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Sunday, 11 September 2016

Heartwood Beagle 3 Whisky Review!

Another one that almost got away! An older release from the king of Tasmanian whisky, and I was lucky enough to finally get my hands on a bottle long after it had sold out.

I first tasted this glorious liquid over a year ago, sitting in Mr. Heartwood's Hobart office on a cold & windy Tuesday morning. Beagle 3 was one of the stand-outs of the incredible line-up, but my wife had her heart set on another expression (Convict Resurrection - reviewed here, along with more information about Heartwood), and I just couldn't leave without a bottle of The Revelation. I should've tried harder back then to stretch the budget and grab a Beagle 3 as well, but I talked myself out of it. That was a mistake, because it had made a dinosaur-sized impression on me, and left a dinosaur-shaped hole in my heart!

Back to the present, and my wife managed to find a bottle of Beagle 3 at an online whisky store late last year, for a reasonable price, and bought it for me as a birthday present. I was very tempted to open it immediately and devour the contents (responsibly, of course!), but held off instead under the notion of it being irreplaceable. That was true at the time, and it's now true again, but in the meantime Mr. Heartwood made the (probably very difficult) decision to part with a few 'archived' bottles that he didn't have the space for. And luckily, after another stupid moment of hesitation from myself (are you beginning to sense a theme here?), I was able to procure a second bottle of Beagle 3. And this one did not stay sealed for long!

Beagle 3 was the third expression in Heartwood's Beagle series of vatted / blended malt whiskies (a blend of different single malts, no grain whisky), named after the HMS Beagle which carried naturalist and revolutionary-evolutionary Charles Darwin. The first Beagle release arrived in August 2013, with the second following a year later, and both were blended from seven different casks of Tasmanian Single Malt. Beagle 3 came along in May 2015, and was blended from nine different casks: 4 from Tasmania Distillery (Sullivan's Cove) and 5 from Lark distillery, including ex-bourbon, ex-port, ex-sherry, and ex-pinot noir casks, and peated whisky (from Lark) made up 18% of the recipe.

As is always the case with Heartwood (but unusually for a blended / vatted malt) it was bottled at cask strength, a brontosaurus-like 68.4% in this case. And as always there's no added colouring or nasty chill filtration to be found. 220 bottles were released, and that was over 15 months ago, so it's basically impossible to find these days. To force himself to be different each time, Mr. Duckett actually destroys the recipes for the Beagles after they've been bottled. So there really won't be another like this again. And this probably goes without saying, but (spoiler alert) if you're lucky enough to come across a bottle and you're a Heartwood fan, I suggest you grab it immediately!

Heartwood Beagle 3, NAS, 68.4%. Tasmania, Australia. 
Blended / Vatted Malt from 9 different casks, 4 from Tasmania Distillery (Sullivan's Cove) and 5 from Lark Distillery. Non-chill filtered, natural colour. 220 bottles released May 2015.

Colour: Deep, dark polished copper.

Nose: Rich & intense. Thick fruit syrup. Boozy raisins, buttery heavily-toasted oak, mint, orange-scented furniture polish, slightly dusty cream-caramel chews and wood spices. Golden syrup over baked stone fruit. I could nose this beauty for days! 

Texture: Um, it's a Heartwood! Massive & intense, mountains of flavour. There's a little initial heat of course, but it's not a rough burning heat, and it passes quickly. 

Taste: Massive again. Spicy & charred oak with extra spice. More rich fruit syrup and raisins, some burnt caramel and warm orange oil. Spiced milk chocolate, and some leather. 

Finish: Medium length. Lightly torched juicy raisins. Some dried chilli flakes, a little mint and buttered almost-burnt fried bread. Becomes soft quite quickly, and the stone fruit comes back, but it's dried now.

Score: 4.5 out of 5. 

Notes: Just awesome. Massive amounts of flavour. Big, powerful and boisterous. But also very complex and dynamic, it's constantly changing, and it's just delicious! It takes me straight back to Tim's office on that cold Tuesday morning in Hobart. And it didn't seem as cold afterwards, funny that...

I'd say this is probably my favourite Heartwood from those I've tried so far, which also makes it my favourite Australian whisky so far. These certainly aren't beginner's whiskies, but with a little time, small sips and experience, they pay off in spades. And I was very lucky to be able to grab that second bottle. After all, only 220 bottles were ever released, and it was released 18 months ago, so this is one rare whisky!  

There is a Beagle 4 release in the works, but it's sounding like it won't be ready for quite some time, and it won't be bottled until it's ready. Naturally it'll be quite different to all that have come before it, and no doubt it'll be well worth the wait. Viva la Heartwood, viva!