Well its finally time. Brad and I have been reviewing single malt whiskies since 2006, and for all the whiskies we have reviewed from around the world we’ve never offered a Sullivans Cove. To be perfectly honest, the price has always been just a little high to offer it as a club malt. To this end, we’d like to thank Sullivans Cove for the deal they’ve done for us on this wonderful whisky to allow us to offer it at such a great price for members. So with no further delay – let’s try the Sullivans Cove Double Cask.
While it has always been a force on the Australian Whisky scene, it hasn’t always been a force for good. A rather shaky start to the operation (located in Sullivans Cove, Tasmania initially) saw some bad press for the label, however they have certainly huge leaps of quality in the last 10 years under Patrick Maguires leadership. Along the way, they’ve picked up some very high scores from Jim Murray and lots of best in show gold medals. The list of accolades is long and well deserved including Australasian Distiller of the Year (Wizards of Whisky – London), Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year and Liquid Gold (Jim Murray 2013), and World Whisky Grand Master by international spirit magazine; the Spirits Business.
Prohibition of distilling on the island of Tasmania was enforced by Governor John Franklin in 1824 which was finally overturned in 1992. Sullivan’s Cove WHisky was established shortly after in 1995 located at Sullivans Cove Tasmania (which is the spot where the British first established the settlement that would grow into the City of Hobart). Today the distillery is located about 20 minutes away in Cambridge. Patrick Maguire joined the distillery in 1999 after a change of ownership, and been improving the quality of the whiskies ever since. Patrick lead the next take over in 2003, and now sits as head brewer and chairman. It is a family affair with cousin Phillip and brother Bruce all involved.
Sullivans Cove Double Cask is a blend of 2 barrels of French Oak, used to age a Port wine and ex Bourbon Barrels. The French Oak is similar to Sherry Oak barrels, where the staves of the barrel are “toasted” in an oven. This gives the wood a caramel, rich character. French oak adds a lot of flavour to whisky in contrast American Bourbon barrels which add some subtle flavours, but are better at removing unpleasant characteristics.
American barrels are made with fresh oak (not toasted), which is then fired. They literally burn in the inside of the barrel. This leaves a charcoal which is exceptionally good at absorbing unpleasant compounds. It also releases some subtle flavours like vanilla and smoke.
The quality of the spirit has been steadily improving and as the barrels come of age the marketing is matching the quality. The thing I love about this whisky is that they actually tell you the barrel numbers, and the bottle numbers of each bottle produced. It really gives you a sense of how small scale, and “craft” this 18 year old distillery really is. Our blend is only 1389 bottles, so if you think you have had this whisky before, you haven’t!