Tastes

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Rating system: 5 = outstanding ; 4.5 = excellent ; 4 = very good ; 3.5 = good ; 3 = above average ; 2.5 = average ; 2 = acceptable ; 1.5 = adequate ; 1 = inferior ; 0.5 = very poor ; 0 = undrinkable

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  1. Smith’s Angaston Whisky 20 Year (1997 Vintage)

    Single Malt — Angaston, South Australia , Australia

    Tasted
    4.25
    4.25 out of 5 stars
    Australian Single Malt Whisky Tasting (Part 2), The Oak Barrel, Sydney 17 January 2020, Whisky #7 Nose: Deep sherry, warm baking spices, ginger biscuits, orange oil, cocoa. Palate: A warm, rich Christmas cake arrival with a hint of spice and oak. Fortified wine, brandy and cherry liqueur become apparent as it develops, together with an amplification of the dark cake flavours into treacle tart, fruit mince pies and stewed pears in port. Balancing this huge palate are some bright spice tones and bittersweet fruit notes (grapefruit and kiwifruit). The texture is creamy, full and dense. Finish: Medium. Fortified wine and honey trail off into a sweet malty aftertaste. This was the last dram of the two-night tasting of Australian single malts and it was a great finale. Unlike the 18 year old Smith’s Angaston that we tasted at the end of the first night [see separate review] this whisky had perfect balance. The distillery that produced it was acquired by Yalumba (a massive Australian wine producer) in 1970 but it was immediately mothballed as they had no interest in whisky production. However the still was later recommissioned and ran for three years from 1997-2000 to produce a few experimental hogsheads. This expression was one of 264 bottles produced from cask no. 970331 in 2019, a cask which had been filled from one of the last spirit runs in 1997. The bottling was dedicated to Peter John Wall, the late production manager at the distillery, who was responsible for the brief recommissioning of the still and the experimental runs. “Very Good” : 4.25 stars
  2. Bakery Hill Sovereign smoke

    Peated Single Malt — Victoria, Australia

    Tasted
    4.0
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Australian Single Malt Whisky Tasting (Part 2), The Oak Barrel, Sydney 17 January 2020, Whisky #6 Nose: Peat smoke, caramel, honeyed citrus. A vegetal note that is reminiscent of some Scottish peated whisky in the background. Palate: Smoke on the arrival together with sweet earthy citrus and salty caramel notes. The development is warm and focuses more on cereal and malt flavours, however in time smoke re-asserts itself and finds balance with the sweet notes. The texture is creamy and the smoke is gently omnipresent like a soft light blanket. Finish: Medium/long. A little oak, some sweet notes and mild peat smoke on the aftertaste. Although it carries the note “defiantly peated” on the label, and was apparently produced at 45ppm level, this is a refined and elegant smoky whisky and no simple peat monster. It reminded me just a little of Laphroaig Select, but without any medicinal notes and with greater earthy sweetness. There’s also a passing similarity to Longrow, which is no bad thing. However, first and foremost this is Bakery Hill and it’s a showcase for the sweet richness of their new-make spirit and the distillery’s undoubted experience with wood management. Aged for 7-8 years in ex-bourbon barrels this is unusually mature for an Australian whisky and it most definitely shows. “Very Good” : 4 stars
    235.0 AUD per Bottle
  3. Spring Bay The Rheban

    Single Malt — Tasmania, Australia

    Tasted
    3.75
    3.75 out of 5 stars
    Australian Single Malt Whisky Tasting (Part 2), The Oak Barrel, Sydney 17 January 2020, Whisky #4 Nose: Fresh oak, red fruits, butterscotch, raisin. Palate: Malty and dark red fruit arrival with a little honey and caramel. In the sweet development there are dark cherries, strawberries, and a chewy, malty plum-pudding with light brandy butter sauce. The texture is rich and enveloping and supported by good oak with just a hint of spicness. The high alcohol content is barely noticed. Finish: Medium. Fortified wine notes and some nutty tannins in the aftertaste. A well-balanced port-bomb, but with a definite leaning towards sweetness. Maturation was in 5 very small French oak ex-port casks that yielded a total of just 125 cask-strength bottles. The whisky is named after Rheban farm which is located south of the distillery and overlooks Rheban Beach. Note that "The Rheban" is the distillery name for all its cask-strength expressions. Port wood is the main maturation method but bottlings also exist that were matured in sherry and bourbon casks, although those are rare. “Good” : 3.75 stars
    250.0 AUD per Bottle
  4. Tasmanian Independent Bottlers “Fleurieu Distillery Release 3”

    Single Malt — South Australia, Australia

    Tasted
    3.25
    3.25 out of 5 stars
    Australian Single Malt Whisky Tasting (Part 2), The Oak Barrel, Sydney 17 January 2020, Whisky #3 Nose: Sherry, raisins, mild spices, oak and a trace of floral notes in the background. The dry-glass aroma is all oak and sherry. Palate: A fruitcake arrival with mild baking spices. Slight tannin in the development (walnuts, black tea) but balanced by honey and fortified wine. A mild leathery note but on the whole it's a cask-driven sherry experience. Finish: Medium/short. Dark fruit and fortified wine in the aftertaste. Tasmanian Independent Bottlers acquires new-make spirit from a variety of Australian and New Zealand distilleries and matures it in its own warehouse in Hobart in 100 litre casks. The cask and new-make spirit are selected to compliment each other and a variety of wood styles and previous fills are used. This is the 3rd release of spirit acquired from Fleurieu Distillery in South Australia. Each release was aged in an ex-sherry cask sourced from the Hunter Valley wine region in New South Wales (this expression was from cask FL007). Although it is well crafted and there are no obvious faults in either the spirit or the cask I didn't think this was a very interesting whisky. Original bottlings by Fleurieu are typically big, fruity, sherried and have a signature salty caramel note whereas this dram was a little one-note sherried. In profile it is something like a cross between a young Glenfarclas and a young Aberlour, but without the character of either, and considering the price ($200 for a 500ml bottle) it's not great value for money. “Above Average” : 3.25 stars
    199.0 AUD per Bottle
  5. Smith’s Angaston Whisky 18 Year (2000/2018)

    Single Malt — Angaston, South Australia , Australia

    Tasted
    3.0
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Australian Single Malt Whisky Tasting (Part 1), The Oak Barrel, Sydney 16 January 2020, Whisky #7 Nose: Cognac, red wine, leather, clove, allspice, caramel, licorice, oak. Palate: The arrival is immediately commanding with richly, syrupy sweet dark stewed fruits and immense astringent tannin in concert. It's a singular entry. The development brings an amplification of the dark fruits into heavy fruitcake, plum pudding, bitter marmalade and chocolate brownies dipped in armagnac and dusted with 100% bitter cacao. The texture is full and creamy. Finish: Medium. As the bitter notes die away the finish gains balance with butterscotch sweetness and a faint wine aftertaste. South Australian wine merchants Samuel Smith & Sons produced a whisky called Smith's Imperial Vat in the post-WWII period, up until 1970. The company was then bought by wine giant Yalumba and whisky production was discontinued, however the stills were fired for a few runs between 1997 and 2000. The distillery was partly decommissioned immediately afterwards, but was briefly recommissioned for runs in 2011 and 2014. This is one of the oldest Australian whiskies released to date. It was distilled in 2000 and matured in cask 970637. The cask was topped up twice during maturation with spirit from the 1997 and 1998 runs and 142 bottles were produced. It was a great opportunity to taste it, however I found it to be overly tannic (but others at the tasting enjoyed it more). I had the feeling that it was a great whisky that had been kept in maturation just a little too long. When first sold to Yalumba subscription customers last year this whisky was priced at $175. On the secondary market it is currently changing hands for $600-900. "Above Average, but Flawed" : 3 stars
  6. Black Gate Peated Single Malt

    Peated Single Malt — Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia

    Tasted
    4.0
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Australian Single Malt Whisky Tasting (Part 1), The Oak Barrel, Sydney 16 January 2020, Whisky #6 Nose: Highly phenolic peat smoke, lemon oil, bacon and a faint hint of fruity caramel in the background. Palate: Sweet smoke, red berries and stone fruit (golden peach and apricot) on the arrival. The development veers more towards sweet citrus (tangerine and lemon) and the smoke evolves into a meaty barbecue quality. The texture is oily and full. Finish: Medium. The fruit flavours subside and the aftertaste is lingering sweet smoke. This is a robust, heavily peated, single-cask, cask-strength single malt of great character. There is no heat at all from the high alcohol content and it is delicious neat. It can, however, take as much water as you wish to throw into it and suffers no ill effects, simply expanding and softening as it dilutes. Black Gate is one of the world’s smallest whisky distilleries. Founded by husband and wife team Brian and Genise Hollingworth in 2009 in a region of country NSW that experiences extreme temperature variations, from below freezing to 40 degrees Celsius in the summer. They produce about 4,000 litres of spirit annually from their two small direct-fired pot stills and maturation is mostly in ex-port and sherry casks, re-coopered to quarter cask size. Initially the distillery produced rum and unpeated single malt whisky but since 2016 the focus has been on heavily peated single malt. This particular bottling was distilled in April 2017, matured in port cask BG068 and bottled in December 2019. The peated malt for the expression was sourced from Smiths in Scotland. Every bottling is a batch expression, often a single-cask expression, so there is variation in the profile, which is a great thing (consistency for its own sake should never be the goal). Regardless, this overview can be taken as typical of the peated expressions produced by the distillery. Highly recommended, and probably the best heavily peated Australian single malt I’ve tasted. It has a profile somewhere between an Islay and a peated Speysider, but it is really its own thing. “Very Good” : 4 stars
    175.0 AUD per Bottle
  7. Lark Single Malt Cask Strength

    Peated Single Malt — Tasmania, Australia

    Tasted
    5.0
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Australian Single Malt Whisky Tasting (Part 2), The Oak Barrel, Sydney 17 January 2020, Whisky #5 Nose: Sweet and full, malty, leathery with restrained spices including cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Honey and vanilla make an appearance together with dusky oranges, dried apricots, butterscotch syrup and light oak, but it is primarily a rich and multi-faceted malty nose with a tinge of smoke. Palate: An arrival of big malty fullness with a texture that is oily and encompassing. The development brings out ginger snap biscuits, Christmas cake, fresh red apples, creme caramel, dried dates, dried figs and butterscotch pastry. There is a minute whisper of elusive smoke. Finish: Long. Toffee cereal flavours resound into a warm citrus aftertaste. Surprisingly, this is not a particularly complex whisky with manifold facets. Rather it is straightforward but each element of the profile has great depth. It is a very satisfying, intense and rewarding whisky. Water adds an extra spectrum and incredibly seems to add creaminess and depth rather than diluting the experience. The fruity notes become lighter and fresher, the creaminess is more elegant, the spice notes more sharply defined and the smoke note slightly amplified. It can accept considerable dilution without stress. Bill Lark is the godfather of Australian whisky. Without his activity in the 1990s to change state and federal legislation there would be no Australian whisky, rum or gin industry as it currently exists. The fact that he also found time to create spirits of impeccable quality is further testament to his energy and talent, if any were needed. Lark Cask Strength Single Malt is released occasionally by Lark Distillery in various forms. It changes with each batch and the casking has included first-fill ex-bourbon, sherry and port barrels in various combinations and sizes. Maturation is sometimes reversed from the usual approach, starting with a fortified wine cask and finishing in ex-bourbon. The age and strength of the batches also varies - it's released "when and as it's ready" and it has appeared in a variety of bottle shapes with different labels over the years, in 200, 500 and 700ml sizes. This is a stunning whisky and I have no hesitation in rating it at 5-stars (in my tasting journal I gave it 92/100). It's a desert island dram and it's a pleasure to make it my 600th review on Distiller. "Outstanding" : 5 stars
    200.0 AUD per Bottle
  8. Fleurieu Distillery “Fountain of Youth” Single Malt

    Single Malt — South Australia , Australia

    Tasted
    4.25
    4.25 out of 5 stars
    Australian Single Malt Whisky Tasting (Part 1), The Oak Barrel, Sydney 16 January 2020, Whisky #5 Nose: Malt, barley sugar, sherry, stone fruits, a shy hint of excellent oak. Caramel emerges as it rests in the glass. A perfectly balanced and complete nose. Palate: A well balanced malty arrival offset by a tiny sweet brine note. Sweet but not cloying and it coats the palate just long enough to convey a sense of soft richness. The malt character morphs into a rich barley and dark fruit development that in turn progresses into almond fruitcake towards the finish. The texture is like velvet and there is absolutely no heat at all from the 53.5% abv strength. Finish: Long. Salted caramel cookies. A very good cask-strength whisky (outturn of 440 bottles) that picked up the Gold Medal and outright Champion trophy at last year's Australian Distilled Spirits Awards, and it's easy to understand why after one taste. This tasting was of bottle 249. Exceptionally balanced with supurb progression. The profile begins as almost a sherry bomb but through the course of tasting it softens, quietens, gains dryness and develops a sensational salt caramel note on both the nose and palate. Highly satisfying, and for me one of the three standout whiskies of the evening. Adding water is well worth doing, not because it needs any taming but for the added softness and lightness of palate it creates. An already very good whisky gains elegance and poise that you did not realize could be added and the salty note is very slightly amplified. I've awarded this one of the highest scores I've given to an Australian whisky so far and I can highly recommend it if you can find a bottle. Sadly the bottle we tasted on the night was the last in stock, otherwise I would have snapped one up. "Very Good" : 4.25 stars
    220.0 AUD per Bottle
  9. Archie Rose Rye Malt Whisky

    Other Whiskey — Sydney, NSW, Australia

    Tasted
    3.5
    3.5 out of 5 stars
    Australian Single Malt Whisky Tasting (Part 2), The Oak Barrel, Sydney 17 January 2020, Whisky #2 Nose: Sweet and light, perfumed herbal and honeyed apricot notes with fresh oak in the background. Banana bread, very light vanilla/caramel and over time faint caraway and anise aromas develop. The dry glass is extremely faint, with just a ghost of toffee remaining. This is NOT your granddad's rye. Palate: Soft and sweet with mild baking spice in the arrival. Cinnamon and ginger but not the hot varieties. No heat intensity at all, but a faintly spritzty quality, as of very mild bright spice or near-sherbety citrus as it develops. Vanilla, caramel, mixed dried fruit with citrus peel and cherries. The texture is like a soft cosy blanket. Finish: Medium. Caraway and dill seed, a hint of brine that fades into a semi-sweet aftertaste. I've made a new "generic" listing for this whisky as although Archie Rose is releasing it in small batches it is a core product and all the batches are effectively the same (I've tasted the 1st batch previously and now the 4th this evening and there is no identifiable difference). What is different is the nature of this very interesting whisky. I recall being almost shocked when I first tasted it and it had the same effect tonight. Unless you have access to some very unusual whiskies I can guarantee that this is unlike any rye you have tasted before, and I can also guarantee that some rye enthusiasts will be near outraged by it. It has virtually no prickle, sharpness or spice but it is far from bland. It's a sweetly elegant rye with no bombast and it is bottled at moderate abv. The mashbill is a deep secret but the creamy, honeyed tones it displays are not due to minimal rye content, but rather the fact that they use malted rye instead of a simple rye mash, which is most unusual. This is effectively a single malt whisky made with a mixture of Australian La Trobe barley and lightly kilned German rye, and it's delicious. "Good" : 3.5 stars
    120.0 AUD per Bottle
  10. Hobart Whisky Botrytis Cask Finish

    Single Malt — Tasmania, Australia

    Tasted
    4.0
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Australian Single Malt Whisky Tasting (Part 1), The Oak Barrel, Sydney 16 January 2020, Whisky #4 Nose: Fresh and full sweet aromas of cereal, vanilla shortbread, plums, baking spices and lightly fragrant fortified wine. There is no indication of high abv at all and no off notes. A rich but crisp nose. Palate: Sweet honeyed arrival with the botrytis cask finish being obvious. Toasted marshmallow, oatmeal cookies, creme caramel, and a touch of butterscotch supported by supple aged oak. Weighty, but delicate - firm, but elegant. The texture is creamy and excellent. Finish: Medium/long. Delicately sweet throughout. Hobart Whisky is produced by Devil's Distillery in Moonah, and inner-northern suburb of Hobart. Established in 2015 they hit the ground running and have already accumulated an impressive array of domestic and international awards, and have been well reviewed by some high-profile critics. More importantly, the local whisky community has enthusiastically embraced their releases. Maturation is typically in ex-bourbon casks, often with a short finishing in ex-fortified wine, pinot, tokaji, stout, rum and even maple syrup casks. This particular expression was a special limited release for The Oak Barrel's Sydney Whisky Fair in 2019 and was matured in ex-bourbon then finished in a re-coopered Tasmanian sauvignon blanc botrytis wine cask. The personality of this sweet dessert wine shows through in every aspect of the whisky but with a light-handed touch. It never becomes cloying or overbearing but rather it supports the rich malty character of the unadorned spirit and its sweetness completely masks the high proof (109.6). The addition of water brings out a little bitter spice on the palate and a floral but slightly soapy fragrance on the nose. I'd recommend taking this very easy to drink spirit neat. Like almost all Australian whisky this is expensive - $220 for a 500ml bottle - but it's one of the first I've tasted that I would actually consider buying at that price. It's also the first Australian whisky that I'm rating here at 4 stars. "Very Good" : 4 stars.
    220.0 AUD per Bottle
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