This review is of bottle 86/124 of the Heartwood ‘Convict Unchained’ batch 1.
For the full spiel on the Australian independent bottler, see my earlier review of another Heartwood product; ‘Release the Beast’, which this will inevitably be compared to.
The Convict was distilled by Bill lark at Tasmania distillery and has zero sphagnum peat influence (as opposed to Release the Beast’s 50%). The spirit was distilled in May of 2001 and bottled November 2012, making for approximately 11 and a half years of maturation in a Port cask, and coming out at (no, this is not a mistype) 71.9% ABV.
First, its colour; deep maroon, but definitely a shade or two lighter than its sibling the Beast.
To smell; ahhhh, no need to wait for it to open up, it springs forth a barrage of deep, rich, heavy, and dirty port notes from the get-go; A fusion of red fruits with an industrial twist. Allowably, there’s alcohol in abundance, but that in my opinion only seems to enhance the experience. In the background behind the monstrous cask influenced notes there’s wood shavings (definitely less of a wood influence than the Beast) and caramel, and even some licorice. Ok, enough with the nosing or I might pass out from the fumes.
To taste (small sips for safety); much less alcohol driven than the nose would suggest (A’bunadh batch 38, at a full 11.6% ABV less, came across to me as much more spirituous). The Convict might blush but I could easily describe the mouth-feel as creamy, delicate, and beautiful. Driven by the oak and red fruits again I’d have to put the estimated date of this flavour leaving my taste buds in the vicinity of hours rather than minutes. The tannins of the wood don’t even threaten to ruin the near flawless experience.
I found myself very impressed by ‘Release the Beast’ and the ‘Convict Unchained’ has again raised the bar significantly higher. I find it extremely hard to compare either to a product of Scotland, and in the same notion couldn’t rate them better or worse, all that matters is that they are bloody enjoyable.
Review by Matthew Fowler