Region: New Zealand
Texture: Medium – oily
Best served: Neat
Theme(s): Old, wood, leather, hay, cigars, blackberry
Likes: Power and complexity
Dislikes: Can be peculiar, with farmyard notes
The New Zealand Whisky Company is in an enviable position, because it very wisely purchased some old barrels of whisky produced by a New Zealand whisky operation that ceased decades ago. It all started with the Willowbank Distillery which was opened in 1974 and taken over by the Canadian company Seagrams in the 1980’s and then Foster’s which closed the company in 2000. The New Zealand Whisky Company website reads:
“The New Zealand whisky company purchased the last 600 barrels of mainly Lammerlaw malt and the whisky has been maturing in the towering seaside bondstore in Oamaru’s famous heritage precinct ever since.”
Now that was a great investment! The New Zealand Whisky Co South Island 21 Year old was distilled in 1990, and placed in a an American oak ex-bourbon barrel that sat idly and risked being lost through indecision. It was rescued just in time by the NZ Whisky Co which bottled it and stopped the onslaught of oak and wood.
This whisky is now included in my “TOP WHISKY
” list. It is a unique whisky with a peculiar character, but that peculiarity is what makes it a beautiful whisky with “individuality”! It is bottled at 40% alcohol volume, but packs a nice strong New Zealand rugby tackle!
Tasting Notes – NZ Whisky Co South Island Single Malt 21 Year Old
This whisky has a peculiar character that is quite unique. This is not a bad thing, because while it is very oak dominated the phenolic flavours in the whisky are pleasant and do not cut the tongue with a sharp gust of bitterness. Instead, that strange but enjoyable oak smacks against the palate bluntly releasing a denseness and mustiness that somehow also shines with some sweetness.The character on the nose does not seamlessly move onto the palate, but despite this perceived mismatch it is lovely!
This whisky was strange, pure and simple. This is not bad, but it had a peculiar smell which I could not quite put my finger on. Then it hit me – old library books! The leather bound variety, almost like walking along law reports from the 1880’s. It is a dusty library and the smell of aged paper mingles with the leather and carpet. Then, suddenly, youthfulness and colour fills the glass as sweet blackberry and mint fuse with the spritz of lime as dense orange cake and aniseed are held together with that lovely old wood. Moving on from the library, I can smell the tobacco stained cigar box that was common in Melbourne bars before the anti-smoking laws and, a childhood memory of chocolate bullets (chocolate coated licorice). Now, this may sound strange, but the waft of wet wool also presents itself. This is strange because all my tastings are done blind and I almost fell off my char when I realised I could smell wool in a New Zealand whisky! Well, there you have it, there is wool on the nose; but not any wool, a thick lambswool.
Obviously, I do not eat library books or wool so I could not detect any of these flavours on the palate. Some mint notes here and earthiness there as you can see in the flavour map, vanilla and blackberry too. Again, that peculiar flavour was present. “What is that?”, I wondered while tasting this whisky. It was hard to identify, but it was very much like the dry bursts of fructose from sour grapes combined with sweet licorice and some sprinklings of dry basil with hay. It was weird but very nice! Thoroughly enjoyable.
The finish is powerful and this whisky ends with a bang! Though it fizzles a bit towards the end, it is still a high quality finish.