In honor of International Whisky day I’m reviewing a world whisky from Tasmania. Quick geography lesson: Tasmania is an Australian island state located 150 miles across the Bass Straight just south of the Australian continent. The State of Tasmania includes the main island and the 334 surrounding smaller islands. The total population of Tasmania is just about half a million, many of which reside in the Hobart precinct. Sullivan’s Cove distillery was founded in 1994 in Hobart. The cove was the spot where the British first established a settlement and was originally a penal colony. As such, the locals were quite fond of drinking and as many as 16 legal distilleries were operating in the area by 1824. However, in 1838 Governor John Franklin imposed a total prohibition on distilling that lasted for 150 years and was overturned in the 1990s. Sullivans Cove is one of Tasmania’s most successful distilleries and has received worldwide critical acclaim.
Most recently their French Oak expression won the World’s Best Single Malt award at Whisky Magazine’s 2014 World Whisky Awards. This is the first time that a whisky from somewhere other than Scotland or Japan has won the coveted award. They use only Tasmanian grown barley which is grown is deep red basalt soil. The whisky is finished in French Oak port casks and bottled single cask at 47.5% ABV. They range from 12-13 years old with most of the current stock distilled in 2000. Since they’re all single casks the sample I have may not be the exact one that won, but should be a honest representative of the expression.
Nose: maple syrup, pine, grilled pineapples, cinnamon apple sauce, floral, vanilla creme, pink grapefruit
Mouth: honey, ginger, grapefruit, white pepper, sultanas, stewed apples
Finish: caramel, medium-short, peppery, orange rind
Verdict: The nose on this whisky has many flavors and is well balanced. There’s maple syrup sweetness, grilled pineapples and cinnamon apple sauce countered by the distinct scent of pink grapefruit. There’s also some pine and vanilla creme flavors from the oak that come through on the nose. Up front the palate is spicy – white pepper and ginger from the oak – then it gradually becomes sweeter with sultanas and honey shining through.This dram tastes like Autumn to me. It must be the stewed apples flavor which is reminiscent of homemade apple cider. There’s also a tinge of grapefruit to round off the flavor. The finish is peppery with orange rinds and lingering caramel sweetness. There’s some unidentifiable strange fruitiness on the tail end of the finish. All in all this is very unique, and while it’s not quite scotch, the taste isn’t all that dissimilar either. It successfully achieves balance and the multitude of flavors makes it enjoyable to drink. I’m eager to try more of Sullivan’s Cove’s expressions to see what this Tasmanian distillery has to offer. If this whisky is any indication the future for world whiskies is very bright!