January 2019 Whisky of the Month:
Time to kick things off in serious style with a jaw dropping 16 Year Old Tasmanian Single Malt without the ‘Tassie Pricetag’. A rare beast indeed, and easily one of the oldest, most delicious and exclusive Tasmanian single malts ever released.
This is love at first sip – and if you’re the lucky winner of this month’s first ever Whisky Club Airlines giveaway, you’ll then be falling in love all over again when we jet you and a friend off to Tassie’s spectacular North West Coast to meet the makers in person, soak up the sights, and go behind the scenes of how this very special limited edition was made.
Drawn from an historic set of first fill American Oak casks laid down by the founders of one of Australia’s very first whisky distilleries, Hellyers Road, back in 2002, it’s quite unlike any Hellyers you may have tasted before – absolute Tassie gold.
Richly complex, big and chewy with dark chocolate, butterscotch, ripe orange zest, roasted barley and beautiful flavours of fresh Tasmanian apple pie will have you coming back for a second helping – and many more.
We’re incredibly fortunate that Hellyers’ Master Distiller Mark Littler is one of many Aussie distiller legends in the Club and generously agreed not only to bottle us his best stock, but to offer it at an unheard-of price in Tas whisky.
We’re now thrilled to ship this World Exclusive malt to your door for only $135 delivered: a modest fraction of what we’re seeing the equivalent sell for in bottle shops right now, exclusive to Members.
Country of Origin:
As far as distillery histories go, Hellyers Road’s is one of the most charming. The distillery was established in 1999 by a group of whisky-mad dairy farming families from the wild and windswept northwest of Tasmania and today remains firmly and very proudly in the hands of these same families. The story actually begins way back in 1956 when the previous generation gathered to talk business. Faced with the typical challenges of dairy farming, these hard-working generational men and women of the land wanted greater control over the pricing and distribution of their milk. The discussions culminated in the sensible conclusion that strength lies in unity and the formation of the Betta Milk Cooperative, now Tasmania’s leading milk producer.
All was well (as well as it can be with dairy farming of course) until 1994 when Australia’s Dairy Industry was deregulated. Faced with the new challenges and uncertainty presented by the open market, the Betta Milk families did what all good farmers do and diversified. Except instead of following conventional wisdom and going into things like cropping or meat they took a massive leap of faith left-field and made single malt whisky… and it’s paying off in spades.
Located in prime dairy farming country on the North West Tasmanian coast, Hellyers Road Distillery was named after Henry Hellyer, a legendary surveyor from the Van Dieman’s Land Company who made his name mapping northern Tasmania. His greatest achievement, other than having a distillery named after him of course, was digging out the Old Surrey Road – an enormous job with a handful of men and only the most basic tools. And you’ve guessed it, Hellyers Road Distillery is located on Hellyer’s very own Old Surrey Road.
The first spirit flowed through the Hellyers Road stills 19 years ago on January 29, 1999 and seven years later in 2006 the first whisky was bottled. A lot changes in twelve years and as far a good punt goes, the decision to make whisky has been as good as gold because today the Tasmanian whisky industry couldn’t possibly be in a better place.
But it wasn’t always so rosy. Back in 1838 Tasmania was home to no fewer than 16 legal distilleries and countless illegal ones, and with a growing population of thirsty locals the industry boomed. At least it did up until the point Lady Jane Franklin, wife of Tasmanian Governor John Franklin, said “I would prefer barley be fed to pigs, than it be used to turn men into swine”. Needless to say Tasmania ended up with a lot of happy pigs and no shortage of bacon, but sadly no more local whisky after Lady Jane had her way and laws were introduced that forced the closure of all Tasmanian distilleries at the time.
The drought was broken in 1991when a chap by the name of Bill Lark went trout fishing in Tasmania’s Highlands with his father-in-law, Max. Enjoying a dram in a park in Bothwell, Bill questioned why nobody was making whisky in Tasmania – after all, not only is the climate perfect, there’s an abundance of crystal-clear water, locally grown barley and peat bogs. It just seemed logical. So, Bill being Bill set out to have a go, but upon applying for a license discovered Lady Jane’s law was still in place. Undaunted he contacted his local MP, the law was abolished and Lark Distillery was formed in 1992, paving the way for the Australian whisky industry as we know it. Hot on the heels of Lark came Small Concern Distillery (1992), Sullivans Cove (1994) and Hellyers Road.
Together these distilleries forged ahead and were joined along the way by others including Nant, Overeem, Belgrove and McHenry, and in recent years Old Kempton, Shene, Spring Bay, Fannys Bay, Adams, Launceston and Killara to name only a few of the forty or so (that’s almost as many as Speyside!) distilleries that make Tasmania the whisky isle of the South.
Tasmania has become a whisky region in itself, the name being used in the same breath as the long established Scotch regions like Speyside and Islay, and there’s been no shortage of awards either – with Sullivans Cove, Belgrove, Lark, Overeem, Nant and of course Hellyers Road all achieving international accolades from the likes of Jim Murray and the World Whisky Awards in London.
Today Hellyers Road Distillery is not only Australia’s biggest selling local whisky but can be found all across Europe, as well as Japan, China and the United States and in 2017 was named Tasmania’s Exporter of the Year.
Of course as a fledgling industry, the recognition that comes from winning major international awards is a massive boost and Hellyers Road is no stranger to the podium. Awards include being named Australia’s Best Whisky in 2010 by the Malt Whisky Society of Australia, Best New World at Whisky Live Paris in 2013 while the Slightly Peated scooped up both Gold and Champion Single Malt status at the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards, plus a Gold at the 2018 World Whisky Awards.
Topping it all off ,Visitor Centre manager Sharon Dean was named a ‘World Whisky Icon’ for her outstanding work at the distillery. One of the original team members, Sharon has seen the distillery’s Visitor Centre grow from a few thousand visitors a year to becoming one of Tasmania’s most popular tourism destinations with over 40,000 visitors a year, many making the pilgrimage from overseas to visit the home of their favourite malt.
The Whisky Club is extraordinarily lucky to kick off 2019 with a very special Hellyers Road bottling, and at 16 Years it’s one of the oldest Tasmanian whiskies yet. And not only that, there’s the chance to win a trip for two to the spectacular North West Coast of Tasmania to enjoy the distillery’s award winning hospitality!
About Hellyers Road Single Malt Whisky:
The largest whisky distillery in Australia, Hellyers Road has become well known and loved for its richly complex, fruity style of single malts. Thanks to strong and consistent production since inception, today Hellyers is in the most enviable position of all Australian distilleries in that it sits on a vast reserve of mature stock dating back to the very early 2000s. As a result it can do what no other local distillery can, feature a full core range including four NAS expressions (Original, Pinot Noir Finish, Peated and Slightly Peated), the 10 Year Old Slightly Peated and the recently released flagship 15 Year Old Original. The single cask Masters Series offers a very well priced glimpse into the distillery’s vast reserves and has understandably become very popular with connoisseurs, and finally of course there’s our 16 Year Old Limited Edition!
Like all Tasmanian distilleries, Hellyers uses locally grown Tasmanian barley and pure Tasmanian rain water. Barley is malted locally at Joe White Malting in Devonport, though the distillery did also bring in 50,000 tons of peated malt from Scotland back in 2004 allowing for production of their peated whiskies.
Whilst their size by comparison to other local distilleries is huge, in the overall scheme of things and by comparison to Scotland, with a capacity of 100,000 litres a year it’s still a tiny craft operation. The distillery is equally humble, “we think big and act big, but when compared to Europe’s finest, we’re actually quite small. And that’s good, because it keeps us trying hard. We try hard to produce Australia’s very best single malt whiskies.”
It certainly helps to have really good gear when you’re on a mission to make the country’s best whisky. Hellyers Road features a whopping 60,000 litre wash still and a 20,000 litre spirit still all set up so that it can also be remotely controlled from Master Distiller Mark Littler’s home when he’s not in the distillery. So while we’re all tucked up in bed we can rest assured that Mark is making whisky for us around the clock!
You’ll find Hellyers Road’s unmistakably rich, complex and fruity style at its absolute best in our January whisky, a rare limited edition created exclusively for the Club and drawn from an historic set of first-grade first-fill American Oak casks laid down back in 2002. Crafted using premium Tasmanian barley and pure Tasmanian water this is some of Hellyers Road’s, and indeed Tasmania’s oldest whiskies and of course it’s non-chill filtered and bottled at natural colour.
A hallmark achievement in Australian whisky distilling, we couldn’t be happier to open 2019 with this superb example of Tasmania’s finest! Enjoy!
$135 per bottle incl postage (it’s a great price, their standard 15 Year Old retails for $160 ex postage!)
Age on release:
Aged for 16 years in first-fill American oak casks
Hellyers Road quick facts
Place of origin: 153 Old Surrey Rd, Havenview TAS 7320
Water source: Romaine Dam
Number of stills: 1 wash and 1 spirit
Capacity: 120,000 litres per annum
Colour: Honey Gold
Nose: Freshly crushed vanilla bean, caramelised sugars with crispy green apples and roasted barley
Palate: Richly complex, big and chewy with notes of butterscotch, dark chocolate and ripe orange zest followed by roasted barley and fresh Tassie apple pie that will have you running back for a second helping!
Finish: Velvety smooth and buttery with a lingering sweetness and just a hint of coffee.
Fresh Barilla Bay oysters with chopped cucumber and spring onion, finished with Japanese soy and a squeeze of lemon juice.