Since Starward came onto the Australian whisky scene it has released numerous creative expressions which have been met with increasing fanfare, and nowadays fans of the brand need to join a ballot for the chance to secure some of Starward’s most sought-after expressions. One such expression is Starward’s new release, “Tawny #2”. I had the chance to explore and unpack Starward’s Tawny #2 at an intimate lunch at the distillery in Port Melbourne.
Starward’s Tawny #2 is the iteration of the very popular Tawny #1, which was released in 2019. The common thread of Starward’s Tawny #1 and #2 is, as the name suggests, maturation in ex-Tawny barrels from the Barossa Valley in South Australia. But, as my day at Starward made clear and as I’ll explain here, Starward’s vision and blueprint for Tawny #2 differs to that used for its predecessor, Tawny #1.
Whilst I have bad memories about Johnnie Walker Red Label which continue to haunt me when when I smell a scotch and coke, Johnnie Walker Green and Blue Labels sit on the polar opposite of the spectrum and they are amongst the tastiest drams I’ve tried. This made me curious about a lesser known member of the Johnnie Walker family, the XR 21.
As the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games draw to a close, it seems fitting to sip on a Japanese themed whisky this evening whilst watching the Olympics closing ceremony. In keeping with this Japanese theme, tonight I cracked open a bottle of Chivas Regal Mizunara, a special edition in the well known Chivas Regal family of whiskies.
After a (very) long break it is great to be blogging again. You’ve probably noticed that the site has been down for a while. Well, now it is back online!
Before going offline earlier this year my blog had about 388,000 visits from all around the world. Thanks for clicking through to read about my spirited adventures through Scotland, Italy and Australia.
A few years ago my wife and I went on a road trip through Scotland, passing through the picturesque highlands, glens, and, most memorably, the extinct supervolcano at Glen Coe. It was green, lush, mountainous and pristine, which was basically everything I imagined Scotland would be. One thing that reminds me of that Scottish road trip is the imagery and design on a bottle of Pure Scot scotch whisky. With its shades of green in the shape of mountains and mirroring a blue loch, the bottle design makes me thirsty for Scotch. Lucky for me I happen to have a few samples of Pure Scot on hand!
Pure Scot is a blended Scotch whisky which combines Bladnoch single malt with grain whiskies and a selection of island, highland and speyside malts. At its price, it is (surprisingly) very good and punches well above it weight. The whisky smells of toffee, tropical fruit, grain and cut grass. It tastes great, too – bitey, with a nice mix of sweet orchard fruit, syrupy caramel, vanilla, soft smoke and spice. The finish is chocolaty, mildly spicy, and warming. This sure is a sweet and syrupy Scotch.
Served neat the whisky is easy-drinking and enjoyable, but it is at its best on ice or mixed with cola. Pure Scot kindly sent me a pre-mixed drink of Pure Scot Virgin Oak and Smoked Cola, and this combination worked extremely well together. The mixer itself had a nice strong kick of Scotch, the smokiness was subtle and the cola was syrupy sweet, which complimented Pure Scot’s profile and the virgin oak influence (which tends to be sweet and “bourbony”). It is a fun mixer that is easy to drink and perfect with a barbecue.
Overall I think Pure Scot is a great value blended Scotch whisky which, befitting of its lovely bottle design, offers a nice tour of Scottish whisky with its mix of grain whisky and malts from the islands, highlands and speyside regions of Scotland. I would however love to see an age statement on the bottle, just so I know a little more about what I am drinking.
The story of the Hellyer’s Road distillery starts near an Australian town called Bernie, which is near the northwest coast of Tasmania. In 1827 Henry Hellyer cleared bushland near Bernie to create a trail which later became a road. In 1999 a group of dairy farmers established a whisky distillery on that road, and they fittingly called this distillery “Hellyer’s Road”.
Now, in 2020, Hellyer’s Road whisky is among the largest selling Australian whisky brands on the globe with markets in not only in Australia, but also in Europe and Japan. But despite this large-scale success, my observation of Hellyer’s Road is that it maintains a down-to-earth Australian attitude which lets the product speak for itself – there is no spin about climate or wood or over-the-top marketing, they just make consistently tasty whisky at reasonable prices. Come to think of it, that just might be a reflection of the dairy farming culture!
Sitting on my tasting table, ready for a swig, is a bottle of Hellyer’s Road Original 12 year old single malt whisky. This line was originally released in 2014 and it was a bit of a milestone in Australian whisky making, because until this release it was rare for Australian distilleries to disclose the age of their whiskies. The Hellyer’s Road Original 12 year old single malt whisky is made from spirit which is distilled from a wash of Tasmanian barley and then aged for 12 years in American Oak ex-bourbon casks.
Colour: Golden honey
Smell: Toffee, vanilla, citrus peel (especially lemon), tobacco, tea bags and spices, such as cinnamon. There is always deep and unique citrus character in Hellyer’s Road whiskies which I really love.
Taste: Heavy citrus peel and oils (a mix of orange, lemon and grapefruit) come first, then the wood influence provides toffee, vanilla and nicely integrated tannins which taste like tea leaves and dark chocolate.
Finish: Toasty, with lingering wood-smoke and cocoa, tobacco and fading sweet orange peel.
Overall: This is a full-bodied and lip-smacking dram with a weighty core of rich citrus and beautifully integrated wood notes from the American oak ex-bourbon casks. The only thing missing is a Tasmanian brie to pair it with!
It was June 2018, and we had zigzagged our way around the cobble stone streets of Rome, the hilly Tuscan towns of Pienza and Montepulciano, the picturesque seaside village of Lacco Ameno in Ischia, the ruins of Pompeii, and, finally, the chaotic city of Naples.
Compass Box are whiskymakers who craft whisky by blending whiskies from different distilleries and batches, thereby creating unique flavour profiles from what is essentially a concoction of “ingredient” whiskies. This is the art of whisky blending. Blending to create a whisky that matches the blue print in one’s mind is much harder than it sounds or looks (as I learned aboard the Glenfiddich Whisky Wanderer!). Trying to unpack a whisky blender’s creation is even harder. To help unravel their complex whiskies, though, Compass Box provide a break down of the “ingredients” that go into each of their whiskies. Trying to piece together the puzzle of a Compass Box whisky by smell and taste is, in my experience, a lot of fun.
The newly released trio of limited edition Compass Box whiskies that sit before me ready to be tasted are Compass Box The Circle, Compass Box Affinity, and Compass Box No Name No. 2.
On a particularly cold Friday evening I ventured into the Melbourne Good Food and Wine Show on Glenfiddich’s invitation to board the Glenfiddich Whisky Wanderer, a 1972 vintage bus which has been converted into a whisky bar on wheels! Australian chef Matt Moran introduced us to what he loved about Glenfiddich and then the distillery’s brand ambassador, Luke Sanderson, took us on board for a very special evening of whisky tasting and blending, and to craft our very own Glenfiddich single malt from the three core ingredients used to create Glenfiddich’s 15 year old solera.