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Monday, 28 March 2016

Heartwood 1 of 3 Whisky Review!

Another cracking whisky from the (mad?) alchemist Mr. Duckett (pictured below). This one has had a rather complicated upbringing, but it's turned out brilliantly in the end!

I've covered more of the story behind Heartwood here, but I'd like to cover one point again here, at the risk of coming across as a fan-boy (guilty!). As Tim says himself, there are no commercial drivers behind Heartwood. There are no shareholders to please, and no corporate headquarters to keep happy. So when / if a whisky isn't ready to be bottled, or they aren't happy with it, it isn't bottled. And as of now in March, Heartwood has no whisky to sell until May.

Which means no income from whisky sales for (approx.) two months. They're not going to rush anything, or release anything that isn't 100% ready. They're not running down to the warehouse and finding a cask or casks that are 'close enough' and pushing them through for the sake of sales, like bigger companies would certainly do (and in fairness, would need to do). Which I think is a testament to Tim's commitment to absolute quality, and proves beyond doubt that he's not in it for the money. But don't panic, while Heartwood do not have any stock to sell directly for the time being, there are a couple of re-sellers who still have some stock available for sale.

The story behind this '1 of 3' release starts with the first cask Heartwood purchased, which was back in 1999. It came from Sullivan's Cove distillery, which would have only been operating for a few years itself at that early stage. Fast forward to eight years later, and the whisky "tasted like shit", to quote the man himself! So Heartwood decanted that 300-litre cask into three 100-litre Port casks, and '1 of 3' was born, along with it's siblings '2 of 3' and '3 of 3', which are still maturing.

But the story doesn't end there. The following year the cask containing what would become 1 of 3 had been ravaged by some very thirsty angels, and was half full. It was topped up with peated new-make spirit from Lark distillery, and was left alone for the next seven years. Then, in early 2015, it was topped up again with a small amount of 5-year old sherry-matured peated Lark whisky, before finally being bottled in July of that year. Phew!

So what we have here is a vatted / blended malt, consisting of 50% 16-year old Sullivan's Cove whisky (which would be among the oldest Australian whisky around), 40% 7-year old peated Lark whisky, and 10% 5-year old peated Lark whisky. As it happens, this sort of complete (and brilliant) transparency is how Compass Box Whisky got in some trouble recently, and I think I can imagine how Tim Duckett would react to something like that! In typical / wonderful Heartwood style 1 of 3 was bottled at a cask strength of 65.6%, without any added colouring or chill filtration. Let's get to it!

Heartwood '1 of 3', NAS (but see below), 65.6%. Tasmania, Australia.
Vatted malt, 100L port cask consisting of 50% 16 yo Sullivan's Cove, 40% 7 yo peated Lark, and 10% 5 yo peated sherry-matured Lark. Non-chill filtered, natural colour. 190 bottles.

Colour: Dark copper.

Nose: All the components are there, the port, the sherry, and the soft herbal peat, but they're all nicely balanced and getting along fine. Boozy sultanas, thick toffee sauce. Rich, ripe stone fruit, a good pinch of pepper and spice. Musty, sweet red grapes, and a hint of oak. The peat dissipates after a little time in the glass as well, leaves a faint hint of ashy smoke.

Texture: Boom! Masses of flavour and spice. Thick & voluptuous, but not overly heavy or oily.  

Taste: Warm, thick fruit syrup next to a dying camp fire. Some heat of course, but in a good way, not harsh or unpleasant. Smoked (bush-fire smoke) caramel sauce, chilli and a little hot ash. Very nice.  

Finish: Medium length. The chilli & ash are still there, then comes the fruit syrup, then some subtle smoke, and a little spirit-y 'zing' on the tongue. 

Score: 4 out of 5.

Notes: Very good, as per usual from Mr. Duckett. Quite different to the Heartwoods I've tasted previously, but then that's also as per usual! This one has the most obvious peat influence I've encountered so far, and I really enjoyed that. It's important to remember that Tasmanian peat is different to what we'd expect from Islay, it's closer to Highland Park-style peat I would say. It's lighter and more floral / herbal and subtle, but it's still noticeable. 

I can't see newbies digging this one as much as I did, but again that could be the case with most Heartwoods, they're big dinosaur-sized whiskies. Just relax and take your time, take small sips, and add water if you wish. You'll be rewarded with gigantic amounts of flavour. Case in point, I recently gave a friend a nip of Convict Resurrection (reviewed here) to try, and he proceeded to shoot it immediately like a cheap tequila. And he really didn't enjoy it too much. What a surprise! It certainly went down slower (and better) the second time around, after a little suggestion from myself.   

I can't wait for Heartwood's 100% peated releases either, I'm thinking they're going to change the entire Australian whisky world. And I know they're going to rock mine! Let's just hope there's enough to go around.