Convict Unchained

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

Mt Wellington

Hi Tim,

I don’t know if you saw or heard about the activity, but I served the Heartwood as a blind at the recent Gillies tasting last Tuesday night.  No one remotely picked that it was Australian, and it got incredibly favourable reviews and a very high score!  When I revealed where it came from, there was much admiration and an impressed crowd!

Anyway, Franz gave it a good “write up” on Twitter, which Graham Wright joined in with!

So, a few more fans of Heartwood for you! 😉

Heartwood Malt Whisky – Mt Wellington Release

By Andrew Derbidge
Australian Gourmet Pages

Mt Wellington

“There is something unique about Tasmanian whisky, said Linz, though I couldn’t tell you what it is, but that’s it and its brilliant.

 

And I could only agree and hope the sensation—taste seems too small a word— would still be there when I awoke the next morning.

 

It wasn’t, of course, but the memory remains.

 

Congratulations. I thought it wonderful.”

 

Richard Flanagan

Convict Unchained

Tasting Notes by Chookster

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 Beasts 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, there¹s alcohol in abundance, but that in my opinion only seems to enhance the experience. In the background behind the monstrous cask influenced notes there¹s 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 (A¹bunadh 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 I¹d 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 don¹t 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 couldn¹t rate them better or worse, all that matters is that they are bloody enjoyable.

Mt Wellington

“Whisky the way it should be. Rich, silky, smooth & subtle which slips down nicely, even at full strength.

No need to add water – it’s perfect as it is.

The nose shows warm caramel, a touch of oak…

In my opinion it’s a whisky for the sweet tooth – on the palate – you’ll get vanilla, toffee, tokay, stewed stonefruit – it’s almost a lolly shop in liquid form, clean, but without being sickly sweet.

The finish is long, dry & fruity.”

Richard Stewart
Tasmanian Whisky Appreciation Society
http://www.twas.com.au

Mt Wellington

Wow!  An extremely pleasant whisky and one that is very more-ish.  Despite the high alcohol, it’s wonderfully approachable and not at all aggressive.  (A gentle giant?)

Sorry, but if this was served to me blind, there’s no way I’d pick it as an Australian whisky.  If you’d told me this came from the heart of Scotland, I wouldn’t doubt it for a second – it’s very Scotch-like.  (I often wonder how Australian whisky producers feel about such comparisons.  Is this a compliment or an insult?)  In either case, this is great whisky:  Well made, well matured, and well delivered.

Nose:  Immediately fragrant.  Sweet barley malt sits on top.  Then a hint of sherbert, and loads of freshly cut wood (pine?).  There’s also some underlying vanilla, bordering on soft caramel.  Also, with time, a very faint waft of smokiness flitters by.  There’s some complexity in here, and your nose is rewarded if you take the time to explore all on offer.  A splash of water brings out some Huon pine and a stoney, mineral-like scent.

Palate:  Loads of sweetness up front, but it’s natural sweet malt and wood sugars, rather than a saccharine sweetness, or the lacquered sweetness you get from a wine cask or a bad wood-finish.   More vanillins come through (no doubt the bourbon cask wielding its influence), and there’s more chewy malt.  It’s delightfully and deliciously clean.  The mouthfeel is quite grippy, and it’s a great tactile texture.  With water, the palate turns in a more savoury direction, offering Danish pastries and a pleasant butteriness.

Finish:  The finish is long and powerful, and it becomes quite nutty – there’s a distinctive note of hazelnuts, and possibly also some stewed fruits, or perhaps stewed rhubarb?

The finish – which goes on and on – eventually trails to a dry nuttiness (plain, unsalted cashews?).   It leaves quite a drying and grippy footprint, as though you’d been sucking on a boiled lolly for a long time.

Andrew Derbidge

Director and Cellar Master
Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Australian Gourmet Pages
http://australiangourmetpages.com/

Mt Wellington

Hi Tim

Thought you may be interested in hearing of the Macquarie Gillies tasting results from our meeting last weekend where the Heartwood ‘Mt Wellington’ was examined.

In short, the result was absolutely fantastic, with 4 of the 11 panellists awarding it 8.0 or over, and only one giving it less than a 7 (6.8 to be exact). Average score came in a 7.56  and was second only on the day. Comments included ‘the best Aussie whisky I’ve tasted’, ‘great Aussie whisky’, etc.

Nose was crème brulee, caramel & sweet orange; palate of toasted pink marshmallow, marmalade, lemon meringue pie, and an ‘exploding eucalypt bushfire’; the finish had bushfire smoke, lingering heat, menthol & iodine, whilst being ‘smooth & pleasant’.

As a general rule, we only ever cautiously add water in Macquarie Gillies (although this is entirely optional, but it usually is seen to maybe release the nose, but at the premium of a weakened palate), whereas the overall feeling was that water did indeed improve the Heartwood Mt Wellington right across the board, highlighting the vanilla & mintiness, making it smoother, and adding to its overall balance.

This is the second outing of Mt Wellington at a Macquarie Gillies – last time (June 2012) it scored a 7.82 with similar comments as above, and was most certainly acclaimed as the best we’ve tasted out of Australia.

In short, what a stunner: well done! Macquarie Gillies applauds you!

Can you supply me some info & feedback on your latest Convict Unchained and Convict Release please.

Slainte!

Bruce Ferrier
Laird, Macquarie Gillies