On tasting: Sullivans Cove 21 Year Old, Smith’s Angaston 18 year old and Smith’s Angaston 20 year old.
To the many Australian distillers restless to get whisky out of cask and into people’s glasses, extensively matured whiskies, like the ones reviewed here, must seem like a distant dream. But it’s a sign of the growing maturity of the Australian whisky landscape, that we now have 15, 18 and 20+ year old whisky available for those willing to dive deep into their pockets.
And to those who’ve stayed in the game long enough and had the foresight, patience, and, in some cases, luck, to let their whisky slumber, it’s time to raise a glass.
In the case of the Sullivans, a fortuitous find led to this 21 year old. Four forgotten casks, originally distilled in 1997 (an infamous year for what was then Tasmania Distillery, which saw its founder Robert Hosken in court over misleading labelling) were found, bought back by the distillery, and blended together to create this whisky.
This Sullivans proves that, yes, we can create extensively matured Australian whisky that isn’t dominated by oak if the cask and climate are right – second or third fill, larger format, and housed in a fairly stable environment.
For the Smith’s Angaston bottlings, two similarly aged spirits have produced two very different mature whiskies.
All three open a fascinating window into what Australian whisky could look like in another decade or two. On the other hand, there’s also a chance that these bottlings might become outliers, indicative of a time when Australian whisky looked more akin to a rumour, a curious idea, a fun experiment even.
With demand constantly increasing, will distillers have the patience, or even the desire, to leave spirit in cask when the results are in on quality being achievable much earlier? Certainly makes these even more of a treat.