More From Down Under

Following on from yesterday’s Willowbank bash [WLP] comes another golden moment from New Zealand.

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Situated in Wanaka, Cardrona Distillery fills just one barrel a day. Making vodka & gin also, very little of its new make becomes whisky let alone made available for these distant shores. This one is compliments of Swagger Andy.

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Cardrona Growing Wings 05yo [2022] Ob. Sherry & Bourbon 65.6% [35cl] WB85.50[2]

  • N: Contemporary, non-Scotch style single malt, fresh, composed, lightly spiced with a soft huskiness and a desirably [confectionary] fruit sweetness – banana, honeydew melon, firm pear, ripe-yet-crisp apples. Of those casks – both active – the sherry has the edge over the bourbon. All good so far.
  • T: Everything on the nose comes together very well on the palate too. Here, a powerful driven delivery talks more of the bourbon cask[s] yet the [oloroso] sherry/bourbon combo provides a pleasing taste profile above a new make-y spirit. Much like another Growing Wings release I recently tried at 64.9% [WLP80], this one also asks for water but the act of diluting dumbs it down significantly.
  • F: More fruits towards boozy banana milk with active wood spice before a pillow-soft husky conclusion and a passing milky melted chocolatey mouthfeel.
  • C: Taking into account the whisky’s age, the distillery’s age, its approaches, and the importance of its place in history, this is commendable stuff. Furthermore, Cardrona has a long game. 

Scores 83 points

Further reading WLP:

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Popping over to Tasmania now, here’s a pair from Sullivans Cove [WLP].

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Operating for 25 years [distilling since 1999: Malt Year Book], Sullivans Cove produces just 30 casks a year – even less than Cardrona – so rare whisky indeed! And to think Daftmill produces around 100 casks a year. Out of nowhere, Jim Murray’s 2014 Whisky Bible Award catapulted Sullivans Cove onto the world stage.

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Sullivans Cove 2000/2010 09yo Ob. Bourbon Cask #HH0200 [btl #98/149] 60% WB88.42[14]

  • N: Exotic! I find myself transported to Kochi fishing port on the South West Coast of India to enjoy a fruity creamy curry with apricots and grilled limes served as an accompaniment to stone bass in a banana leaf. This is followed up with vanilla ice cream melting over a white bloomer,…. do you get the picture? I’m home & away!
  • T: A sumptuous full delivery over a fruit complex [varied styles, types, brands] over peanut oil, coconut oil, lime & vanilla,… the taste of Thailand in some respects yet we are certainly also US-bound, the bourbon-firm prickles a testament here [perhaps if bourbon was like this I’d be wild for it]. I marvel at the weighty yet buoyant body with its luscious yet bone-dryness. In fact, the pallet sensations are far more striking than the flavours that I sense are coming from the spirit [fermentation] as much as the maturation [more on that later].
  • F: I can’t describe what’s happening, initially, a new experience in some respects where the flavours are centred around the textural sensations and where everything is just so. After flashes of a 1964 Glen Moray & Tamdhu 4yo Pure Malt [WLP90] comes perfectly salt-seasoned and sustaining popcorn [without the crunch] which eludes to this one’s bourbon cask reliance.
  • C: West meets East, perhaps, though in the end, it’s the US bourbon influence that wins out. Great cask though!

Scores 87 points

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With little focus on yield, Sullivans Cove uses old-skool/heritage strains of barley that promote fats, oils,… Perceived “inefficiencies” are deliberately celebrated. SC has used four strains in the last 25 years – mostly Franklin, Dedner?, and Westminster, and of late, a little Planet – but it’s mostly the first three. They [SC] like to mix it up, not sticking to one varietal all the time in order to to avoid promoting mono-cultural activities.

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Using a secret yeast recipe, brewing occurs “two minutes down the road,….. in effect, in-house brewing”, says head distiller, Heather Tillott. The distillery shares a kit with the local brewery which is crucial to give SC the “right chemical makeup” for its spirit further down the production line. Fermentation time is 120 hours. SC uses full-sized casks – ASBs as well as 300-litre French oak/ex-tawny casks. Further reading: WLP.

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Sullivans Cove 2008/2017 09yo Ob. Double Cask #DC095 [btl #552/957] 49.6% WB90[2]

Entitled ‘Double Cask’ because it’s made up of a combo of French oak and American ex-bourbon, this batch is made up of three barrels – namely TD0003, TD0037 & TD0285. I’ve already tried one Double Cask expression before and liked it a lot [WLP86].

  • N: Perhaps even more exotic that the previous single bourbon cask. Initially, I get dried mace, cooked cooled & buttered basmati rice, flatbreads [chapati, barbari] distant lime pickles, a Martini with dried pomegranate seeds, celeriac, kohlrabi. Then again, back West, we can easily talk of Christmas spice-seasoned milky vanilla cream over short-crust mince pies. Going in deeper, I hit upon a papaya salad with a spoonful of Thai Green curry mixed with milky porridge covered over with a piece of thin pancake, oak-husky banana,… and on and on. Looks like we are playing home & away once again.
  • T: All number of breads [not too refined, not too heavy, so artisanal/appealing], macadamia-buttered pancakes, a hint of poppy seeds, filo pastry,…
  • F: There’s a congestion of sorts in comparison to the previous freer-flowing single bourbon cask. On some level, it’s as if the two casks [types] rub against one another as if to cancel each other out to a certain extent. More, a conflict of interest – quibbles though.
  • C: I favour the single bourbon cask, but this double cask is a fabulous puzzle.

Scores 85 points

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It’s impossible not to marvel at the diversity of the flavour & taste of whisky, despite being made from just four ingredients. There are, of course, shared generic similarities amongst many a whisky from any number of distilleries from around the world, but there is something genuinely unique about Sullivans Cove. Their whisky is an experience like no other. Bring on the macadamia butter and where the exotic meets the rest.

Further reading: WLP

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