how much you enjoyed it when you first tried it so I was looking forward to it when I saw it was on the tasting, but it was sadly the clear loser of the night at the table. I was sort of wondering at first if it was just me, but everyone else pretty much seconded my thoughts.

Personally I'm starting to wonder a little bit about the whisky bar Helvetica. I was there last night and we ordered a Glenmorangie Astar for my sister in law, a whisky that I've had quite a few times before and enjoyed each and every time. When it came out (I watched them pour it from the bottle) as she was nosing and tasting she said it smelled like soap which blew my mind. I asked her to see it and it really was very soapy. And flavor profile was very similar, almost like soapy fruit. I've had a few other whiskies there where the flavor profile was really off or just nothing like what other people were saying was their experience. I don't want to get into too much detail out of PM because I don't want to bad mouth them, but I too am wondering if it was just a bad bottle for WHATEVER reason. I'd be happy to try it again though :D:D:D

The Double Cask just won silver: whiskyintelligence.com/2012/08/…

And the French Oak (which I'll be sending you a sample of) won Gold.

Sure the bottle you tried wasn't oxidised or something? Really strange. The "flatness" and one-dimensionality of the whisky might suggest such.

@jdcook

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

@vanPelt - I've had both and prefer the double cask, but that's a personal preference, and no distiller alive would admit one product of theirs was better than another (especially if it better product was the cheaper one). But I have no issues with the French Oak, I just personally prefer the Double Cask. After trying both, my wife was happy for me to buy one or the other (and had no quibble about the pricing of which one) and she was mildly surprised I bought the Double Cask. If presented with the same choice again, I would make the same decision.

Mind you, the best answer would be to get both... ;)

@fastpoose - it's definitely worth buying. The taste of the fouble malt I had was strong enough that it actually would have held it's own against a lot of other cask strength offerings. Plus I think Patrick doesn;t do too many cask strength offerings, as the tax excise goes up, and each bottle would have to be increased in price by around $5-$6 for every 1% of increase in ABV. That's a hefty price tag, and hard for consumers to take.

...and I'm glad you find my reviews enjoyable (and hopefully useful... ;)!

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