When a single cask expression of Sullivan’s Cove French Oak (barrel no. HH0525) won the award for world’s best single malt at the World Whiskies Awards 2014 it was a wonderful time for Australian whisky. The atmosphere was electric, charged by the realisation that Australian whisky had come of age. It did not take long for the Sullivan’s Cove French oak to disappear from bottle shop shelves, and for bottles of them to appear on online auction websites – one bottle of HH0525 even sold for $1,150 through Lawsons. People who had Sullivan’s Cove French Oak from other barrels also tried their luck, doing their darndest to pass off whatever barrel number they happened to have as “the world’s best” or tasting the same as the “world’s best”. Now, even Sullivan’s Cove seems to be getting in on the action as they try to pass off ALL their whisky as the world’s best.
It needs to be remembered that a single cask expression of Sullivan’s Cove’s French Oak recently won world’s best single malt at the World Whisky Awards – barrel no. HH0525. The truth is that whisky does vary between casks, because the wood making up each cask is different and even the distillation runs, fermentations and micro climate within a distillery may fluctuate. Just look at Jim Murray’s varied scoring of Sullivan’s Cove from different casks. This means that the Sullivan’s Cove whisky that won the world’s best single malt at the World Whiskies Awards is from ONE CASK, and it is likely to be different to whisky drawn from other casks. Unless the Sullivan’s Cove whisky is from the same cask as the whisky that won the award, it appears to me that the Sullivan’s Cove marketing spin (captured, left of screen) is designed to mislead and deceive consumers in my opinion – it looks like shameless profiteering, telling half truths to make a product more desirable. In the screenshot left of screen, on my reading Sullivan’s Cove even try to pass off their ex-bourbon matured whisky as the world’s best, when in fact it was the French Oak that won the award. This is the ugly side of Australian whisky. I can see how a consumer would be misled by the representations made, because it seems that people unaware of the way different casks produce different whisky might just think they’re buying “the world’s best whisky”. Buying this product, the sales pitch goes, can make the dream of owning the world’s best whisky a reality but what is not mentioned is that the whisky that won the World Whiskies Award was from just one barrel and that the dream – unless you find HH0525 – won’t ever be a reality. It begs the question: why did Sullivan’s Cove even bother mentioning that consumers can own a barrel of the world’s best whisky if the whisky that won the title is most likely all sold out? I think you can figure that one out for yourself.
It seems that shameless profiteering in response to the World Whiskies Awards may have cast a dark cloud over Australian whisky. I hope that dark cloud clears very soon, and there weren’t too many people who handed over their hard earned cash for the “world’s best whisky”.
So, what do you think? Would you have been misled by Sullivan’s Cove?