Tasted #63: Australia Day Special - Heartwood "Release the Beast"
Happy Australia Day, Australia!
Given the proliferation of excellent whisky we have on our shores, I figured today's tasting had to be an Australian whisky, and what better than one from Heartwood Whisky?
Fans of Australian whisky might be familiar with Heartwood, but for those who aren't, think of them as an Australian independent bottler, who only deal in (high) cask strength, high-quality whiskies.
Without going into too much detail (given this is a "Tasted" post), Heartwood currently have 10,000+ litres of Australian whisky maturing away. A lot of it is from Lark Distillery (where Tim who runs Heartwood also sits on the board), but some of it comes from other Australian distilleries too, such as Tasmania Distillery.
When Heartwood decide the whisky is ready they release it at cask-strength, which (due to the unique climate in Tasmania and cask storage conditions forcing the water to evaporate faster than the alcohol) often results in an ABV% higher than when the new make entered the barrel. Seems they have some tee-totalling angels in Tassie!
Whilst some releases are bottled at a mental ABV% like 72.5% ("The Convict Redemption", an excellent dram by the way), this one here was bottled at a slightly less insane 65.4%, after maturing in two port barrels and being finished in an Australian Sherry (aka Apera) cask. The website states NAS, but I've heard this one is around 7 years old.
Oh, and a final note - if you're reading about any Heartwood release, there's a good chance it'll no longer be available. While there are a few available at the time of writing, these whiskies do sell out very quickly. Not hard to see why...
Heartwood "Release the Beast" (65.4% ABV, NAS, Tasmania Australia)
Colour: Deep, deep copper. Rich, red. One of the darkest whiskies I've tasted for the site.
Nose: Big sherry hit at first - reminds me of the Kavalan Soloist which I tasted early last year. In addition to the obvious sherry notes, a fruity, nutty, sweet nose comes through. Complex and sweet.
Palate: Big, clearly strong, but also incredibly smooth. Very, very drying. Hints of hazelnuts. But dry, so dry. Absolutely no burn though - a whisky that has been matured and cared for well.
Finish: Still dry, with long berry notes. Hazelnut notes show through at the very end again.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. Not for the faint of heart (ha), but certainly not rough or unapproachable in any way. Incredibly smooth, reasonably complex and with some delicious notes. Try it with a drop of water and watch the flavours explode. All the Heartwoods I've tried have been excellent, and unique, so if you're a fan of different, interesting, quality Australian whisky, give them a look.
Thanks to Cooper from singlema.lt for the sample.
Posted by Martin at Sunday, January 26, 2014
Nose gives a lot of spices, nutmeg, leather, caramel, sage, espresso, nuts, and rosemary at first. Then a thick almost meaty flavour emerges, bbq flavours... Quite meaty, almost like a good piece of bacon in there with some pine wood, and dried fruits, vigs, prunes, raisin, and a bunch of heather honey. It is a quite complex nose must say. It keeps on developing and releasing more and more.
Sticky toffee pudding, spices, liqeurish, wood, meaty bbq, honey and heather at first.
Then after the first initial WOW also from the 65,4% has faded a bit the notes come flying around on my palate. Creme brûlée, sugar cane, vanilla, raisin, mango, prunes, spices, heather honey, abricots, orange, mint, cinnamon, christmas cake, and so many more. Oh my. What a dram. Balanced and complex, full of sweet notes, combined with the heavier ones, it just gives it a very beautiful balance....
Long finish, and beautiful, ending in a bit chocolate and espresso mix, making up a mocca creamy flavour.
Gonna give this one a 9 out of 10. Had the pleasure of tasting this one at a blind twitter tasting and this was definitely the highlight of the night, just wow! Very intrigued by this one must say. On their website they state a couple of details on this one, but not much is made known sadly. They say it is matured in two port barrels and then married in an Australian Sherry cask, that makes really a hell of a combination must say!
Loving Whisky Blog
AGP readers may recall a rather glowing review I gave of the debut release from Heartwood Malt Whisky earlier this year - The Mount Wellington Release. That particular bottling was recently served blind at a gathering of·hardcore whisky enthusiasts, none of whom picked it was an Australian whisky, and all of whom gave it the highest score of the night in a line up against some very formidable cask-strength Scottish releases.
Tim Duckett, the man behind Heartwood, contacted me recently to tempt and tease that he'd found another incredible cask amongst his inventory - one that, after years of slumber, had suddenly hit its straps and was pushing his buttons. Perhaps giving an insight into the whisky's character, he's coined this new offering "Beast". It is yet to be bottled and made ready for commercial release, but the good man was kind enough to send me a sample.
Okay, so the truth is, I know a bit about this whisky, i.e. where it was distilled, who distilled it, what sort of cask treatment and maturation it had (this is a fascinating story in itself), and what little tricks and experiments Tim pulled to get it to this particular flavour profile and point of readiness for release. However, I've been sworn to secrecy at this stage, and all will be revealed when the cask is actually released commercially. Let's just say that there's a twist in the maturation process that I don't think the Scots will be copying anytime soon! For the time being, all you need to know is that the whisky was distilled in Tasmania.
The first thing you notice is the colour - it's incredibly dark. Such is the authenticity of my cask sample, it's actually still got rather large chunks of charcoal flakes floating in the spirit that were drawn up by the pipette. If we taste with our eyes, this one's already off to a flying start. The second thing you notice is that the darkness has a colour - a wonderful reddish tinge, like the darkest jarrah. The whisky is a marriage of two 100 litre casks (a particular type and with a particular past history) that were combined and re-racked into a 200 litre cask of a different type and with a different past history. And you can certainly read those histories in the colour.
My sample has been bottled at 64.2% ABV which - in fairness - is pretty bloody high for a whisky bottling. However, I'm probably not the best person to comment on this, since the vast majority of whisky I drink is cask-strength, and I'm not even sure I could taste a whisky if it was less than 50%. So whether it was actually the whisky, or just my immunity to high-strength spirit, I have to say that the nose was surprisingly genteel, and certainly didn't betray that this was a high-octane affair. Similarly, the palate, whilst obviously powerful and "over proof", was neither hot nor aggressive. All good so far!
Whereas the first Heartwood release fooled many people into thinking it was a Scottish malt, this second Heartwood offering is unmistakably Australian. The spicy honey, eucalyptus, marzipan, hazelnuts, pollen, and wild bush flowers are all here. Where this whisky stands out though, is the balance and the power. I don't mean power from the alcohol, but power from the unity and integration of the flavours. It delivers on a uniform front, and there's no weak component or poor ingredient in the make-up. And the oak doesn't miss you either, with some healthy tannins thrown in for good measure.
Given I'm critiquing this, I elected to add water - and was amply rewarded by a surpisingly wider and more floral nose. Hard toffee also came into the picture, as well as peanut brittle, bush honey, and even some coffee notes. With water, the palate softened and was suddenly sweeter, with hints of cream, berry coulis, and danish pastries. Then, with a bit of time in the glass, came some real "toasted and roasted" notes - porter beer, dark chocolate, and mocha coffee. The finish, I have to say, turned a little bitter in the dying aftertaste, and so judicious use of water is needed to find this one's optimum sweet spot. However, with a starting point of 64.2%, there were only so many times I could try this on the fly on the one night and still be able to type!
The verdict? It's powerful, vibrant, fascinating and - above all else - extremely tasty! If it's a Beast, then there's a touch of Beauty in there as well, because this is worth seeking out for all the right reasons! As the Australian whisky landscape changes and grows with more and more new distilleries coming on stream, the independent offerings from Heartwood look like they'll continue to pave the way for new and exciting flavours - not to mention some fascinating new maturation techniques!
Heartwood Malt Whisky - The Beast
By Andrew Derbidge
Australian Gourmet Pages
The new "Beast" is the most impressive Aust whisky I've ever had the pleasure of tasting. Pure brilliance!
Whisky Ambassador - World of Whisky
Non Cask Strength Drinkers Need Not Apply...
When Tim Duckett dropped a sample over of his latest release,I just couldn't stop swearing.
An Aussie malt that is so very dark,no caramel colouring, brooding and unbelievably massive.
And it works and as far as I can judge, this is the best Aussie whisky I've ever seen.
Hell Yeah!! I've said it.
In the immortal words of a close mate of mine whose name just escapes me…F*&#k Me Tommy!
Where the hell has this come from? Are you serious…Tasmania!?
I thought the last Heartwood release was the best Tassie malt I’ve seen, well I take it back as this monster takes the cake.
Christmas Cake that is.
This is one massive malt, and it is so dark, being fully matured in ex Aussie sherry casks. Initially I thought it just smelt lie a big, fat old fashioned Rutherglen muscat, but no, I’m now thinking of those old, old style Scottish sherried Speysiders.
Big, fat and rich, loads of dried fruits, honeycomb, cream caramel, lush malt, old Oloroso and muscat notes. Just a hint of furniture polish. Big and expressive, but enough allure to really drag your nose in.
You sure this is an Aussie? No pickled onion juice here.
Then you take a sip….and I do recommend a sip…Kaaaa -boom!
Get over it and concentrate: massively intensive, loads of honeycomb, creamy malt, died fruits and lush oak (just what I said above) but Wow! What attack.
But what balance, there’s a shit load of alcohol, but it’s not hot or burning…hell it is so f^%@king big! And so is the flavour behind it. It certainly needs it.
And did I mention how sweet it is? Massive again.
Second time around, the mouthfeel goes from narrow, rapier like to a bit more expansive. And one point of criticism, after the massive sweet entry, there’s mid palate fullness, but the end tails off a tad. But that honeyed, dried fruitiness and rich oak just lingers.
Bill Lark made the spirit, Tim Duckett nursed it to its brilliant maturity and yes it's a youngster. I’m still tasting it after 5 or so minutes. In a word unbelievable… and if you’re thinking about adding water…just "bugga orf" and go buy a 40% Glen Nothing and scoff that, if this cask strength monster offends…
The Odd Whisky Coy
Ok I am now one of the special few who have had the pleasure of tasting the Beast.
The small but gratefully accepted tasting bottle lasted for 5 evenings and provided that moment of pure relaxation at the end of the day.
This is a real leather chair by a fire drink. It's such a pity that cigars are no longer PC. I love big whiskeys - sit me down with a laphroaig and you can keep me happy for a long time but I have to admit its a while since I have been treated to a full power cask strength masterpiece like the Beast.
Take your time is my advice. So deep but without the burn that your palate might expect from something with this much punch. Big bold round thick and dark (a bit like its maker) I am still trying to name the flavours and layers that pleasured me and wish I had another few drams (or Happies as I tend to call them) to fully lubricate my wordsmithing.
The colour is deep , almost as deep as the wild tannin waters of Tasmanias southwest wilderness. And this is certainly something different to many of the lighter sweeter vanilla highlights of other Tasmanian whiskies. Although larks latest and the port influenced whiskies of others have broadened the styles and provided big whisky pleasures to my tongue and palate.
And of course the beast wears its barrel influences out there and with aplomb. Sherry overtones and port colors. Brilliant. Well done ducat. If Lark is obe one kenobe you are surely Luke sky walker. May the power be with us all.
Most people know I have a sweet tooth - I love sweet whiskys... port matured are at the top of my 'must have' list... and I love cask strength whisky to boot - so when I got ahold of this gem, I was almost foaming at the mouth...
Well it came in a 64.2% Cask Strength, so I knew it was going to pack a punch right out of the bottle... the colour was an incredibly deep ruby & dark mahogany. It even had charcoal flakes floating in the whisky that were drawn up by the thief... amazing...
I opened it, and had a good sniff, some fantastic port & sherry notes, sweet fruit tones were evident - as was the alcohol! Whoa! But - I was told to let it sit and breathe for a while once opened... so I did - I gave it about 1/2 an hour to breathe, and the aromas on the nose had widened and intensified - powerful & glorious...
So what did I smell? heaps of poached fruits here, but not the obvious ones, rich port notes, some sherry. Hints of mandarin from somewhere, some passion fruit and notes that remind me of different sorts of fruit jams (quince paste, blackberry jam).
In the mouth the whisky is first sweet like cooked fruit with a hint of spice. Toffee, Vanilla... The portwood is there in full strength taking control and giving the palate a drier oaky taste, but the sherry smooths things over slightly.
Powerful, yet balanced - intense & razor sharp, yet soft, sultry & rich.
The closest competitor I've tried would be a Glendronach 1982 - yet this seems better... softer somehow
Length: forever... I was tasting it 10 minutes later...
This whisky is everything you need - it's perfectly named, it is a monster...
Tasmanian Whisky Appreciation Society