Mt Wellington

Just had my second mouthful, superb!

Truly the greatest Aust single malt I’ve ever had!

Dan Woolley
Whisky Ambassador – World of Whisky

Release the Beast

Most people know I have a sweet tooth – I love sweet whiskys… port matured are at the top of my ‘must have’ list… and I love cask strength whisky to boot – so when I got ahold of this gem, I was almost foaming at the mouth…

Well it came in a 64.2% Cask Strength, so I knew it was going to pack a punch right out of the bottle… the colour was an incredibly deep ruby & dark mahogany. It even had charcoal flakes floating in the whisky that were drawn up by the thief… amazing…

I opened it, and had a good sniff, some fantastic port & sherry notes, sweet fruit tones were evident – as was the alcohol! Whoa!   But – I was told to let it sit and breathe for a while once opened… so I did – I gave it about 1/2 an hour to breathe, and the aromas on the nose had widened and intensified – powerful & glorious…

So what did I smell? heaps of poached fruits here, but not the obvious ones, rich port notes, some sherry. Hints of mandarin from somewhere, some passion fruit and notes that remind me of different sorts of fruit jams (quince paste, blackberry jam).

In the mouth the whisky is first sweet like cooked fruit with a hint of spice. Toffee, Vanilla… The portwood is there in full strength taking control and giving the palate a drier oaky taste, but the sherry smooths things over slightly.

Powerful, yet balanced – intense & razor sharp, yet soft, sultry & rich.

The closest competitor I’ve tried would be a Glendronach 1982 – yet this seems better… softer somehow

Length: forever… I was tasting it 10 minutes later…

This whisky is everything you need – it’s perfectly named, it is a monster…

Richard Stewart
Tasmanian Whisky Appreciation Society

Release the Beast

Tasted #63: Australia Day Special – Heartwood “Release the Beast”
Happy Australia Day, Australia!

Given the proliferation of excellent whisky we have on our shores, I figured today’s tasting had to be an Australian whisky, and what better than one from Heartwood Whisky?

Fans of Australian whisky might be familiar with Heartwood, but for those who aren’t, think of them as an Australian independent bottler, who only deal in (high) cask strength, high-quality whiskies.

Without going into too much detail (given this is a “Tasted” post), Heartwood currently have 10,000+ litres of Australian whisky maturing away. A lot of it is from Lark Distillery (where Tim who runs Heartwood also sits on the board), but some of it comes from other Australian distilleries too, such as Tasmania Distillery.

When Heartwood decide the whisky is ready they release it at cask-strength, which (due to the unique climate in Tasmania and cask storage conditions forcing the water to evaporate faster than the alcohol) often results in an ABV% higher than when the new make entered the barrel. Seems they have some tee-totalling angels in Tassie!

Whilst some releases are bottled at a mental ABV% like 72.5% (“The Convict Redemption”, an excellent dram by the way), this one here was bottled at a slightly less insane 65.4%, after maturing in two port barrels and being finished in an Australian Sherry (aka Apera) cask. The website states NAS, but I’ve heard this one is around 7 years old.

Oh, and a final note – if you’re reading about any Heartwood release, there’s a good chance it’ll no longer be available. While there are a few available at the time of writing, these whiskies do sell out very quickly. Not hard to see why…

Heartwood “Release the Beast” (65.4% ABV, NAS, Tasmania Australia)

Colour: Deep, deep copper. Rich, red. One of the darkest whiskies I’ve tasted for the site.

Nose: Big sherry hit at first – reminds me of the Kavalan Soloist which I tasted early last year. In addition to the obvious sherry notes, a fruity, nutty, sweet nose comes through. Complex and sweet.

Palate: Big, clearly strong, but also incredibly smooth. Very, very drying. Hints of hazelnuts. But dry, so dry. Absolutely no burn though – a whisky that has been matured and cared for well.

Finish: Still dry, with long berry notes. Hazelnut notes show through at the very end again.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. Not for the faint of heart (ha), but certainly not rough or unapproachable in any way. Incredibly smooth, reasonably complex and with some delicious notes. Try it with a drop of water and watch the flavours explode. All the Heartwoods I’ve tried have been excellent, and unique, so if you’re a fan of different, interesting, quality Australian whisky, give them a look.

Thanks to Cooper from for the sample.

– Martin.
Posted by Martin at Sunday, January 26, 2014

Release the Beast

Ok I am now one of the special few who have had the pleasure of tasting the Beast.

The small but gratefully accepted tasting bottle lasted for 5 evenings and provided that moment of pure relaxation at the end of the day.

This is a real leather chair by a fire drink. It’s such a pity that cigars are no longer PC. I love big whiskeys – sit me down with a laphroaig and you can keep me happy for a long time but I have to admit its a while since I have been treated to a full power cask strength masterpiece like the Beast.

Take your time is my advice. So deep but without the burn that your palate might expect from something with this much punch. Big bold round thick and dark (a bit like its maker) I am still trying to name the flavours and layers that pleasured me and wish I had another few drams (or Happies as I tend to call them) to fully lubricate my wordsmithing.

The colour is deep , almost as deep as the wild tannin waters of Tasmanias southwest wilderness. And this is certainly something different to many of the lighter sweeter vanilla highlights of other Tasmanian whiskies. Although larks latest and the port influenced whiskies of others have broadened the styles and provided big whisky pleasures to my tongue and palate.

And of course the beast wears its barrel influences out there and with aplomb. Sherry overtones and port colors. Brilliant. Well done ducat. If Lark is obe one kenobe you are surely Luke sky walker. May the power be with us all.

Andrew Smith

Convict Redemption

Dear Tim,

Here ’tis:

This whisky arrives on the front palate in a wave of sweet creme brulee toffee and vanilla, then opens to a profoundly oily/ velvetty mouth feel with nutty and oaky tones. The depth of flavour can only be described as ‘gigantic’. Progressing to the finish, one feels a rolling thunder of warm and satisfying alcohol with a level of satisfaction that defies the a.b.v. of the spirit. The lingering aftertaste provides hints of Christmas spices and candied orange peel peeking through the warm and creamy alcoholic glow of this weighty dram. A BIG BIG whisky that delivers its punch in soft velvet gauntlets. Astonishing!


Convict Redemption

Australian Gourmet Pages Newsletter

Newsletter – Whisky News

March 2014

Heartwood Malt Whisky – Convict Redemption Batch 2

This is now the fourth review and story on Heartwood Malt Whisky featured on AGP. You’d be forgiven for thinking such exposure hints at favouritism or that the spotlight is focussing too closely on just one player. However, in a week where an Australian whisky just picked up “World’s Best Single Malt Whisky” at one of the most respected international whisky award shows on the planet, the opportunity to focus again what’s coming out of the Heartwood stable should not be dismissed.

For those unfamiliar with the name or the story, the executive summary is that Heartwood is an independent bottler of Tasmanian malt whiskies, headed up by Tim Duckett. Duckett has acquired casks from several distilleries, at various stages of maturation, and he treats and experiments with them in such a way that the final result and flavours are a long way removed from what the rest of the industry is producing.

Heartwood’s latest release – and the best to-date – is the Convict Redemption Batch 2.

The bottling has some interesting provenance, having been distilled by Bill Lark at Tasmania Distillery. Yes, that’s the distillery responsible for Sullivans Cove, the aforementioned award winner. Distilled in May 2001 and bottled in December 2013, it is a monster of a whisky, weighing in at an unbelievable 71.9% ABV.
The last two-three years have been watershed moments for Duckett, as his theories and experiments have begun to hold water. (Or, more accurately, lose water, judging by the increase in ABV!). Duckett readily acknowledges that some of his casks were nothing particularly special at the start of their journey, however, the treatment he gives the casks and the processes he undertakes to refine them is borne out of a combination initiative, inspired genius, happy accidents, and hard yakka. Trial and error goes a long way in the whisky game, and Duckett has tried all manner of steps and tricks to reduce the volatiles in his whiskies and coax out their goodness. And it’s clear that he’s learned what works and what doesn’t. “The early releases were good whiskies” he explains, “but if I knew then what I know now, they’d have been even better.” The experiments included leaving the casks in hot tin sheds over the Aussie summer (one of the reasons why water is evaporating before the alcohol and thus increasing the alcoholic strength); opening the decanting vat repeatedly to release the accumulated volatiles; and even holding back the release of each expression after initial bottling, so that the whisky can adjust to “bottle shock”. Those in the production end of the Scotch or bourbon industries would suggest there’s no such thing as bottle shock, but simple testing and tasting by Duckett demonstrate otherwise. And it’s that sort of “hands on”, head-first approach that is yielding amazing results.

And so to the Convict Redemption Batch 2. Duckett believes this is his best whisky yet, and this reviewer didn’t take much convincing to agree. Duckett’s ultimate whisky is one that he describes as a brontosaurus. If you picture the body shape, it’s small and narrow at the front, then builds to a huge, big, powerful middle, and then tapers off to a long tail or finish. The Convict Redemption Batch 2 achieves such a profile, and impressively so. Perhaps one of the most astounding things about this whisky is that, despite (or in spite?) of the ridiculously high ABV, there is not a hint of aggression.

The nose is instantly sweet. The cask in question was an ex-port French oak cask. 12 years is a fair old age for Australian whisky, and the years in wood have brought out spice, coffee, toffee, roasted nuts, dark chocolate, and sweet pastry notes.
The palate is – well, let’s not mince words – HUGE. One must never forget that whisky making is the art of producing flavoured alcohol. Hence, the more alcohol, the more flavour. In this instance, the palate explodes with big, powerful flavours that capture so many different categories and families of flavour. Sweetness? Check. Malty? Check. Spices? Check. Vanillins? Check. Oak? Check. Port influence? Check. Pleasant experience? Double check. If you’re not used to drinking cask strength or high alcohol spirit, then I concede this might be a bit too big for some, and perhaps be perceived as a bit hot by others. But one mustn’t confuse heat with aggression. To this palate, the experience was powerful, but wonderfully smooth. And for those that do need to bring down the strength, a few drops of water don’t go astray.

The key thing here is balance. There are too many whiskies being released presently – from all over the world – where the balance is lost or seen as a luxury. Big sherried whiskies have no sweetness to balance the tannins; grassy Speysiders have no malt or sweetness to balance the bitterness; and youthful drams have no oak to balance the volatile spirit. The Convict Redemption Batch 2 is the perfect example of how good a whisky can be when balance is achieved. The oak and the spirit combine rather than fight; the sweetness is balanced by spice, rather than being cloying or too saccharine; and the palate is complex rather than lopsided or one-dimensional.
However, to be a good whisky, the dram must have a good finish. In this instance, the brontosaurus’ tail is insanely long, yet is consistent with the body. This is a dram that leaves a mighty big footprint on your tastebuds – yet they’re all the more grateful for the experience!
Followers of Heartwood on Twitter were treated last week to some pictures and morsels of the next generation of Heartwood releases. They’re still quite a few months away, but come from casks of different provenance, distilleries, and production methods (including the use of peated malt!) The world can only get better!

Written by:
Andrew Derbidge

Thank you Andrew; In my opinion the Heartwood is the only Australian whisky I rate and the only Australian whisky I actually buy and drink.
Franz Scheurer

Release the Beast

This review is of bottle 126/259 of the Heartwood ‘Release the Beast’ batch 1.

Heartwood is an independent bottler of Tasmanian whisky, with over 10,000 litres of the good stuff attempting to hit its straps in the unforgiving Australian climate, some of which is possibly the oldest Australian single malt whisky going around.

Heartwood is a project of possibly the number 2 guy in Australian whisky (behind his good mate, Bill Lark), Tim Duckett, who is extremely passionate about his product.

From the website: “We are there to determine the amount of peat used for production. We are there when the spirit is produced. We are there to select the barrel. We are definitely there to sample the whisky as it matures. We do not have commercial drivers. The quality of the whisky produced is the most important aspect of our endeavours. The whisky will be bottled when it is ready. If it is really, really, good, we might just keep it for ourselves (to be shared with friends).”

The distillate, produced at Lark distillery and influenced by Tasmanian peat, has been measured to a Sphagnum peat influence of 50%. Initially matured for 3 years in 2 separate 100 litre port casks, before being married for 4 years in a 200 litre Australian Sherry cask and bottled at a cool 65.4% ABV, there’s something mildly scary about sitting down to a glass of this.

It’s darker than any whisky I’ve ever tried, holding the bottle up to the light very little shines through the spirit, giving off a dim brown-maroon hue. This is for drinking right? Should I be wearing a hazmat suit?

To smell; to start – my high school woodwork class; wood shavings, sawdust, varnish, a sweet note intermingling. Then… Hold on a second… Holy crap, here come the port notes! Thick and juicy red fruit notes uppercut my nostrils! Motherflipper it’s big! The port sweetness just blew my nose off!!! The carpentry aromas take a back seat while the violence ensues.

After pulling myself back together, the nose eventually settles down, becoming more delicate and approachable. With the aid of a teaspoon of water I get – Red Vines, fruitcake, honeycomb, a touch of struck matches appears for a second (contributing to rather than hindering the experience), and Goanna Oil (medicinal oil for rubbing on sore muscles).

To taste; surprisingly soft, all recent events considered. Don’t get me wrong, this will still make the eyes water on first sip, but it’s very enjoyable and sweet. Sherry takes the lead then Port dries and rounds out. My nose knows better than my tongue so the best I can do is Cherry Ripe (on steroids of course).

Addition of water – becomes creamy, absolutely amazing mouth feel to this. The finish is a battle between the immense sweetness, and the obviously active cask, becoming slightly bitter, but excusably so.

It may be that the alcohol content has hit me for 6 (Australian whisky, had to throw in a colloquialism), but the bitterness reminds me of vegemite until the sweetness kicks in.

Truly unique, and mightily impressive, it’s not perfect, but it’s something to be bloody proud of Tim.

Tasting Notes by Chookster

Breaking all the rules


In conversation with Tim Duckett of innovative Heartwood Whiskies

Franz Scheurer
14 January 2014

Considering Australia is such a latecomer to whisky production, the country produces some serious drams. It does, however, seem a pity that everyone still follows the old-fashioned, proven methods, that no one has tried to find an Australian style. But wait – enter stage right, Tim Duckett and Heartwood Whiskies.

Tim Duckett is Australia’s first independent bottler, and although he doesn’t distil but rather buys new-make that he likes, he breaks all the rules of ageing and storing whisky, with the result that he produces what is easily the best Australian drams out there. And he’s incredibly consistent, too.

CENTURION: When and how did you start on this experiment?

Tim Duckett: I used to sit at the end of the university bar and drink a whisky then a glass of water and repeated that process all night, which meant I was drinking as much as everyone else, but managed to graduate. I always liked whisky, and when I was appointed to the Ben Lomond Advisory Committee (as I am an environmental scientist). Bill and Lyn Lark were involved as well, and they said they would make whisky – that’s when I said I would drink it. And that’s how we became friends. In 1999, several whisky barrels became available from Lark Distillery, and also the original Tasmanian Distillery, and I bought them as I could afford them. I only started producing my own whisky last year.

What makes yours different?

It’s the age of the whisky, it’s the strength of the whisky and we mature our whisky rather differently. I break all the rules, for instance, I will position the barrels next to a warm wall and some of my barrels are actually exposed to hours of sunlight each day. We use this method to drive off some of the aldehydes and volatile esters. They are not desirable, and we drive them off.

Then when we decant, we do this differently again: we pour the whisky into large stainless steel vats. They do have a lid, but it’s not tightly fitting and the whisky can breathe. We then leave it in there and go and check it every few days, and one day, usually after a couple of months, when you lift the lids all the volatiles will be gone. The nose is lovely and alluring, and that’s when you know the whisky is ready for bottling.

How would you describe your philosophy on whisky making?

A lot of the heavyweights in the industry describe whisky by mouth feel and mouth presence, not flavour. So I would like to think of my whisky as a Brontosaurus. It builds and builds, gets bigger and bigger, until it ends with a very long tail. So it’s that body shape I try to achieve when we produce my whiskies.

Where do you sell your whiskies?

Through specialist outlets, as there isn’t enough to go around and we have some rather obscure names (the people on our social media pages help us name some of the whiskies). If you want a bottle, you will find it.

Footnote by Franz Scheurer:

Let me say more or less diplomatically that I am no friend of Australian whiskies and have never found a dram worth drinking. This changed with Heartwood’s Mt. Wellington Release about 2 years ago, which convinced me that we finally had a world-class whisky in Australia. This release was subsequently followed by more releases and each and every one a cracker. I would now rate Heartwood amongst the world’s best and I love the fact that we finally have not only a great whisky, but a definite style.

Mt Wellington

Tim mate, that whisky’s growing on me – and you can quote me – but take the best of salty Pulteney, feisty and  rustic Mortlach and a bit of Clynelish – and we’re getting there. A bit like mixing sardines, mustard and fruit compote, Shouldn’t work but does. Some won’t like it.

But hey, who wants to be conventional? A  very interesting addition to the world of whisky.


Dominic Roskrow

True Spirit


Mt Wellington

I thought the nose was really good and quite complex.

The palate was somewhat a surprise as it has taken on a lot of wood influence which wasn’t really suggested to that extent in the nose.

The finish, I thought was good but the bitterness took most of the attention. I happen to be really sensitive to bitter things.

Anyway, I would rate the whisky an 8.1/10. Thanks for thinking of me and I will show the product around to see what others think of it.

Overall not a bad result considering its fate a year or so ago.

Nose: Lots of malt, pine resin, Nougat, Brandy soaked pears, furniture polish.

Palate: Sweet and tannic with white pepper and nutmeg quite grippy and bitter and sappy.

Finish: Wood spice, Pistachio nougat, cereals and cinotto  and furniture polish and boiled sweet.

Hey Timmy having your whisky with Monte No 2 cigar and its awesome with it, indeed 9.2/10

Shane Kalloglian
Premium Scotch Importers