Hellyer’s Road 12 year old

wpid-picsart_1413728595813.jpg

Score: 85/100 (neat); 93/100 (matched with a cigar/food)

Reaction (neat): :/ (overwhelmed)

Reaction (matched): :D (delighted)

ABV: 46.2%

Origin: Tasmania, Australia

Price: $99.50 (Aus)

Match with: This is an intense and flavourful whisky with lots of love from the wood in which it matured, I found it absolutely delicious with a medium-full strength cigar offering woody notes (Arturo Fuente Hemingway), blue cheese, cheddar, goats cheese and zesty grilled red meats (lamb marinated with lemon and rosemary).

Australian whisky has always struck me as overpriced, the only exception being whisky from Hellyer’s Road. With most of its whiskies priced between $80 to $90, Hellyer’s Road produce what is in my opinion the best value Australian whisky on the market. Its newest release is a 12 year old single malt and that currently sells for $99.50, an eye catching price for an Australian whisky that has been aged in wood for 12 years (good luck finding a quality Aussie whisky for less than $100, especially one that has an age statement of 12 years!).

The Hellyer’s Road 12 year old is matured in American oak casks and vatted in timber. It is bottled at 46.2% alcohol volume after it has matured for 12 years. This is a long time; despite the fact that most commercially available single malt Scotch whiskies are, at their youngest, 12 years old. Whisky matured in Tasmania tends to draw out more wood flavours more quickly than whisky that has matured in Scotland, and this is thought to occur because Tasmania tends to have warmer and more volatile weather than Scotland and so the pores in oak casks holding whisky are more prone to expand and contract (thereby soaking up and spitting out more whisky more often, and as a result giving the whisky more flavour more quickly). This is not necessarily a good thing, because a whisky can become overly woody by spending too much time in oak. As the Godfather of Australian whisky Bill Lark once told me during a chat in Melbourne’s Southbank, Australian whisky does not tend to be matured decades on end because the wood might take over the whisky.

Hellyer’s Road 12 year old is definitely very woody. The first time I tried this whisky, it simply tasted too woody – almost immediately the tannins pierced my taste buds with a strong woody twang, and in all honesty it gave me a lemon face.  My palate then adjusted and with each sip the whisky became more palatable and enjoyable. It soon become blatantly obvious that this whisky would beautifully match a cigar, so an Arturo Fuente Hemingway (natural wrapper) was taken from my humidor and lit after being carefully cut. A few puffs of the cigar followed, and then as the smooth cedar notes of the cigar sat on my palate I sipped the Hellyer’s Road 12 year old – magic. It is one of the best whiskies I’ve had matched with a cigar. Then, my next love after whisky and cigars came to mind – cheese!

wpid-picsart_1413551500360.jpg

It may seem quite cliche but this whisky – which is produced by a distiller that is owned by a milk farm – goes remarkably well with rich cheeses. From Gorgonzola to Bavarian Blu, or perhaps more appropriately a nice creamy Tasmanian brie with blue vein or an Australian cheddar. Now we’re talking.  It offers a spice and a woody kick that rivals some food friendly wines, and in my view it is a shining example of an Australian whisky that might just compete with the iconic Shiraz for a place by the cheese board.

The nose immediately presents with vanilla and chocolate notes underlying cherry cough syrup over wood, as an unlit floral scented candle develops into more natural floral notes – Dandelion, sunflower, freshly cut flowers, dewy stalks and the sourness of a chewed yellow wood sorrel. There is also a muddy smell, similar to a Melbourne football pitch in summer, with bone dry yellowed grass as well as sour lollies, hints of dusty cocoa, nutmeg, fresh bunched oregano and rosemary, undertones of sharp citrus peel and gluey wood chipboard stained with old wine. On the palate the whisky offers a strong woody twang with notes of citrus and lavender, dried herbs with undertones of honey and the astringent but tangy taste of an old cork infused wine and vinegar that proceeds into the finish. The finish is peppery and spicy with some hints of sourness, as potpourri lingers on the tip of the tongue with tobacco and hints of dark chocolate with ground coffee.

On its own Hellyer’s Road 12 year old is quite good once you get to know it, but matched with the right cigar or food it takes on a whole new level – its heavy woody twang is softened by the matched cigar or food, but necessary so the whisky does not get lost in the food or smoke.  Hellyer’s Road 12 year old is now one of the first whiskies that comes to my mind when a nice rich creamy block of cheese calls my name, or a good quality cigar whispers ‘smoke me’. This is a whisky that makes life’s other pleasure’s (especially cheese and cigars) even better – now that is a great achievement, especially by a distillery that is owned by a milk farm!

Posted in Australian whisky | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chivas Brothers commences production at new Dalmunach distillery

Chivas Imperial_160714_0125Chivas Brothers has now constructed its new Speyside malt whisky distillery, Dalmunach, with production commenting this month in October 2014. Capable of producing up to 10 million litres of spirit per year, Dalmunach is expected to support growing global demand for Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Royal Salute.

Dalmunach is Chivas Brothers’ 14th operating malt whisky distillery and it sits on the banks of the River Spey, being aptly named after a nearby pool in the river. It houses eight copper pot stills, with a tulip shape used for the wash stills and an onion shape used for the spirit stills. These replicate those from the Imperial distillery, which was situated on the site until 2012.

Laurent Lacassagne, Chairman and CEO of Chivas Brothers, comments:

“As global demand for Scotch whisky increases year on year, our confidence in the long-term growth prospects for the category remains strong. The construction of the new Dalmunach distillery is a clear demonstration of our confidence and also of our commitment to invest to meet the significant growth potential.

With their reputation for crafted excellence, our blended whiskies form a key part of the Chivas Brothers portfolio in both emerging economies and mature markets, so we believe the increased capacity which the new distillery will provide will help to drive the business forward in the years to come.”

Posted in news | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Gran Patron Platinum

wpid-picsart_1413032532166.jpg

Score: 86/100

ABV: 40%

Origin: Mexico

Price: $450 (Aus), $195 (USA)

Match with: A mild to medium maduro cigar, lime tart, acidic citrus based desserts

Patron are known for picking Agave plants with a higher sugar content, which, when fermented and then distilled, are said to produce a very distinct flavour profile. For Gran Patron Platinum, Patron take the Blue Agave selection  a step further by removing leftover sprouts from any Agave before that Agave is baked. This is believed to remove bitterness while ensuring the highest sugar content possible. The tequila is then triple distilled, aged for a select period and placed in beautiful crystal bottles.

On the nose the tequila releases rose petals, Turkish delight and very clean agave with notes of caramel, pepper, Chinese five spice, lemon and tangy citrus. On the palate the tequila is very smooth and light, with a bite of cinnamon and pepper that recedes into agave with undertones of earthy honey progressively sweetening into the finish, increasingly becoming sugary and crystalline with lingering zest, floral notes and sweet clean ethanol evapourating from the base of the tongue. The finish offers lingering clean ethanol and earthy notes with pepper and agave.

Overall, Gran Patron Platinum is a super smooth tequila with an underlying sweetness that softens the agave and spice. The alcohol itself is very clean and, in my opinion, it seems to have been masterfully distilled.  Having been distilled three times, some of the agave flavour seems to have been stripped away and the ethanol in the tequila dominates towards the finish, releasing vodka-like notes. The flavours are there, but very astringent and it almost tastes similar to inhaling hand running alcohol at times. I am not sure this is what I had expected of an ultra-premium tequila, especially one that sells in Australia for $450. I would not pay even a quarter of that price for this tequila, but the crystal bottle will make a beautiful decanter! Make no mistake, this is nice tequila – it is just overpriced, over-hyped and, to be frank, nothing special in my humble opinion.

Posted in TEQUILA | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

ACID Extra-Ordinary Larry (Nicaragua)

wpid-picsart_1413034364509.jpg

Score: 81/100

Draw: Good

Burn: Good

Construction: Excellent  

Consistency: Good

Flavours: Big bursts of rich dark chocolate meld with earthy undertones, lightly buttered burnt toast (I mean burnt!) and black tea leaves with a mild underlying creaminess, almost yogurt-like with vanilla. Sweet flickers of orange rind then shine with cucumber as an oiliness lingers on the lips from the maduro wrapper

Origin: Nicaragua

Matched with: I found this cigar was enjoyable with a good quality silver tequila or a gin and tonic, though it did have a tendency to overpower.

Buy again?: No, I would not buy this cigar again.

Posted in Cigars | Tagged | Leave a comment

Aging Room F55 Quattro

wpid-picsart_1413035818789.jpg

Score: 85/100

Draw: Excellent 

Burn: Excellent

Construction: Good, though on smoking this cigar it literally fell apart and it was an extremely disappointing experience. Aging Room and the retailer from which I purchased the cigar has since noted that this is a rare occurrence, but neither offered to replace the cigar and cover postage.

Consistency: Very poor, the cigar I smoked fell apart!

Flavours: Despite falling apart, the Aging Room F55 Quattro was an extremely puff-able cigar offering roasted hazelnuts, earthy ground coffee and cocoa with mild woody notes of cedar, Brazil nuts and the curious aftertaste of shiitake mushrooms lingered for me with a drying burning hay-like ember at back palate and the tone of that dark leaf. Overall, this was an enjoyable well-rounded cigar with superstar qualities. Pity it began to shed its skin!

wpid-20141006_030602-1.jpg

Origin: Dominican Republic

Matched with: The cigar, before it fell apart, was delicious with a rich single malt, whether peated or not. It compliments an old Speysider nicely (Glenlivet 21 year old, Glenfarclas 21 or 25 year old) though it matches nicely with a mildly peated older malt (Bunnhabhain 25 year old). On the lower end of the price spectrum, I would puff it with a Jameson or Glenmorangie Original – two smooth but interesting malts that will not dominate over this cigar.   

Buy again?: I am not sure if I would buy this cigar again! It had a great draw, burn and flavour, but it did fall apart while smoking it. This meant that I did not enjoy smoking it because each time I touched the cigar it slowly fell apart. The producer, on being contacted, only said it is “rare” for this to happen and did not seem interested in replacing the cigar with no additional cost. Given this negative experience, I would not want to risk buying this cigar again when they are so expensive (at least here in Australia)!

Posted in Cigars | Leave a comment

Bruichladdich tasting – Jim McEwan’s visit to Melbourne, Kelvin Club

SONY DSC

Jim McEwan, telling a story

On Wednesday 8 October 2014 over one hundred people gathered within the walls of the iconic Kelvin Club in Melbourne to meet a man who has been involved in the production of whisky for half a century. That man, ladies and gentleman, is Jim McEwan. The vast majority of people may utter the words “Jim who?”, but anyone who enjoys a dram or two (or who knows what “dram” means) will know that the name “Jim McEwan” belongs to a man who is perhaps the world’s most famous whisky distiller. Starting his career at the Bowmore distillery at the age of 15, Jim went on to learn the craft of cooperage (making or assembling barrels) before becoming the Master Distiller at the Bruichladdich distillery in Scotland, where he now plies his trade. His career in whisky has spanned half a century, and while at Bruichladdich he has gained a reputation for producing whisky that is innovative, exciting and that tastes darn good!

Over the past week or so Jim has embarked on a much anticipated national tour of major Australian cities where he has conducted a tasting of whiskies from Bruichladdich, and the scene for his visit to Melbourne was the Kelvin Club. Malt Mileage was very fortunate to secure a ticket to Jim’s visit to Melbourne.

SONY DSC

Bruichladdich’s The Botanist Islay Gin

On arrival at the Kelvin Club guests were greeted with gin and tonic, made with Bruichladdich’s The Botanist Islay Dry Gin – a gin made using classic aromatics that tend to be used for gin such as orris root, cassia bark and coriander seed, and, 22 other botannicals hand picked on the isle of Islay in Scotland (where Bruichladdich is located). As the bottles of gin were slowly emptied, a progression of people began to eagerly make their way to the upstairs room where Jim would be conducting the whisky tasting. The room was large, and an energy filled the air as people looked around for anyone who even remotely resembled Jim. It soon became clear that Jim is not a man to enter a room unnoticed, and to the bellowing sound of bagpipes Jim entered the room marching proudly behind a bagpiper dressed in a traditional Scottish kilt. He had arrived, and the room fell silent. “Hello”, he said happily. “Hello!”, he repeated. With a gesture of his hands, not dissimilar to the one made by an old friend who wants a hug and not a handshake, the crowd realised its mistake and finally responded “Hello Jim!”. That set the tone for what was a hilarious evening. It was not the formidable legend Master Distiller McEwan up there, ready to teach everyone about whisky. It was Jim, ready to share half a dozen drams with us and talk whisky.  

SONY DSC

Tasting room

SONY DSC

Jim making about about “E150″

One of the first points Jim made was that the colour of a whisky is meaningless, because caramel (the oft-called “E150”) may be added to whisky and therefore its colour is not a reliable indicator of its age or the type of casks that were used to mature the whisky. This was demonstrated by Jim pouring cola into a glass of whisky, which darkened it, and with this altered colour he sarcastically observed whether the whisky – now dark in colour – was matured in Fino sherry casks for a number of years. This was a good point made by Jim, but it was also a confusing point given that Bruichladdich do not add caramel colouring to their whisky. The colour of Bruichladdich whisky therefore is a clue as to what casks were used to mature the whisky, though admittedly Jim is correct that a whisky’s colour reveals nothing about its age.  

SONY DSCOn tasting were whiskies in the Bruichladdich range – the Laddie Classic, Islay Barley 2006, Black Art v3, Port Charlotte Scottish Barley and Octomore 6.1. All whiskies were impressive and thoroughly enjoyable, and my picks of the evening would be the Islay Barley 2006 and Black Art v3 (curiously both of which are – despite Islay being the heartland of peat – made without peat) and the Octomore 6.1 which, despite having a terrifying 300ppm as the world’s most heavily peated whisky, is surprisingly well balanced and complex.

With wobbly knees from all the whisky and a measure of gin, we were made to stand with one foot on the table and one foot on our chairs while yelling out a Scottish toast which lasted several minutes (and almost saw me fall face first into some leftover Octomore – yes please!). The evening then ended, and the mood soon deflated. Everybody had to go home, but I get the feeling no one really wanted to – there was still plenty of whisky, and Jim’s jokes and humour left us all in a state of constant laughter (it was either Jim, or the whisky).   SONY DSCSONY DSC

Overall, Jim’s visit to Melbourne was a fun-filled journey through the Bruichladdich range that was filled with laughter, jokes and some whisky education in between. If you see Jim, tell him Gunta is at the door – he’ll know what I mean! 

Posted in Media and events | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series (Nicaragua)

wpid-wp-1412846980143.jpeg

Score: 96/100

Draw: Exceptional

Burn: Exceptional

Construction: Superb

Consistency: Excellent

Flavours: The draw and initial flavours are woody with twigs and dry leaves, leather and a smoky note (think smoked meats) with a maduro rich finish, the slight bitterness of green olives and a mild oiliness. More roasted ground coffee, nuts and very dark chocolate evolves with each puff, with olive leaf undertones and dried oregano. This is an absolute classic cigar, one of the best burns and draws I’ve encountered in a cigar. Beautiful. I want a box of these. The tobacco has, apparently, been aged for four years and this is certainly noticeable in the complex yet smooth flavours offered by this box pressed cigar. Some tweezers might be advisable, because I found myself puffing it until it reached the width of my fingers!

Origin: Nicaragua

Format: Robusto

Match with: Savour with espresso and a teaspoon of raw sugar, ginger beer or a Spanish style rum (Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros immediately comes to mind) or a Navy style rum such as Pusser’s Blue Label. It also pairs particularly well with an old cognac, with rancio notes in the eucalyptus and umami spectrum (DEAU Louis Memory).

Posted in Cigars | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment