Review : Lark Distillery’s Chinotto Cask Release Single Malt Whisky

Australia’s Shark Tooth Island of Tasmania was centre stage where Aussie brew was first brewed! The first record of immigrants flocking to the shores of the island were in the early 1800s and with that was also the introduction of rich heritage, cultures and traditions. At the time it wasn’t uncommon for many to brew alcohol and though beer wasn’t illegal, spirits were and it was by 1820 that this ban was lifted. Two years later, the first whisky distillery at Hobart had opened its doors with many more firing up its stills in the years to follow. However all this was short lived, as in 1839 the Distillation Prohibition Act was introduced in the state, moth balling all distilleries for several decades.

In essence it took over a century and a half for Tasmania to see its first distillery – the Lark in 1992! This thanks to whisky enthusiast and maker Bill Lark, who challenged the orthodox and feudal laws by reaching out to lawmakers and MPs to bring reform. Soon after the Lark Distillery was set up, Sullivan’s Cove (the Tasmanian Distillery) also fired up its still two years later and the rest they say was whisky (read history)!

Now, this is my first go with the distillery and I’m fascinated by their penchancy for experimentation, which I believe brings diversity, depth and a greater understanding to whisky distillation. For their chinotto cask release, the good folks at Lark procured limited quantities of Chinotto, a carbonated drink made from the fruit of the myrtle leaved orange tree and then seasoned it in some of their barrels in the hopes of leveraging its bittersweet nuances. The expression itself is made in small batches and the barley used is peated from locally sourced peat.

ABV : 49%

Eye : Chestnutoloroso sherry | Non Chill Filtered, Natural colour

Nose : Caramel and Orange mist, brine with a woody nuance. Green  pepper, raisins, plums, maple syrup with a hint of sundried tomatoes, pepper and cinnamon

Taste : Orange drizzled with cola and tawny, milk chocolate, black licorice with hints of menthol. Some earthiness and oak infused with cinnamon and traces of cardamom.

Finish : Medium to Long | Dark caramel infused with wine and a subtle hint of spice followed by a warm sweetness that trails and hovers at the back of the palate.

This Lark is crisp, lively and medium bodied; delivering a satisfying mouthfeel, layering the insides of the palate. The Chinotto cask finishing provides a unique play of flavours combined with a warm, cupping spice, one that I found initially surprising evolving into a more absorbing and welcoming experience. In saying that, the whisky isn’t very complex, with the chinotto influence silencing most of the peaty flavours but it does hold ground with a good stack of flavours. Its USP is the influence of the Chinotto cask and the unorthodox finishing it leaves behind and that’s what gives this expression bonus points!

This special cask release comes in at AUD $300, but is also available in 100ml bottlings if you wish to give it a try as the subtle orangy coke nuances might not cater to everyone’s liking. In terms of worth, I personally enjoyed it due to the unique experience it left on the taste buds. This surely isnt a regular sipper, but one if you like to mix things up or try something unorthodox. I wouldn’t dare mix it up or dilute it, one because even at 49% there is literally no burn making it very palatable, but also because of what the distillers meant to instill with this specific cask release!

Slainte!

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