[Malt Review] Sullivans Cove 14 Years Old Casa de Vinos Edition
Sullivans Cove hails from the land down under, nestled away in a balmy waterfront town in Hobart, Tasmania. Not exactly the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of whisky, but – in this day and age – that same shorthanded heuristic could fall short for a growing number of distilleries.
It certainly is a distillery worth knowing despite its lack of flashy promos or duty free pop-ups. You definitely won’t find too much in the way of gimmicks and theatrics here. Yet, belying that quietness, the distillery has done pretty well for itself, having bagged several high profile awards.
But awards are just that… awards. Every year, some distillery out there has to be the winner. Another year, another winner. Yet, I suppose it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to postulate that each winner has (or should have), at the core, some sort of a secret formula. So what’s the secret for this little distillery from Hobart?
For starters, they’ve got the climate on their side. Tasmania is home to one of the world’s best climates. Now, you might wonder, “how would one qualify that?” The location has some of the world’s most pristine air. Fun fact: The World Meteorological Organisation has three Baseline Air Pollution stations that form the basis of what is considered the benchmark for air purity. One of these three stations is on Tasmania; this means that the air there is literally some of the world’s cleanest. While air doesn’t really play much into whisky-making, it does affect the purity of rainwater.
Tasmania also has what is known as a “maritime temperate climate:” hot summers with long days and cold, sunny winters with short days. Compared to Australia, Tasmania gets much more sun, and has generally low humidity. This climate results in whiskies losing 5% of volume annually (the angel’s share), yet most of this volume loss is water, leaving more alcohol content behind. This is great, because it allows the whiskies to develop more intense flavors. Whiskey can be aged in full-sized barrels without getting too oaky, even after 20 years of aging.
Now, what does the distillery do that makes it so special? For one, they have a preference for using local wine casks such as Tawny or Apera. If you’ve got it in your backyard, why not make full use of it? Then, of course, there are the stills. Sullivans Cove is pretty unique in using a still that is not actually made for whisky-making, but rather was designed for Brandy. Who would have thought that the way to success in whisky-making was to not make whisky the way it was supposed to be made? This gives Sullivans Cove the ability to produce whiskies that are richer, more floral and fruity and velvety in texture.
Now that we’ve taken a little Sullivans Cove 101, let’s take a look at our bottle.
Today’s bottle is a 14-year-old Sullivans Cove that was exclusively bottled for the 10th anniversary of Australian spirits retailer Casa de Vinos. Aged in a refill ex-whisky American oak cask, it is bottled at a nice 56.5% ABV.
Read the full review here.
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