Prior to visiting mad scientist/alchemist/proprietor Tim Duckett earlier this year, I didn't know a great deal about Heartwood. I knew their whiskies had a good reputation, but weren't particularly widely known, and I had only tasted one of them once, years beforehand. It must have left an impression though, because Heartwood was at the top of my list of must-do's during our Tasmanian whisky adventure.
I've covered more of the details about our Heartwood experience, and about Heartwood in general, here. It was one of the highlights of the trip, and the write-up and review of 'Convict Resurrection' are well worth a read, in my humble opinion!
Mr. Duckett & his team have gained some more international attention since, with a few overseas companies trying to buy most of his whisky (don't do it Tim!). One of his malts, 'The Good Convict', recently won southern hemisphere whisky of the year in Jim Murray's notorious bible. Regardless of my opinion of 'the bible', that award is well deserved. That particular expression wouldn't be my number one pick of the range, but that's subject to personal tastes. It's still an excellent whisky.
But there have been a few new whiskies released since, so it's about time I reviewed another. As is often the case with Heartwood whiskies, this one has mostly sold out since it's release in September, but a couple of online stores do still have limited stock available. The sample I'm reviewing of Any Port In A Storm (which I purchased here) is from the winter release of just 172 bottles, with a summer release of the same 'recipe' currently in the works.
Technically this is a blended malt, although only just, consisting of 95% Sullivan's Cove / Tasmania Distillery 15 yo single malt, and 5% 7 yo single malt from Lark Distillery, the oldest operating distillery in Tasmania. Both component whiskies have been fully matured in ex-Port casks, before being rudely-awakened for bottling at a Brontosaurus-like cask strength of 69.9%. Like all Heartwood whiskies, it's also non-chill filtered and naturally (and beautifully) coloured.
Heartwood 'Any Port In A Storm', NAS (but see below), 69.9%. Tasmania, Australia.
95% 15 yo Sullivan's Cove single malt, 5% 7 yo Lark single malt. Fully matured in ex-Port casks. Natural colour, non-chill filtered, cask strength. Winter (first) release.
Colour: Dark copper with red tinges.
Nose: Mega rich & fruity. Plum jam, juicy sultanas in rich syrup. Thick caramel sauce, a good pinch of pepper, a little warm oak. Apricots and candied orange, some coconut and a little cocoa.
Texture: Huge, thick & syrupy. A little heat, but not what you'd expect for 70%.
Taste: Dark fruit syrup, red grapes, milk chocolate, toasted oak. Warm spices as well, and some gunpowder / coal dust.
Finish: Long. Chilli & white pepper initially, but they subside quickly. More fruits, flint (stone), drier now as well. More chocolate, and red berries - raspberry milk chocolate.
Score: 4 out of 5.
Notes: Huge amounts of flavour again in this one, plenty of life & complexity as well. I do prefer the Convict Resurrection bottling to the Any Port In A Storm, there's not much in it, it's still excellent. It could definitely handle a little water, and that's probably how beginners should approach it initially. But it's still very drinkable neat, especially in small sips. You'll still get mountains (or dinosaurs) of flavour!
I'm yet to try a Heartwood I haven't enjoyed. There's just so much body and intensity in these bottles, but there's also plenty of complexity and loads of flavour. I still believe that as far as value for money goes, there's no going past these babies. Especially when Sullivan's Cove French Oak is selling at $350 from the distillery, at 47.5% (albeit in a 700ml bottle - for the time being). You're getting a similar age spirit here, and at full cask strength (usually well over 60%), but you're paying around 30% less. Bravo.
Mr. Duckett and team aren't resting on their laurels either, there are plenty of very interesting releases coming, and one particularly crazy one in the works. Bring it on! Keep an eye on their website, and follow them on Facebook for regular updates. But leave a bottle or two for me!