Rewind a few years and quiz me on my knowledge of Tasmania and in all likelihood my scope would have been limited to Australia and the notorious Tasmanian Devil. The latter, thanks to Looney Toons’ short tempered, gnarly animated character – ‘Taz”!
Over time however, this island state of Australia has garnered much more popularity than what the locals might have envisioned. Known for its pristine waters, peat bogs, quality barley and a decent climate, this shark tooth shaped island makes for an ideal hotbed for the golden colored spirit making it Australia’s Whisky Capital! In fact, the island is also know to produce other spirits such as gin, rum, vodka, beers and a variety of liquers.
The Hellyers is the only distillery situated to the north of the island and began its whisky journey sometime early 1999 by a group of dairy farmers. Their single malts were recognised as Australia’s best in 2010, with their first aged expression – ‘The 10 Year Original’ releasing two years later. They also have a ’12 Year Original’, our review for the week, that was released in 2014 available only at travel retail stores and at tasting events at the distillery.
The spirit boasts of being distilled 2.5 times – a process that the distillers believe allows the resulting spirit to be much lighter. Stumped !?! I would imagine so, considering it would be pretty hard to distill the spirit two and a half times! This called for a quick reach out to the folks at the distillery – and revert they did within less than a day!!
Hellyers chooses a rather unorthodox approach to how they handle their first (foreshot) and third (feint) fractions of the distillate. When most if not all redirect them to the spirit still, Hellyers returns these undesirables back to the very first still – the wash still; the process they believe enhances the quality of their produce. It is this very uniqueness that has led them to coin the method as being distilled 2.5 times.
Additionally they marry their malts using casks made out of timber- a deviation from the usual sherry, port, rum or even beer barrels others employ. With all this information on hand, I really couldn’t help myself but grab my tumbler and relish the sound of whisky glugging out of the bottles’ thin slender neck into the curved insides of my glencairn.
On with the tasting…
ABV : 46.2%
Eye: Pale Gold
Nose : Sweet vanilla infused with cantaloupe, bits of orange and thin slices of banana. There’s a rich creaminess that emanates along with some char and herbal wood, dotted with mild menthol, ginger, cardamom and pepper.
Palate : A balance of caramel and brown sugar, enveloped by musk melons, peach peels and herbs. Lot of floral and tropical fruits hover in and around the palate with old spice leaves and bits of pepper forming much of the trailing end.
Finish : Medium to long – fruity with a mild hint of spice.
This 12 year old exhibits everything you would expect from American oak maturation – caramel, tropical fruits, mild spice and some char. It isn’t overly sweet but quite smooth and silky on the palate with little to no burn – well balanced. The musk melons were the surprise for me, i’ve never experienced it previously so that was a first. In all likelihood the combination of warmer climatic conditions and their unique distillation techniques. I must say though, it did remind me of some of those tropical nuances very common with Indian single malts.
The Original is certainly unique with a decent dollop of depth evident on both the nose and the palate. The price though is slightly on the higher end but is worth the spend – you get to try the local tassie produce and get to experience how differences in the way distillers make their mix can translate to something unique, flavorful and fine.
Preference: Neat or with a hint of water.