Hobart Whisky: a new direction from Tasmania’s whisky capital

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On tasting, five Hobart Whisky single malts from Devil’s Distillery.

There are some whisky brand names that immediately make the hairs stand on end – don’t think I’ll be ordering a Big Black Cock, Jane Walker or Toxic Masculinity Whisky anytime soon. Devil’s Distillery was on that list when I first came across it in 2015, and when their ‘Tasmanian Moonshine’ spirit was released two years later, I was dubious.

The rush to bring in revenue by releasing young malt spirit or gin has delivered mixed results. On the plus side, some fantastic Australian gins have been created to alleviate the financial turbulence of this difficult waiting period. At the other end, a number of over-priced, undercooked, not-quite-whiskies have tested the faith of consumers.

But when Devil’s Distillery released their Hobart Whisky in 2018, it felt like a new direction had emerged for the Tasmanian scene. Goodbye raw, sticky whisky that was all cask and no spirit. The early Hobart Whisky bottlings showed harmony. The spirit was playing the same tune as the oak – careful maturation in ex-Bourbon casks was crucial here. And when Hobart Whisky’s various cask finishes started to appear, again, we tasted core spirit character that was complimented by the cask, not smothered by it. The devil’s in the detail.

  • Hobart Whisky 19-003 American Oak Ex-Bourbon
    The Stats
    • ABV: 55.7%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Single malt whisky
    • Production Story: A marriage of small ex-Bourbon casks bottled in May 2019.
    • Location: Hobart, TAS
    • Score: 83
    Nose
    Youthful and spirit-forward upfront. With time in the glass, it opens into lemon, vanilla essence, tropical fruits, hibiscus, robust white flowers, grape jubes, passionfruit and Turkish delight.
    Palate
    Initially clean and elegant with subtle vanilla, developing into freshly baked vanilla slice, and the passionfruit again.
    Finish
    Turkish delight, rose and freshly baked sponge cake.
    Comments
    A great aperitif style whisky. I can’t wait to taste this after more time in cask. Suspect it will become a rich tropical treat, with a creamy texture to rival some of Scotland’s top ex-Bourbon malts. A real go to whisky for Speyside fans.
  • Hobart Whisky Ex-Bourbon Rosé Cask Finish
    The Stats
    • ABV: 49.4%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Single malt whisky
    • Production Story: Initially matured in ex-Bourbon and then finished in a cask that was seasoned with Tasmanian rosé. Bottled June 2019.
    • Location: Hobart, TAS
    • Score: 88
    Nose
    Hibiscus tea, Red Skins, crisp malt, fresh lemon and orange, Aperol, peach.
    Palate
    Salty, toasted oat porridge, straw on a hot day in a field, apricot kernel.
    Finish
    Floral and fruity – like a tropical fruit platter left outside on a hot day.
    Comments
    Calls to mind a well-balanced Aperol Spritz. The rosé cask creates serious peach and raspberry complexity without overpowering the whole. One to savour. And to the Aussie distillers out there, give this a look!
  • Hobart Whisky Hungarian Oak Tokaji Matured
    The Stats
    • ABV: 49.8%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Single malt whisky
    • Production Story: Matured in a recoopered Hungarian oak Tokaji cask for just over three and a half years. Bottled November 2019 unflocked and unfiltered.
    • Location: Hobart, TAS
    • Score: 88
    Nose
    An initially subdued nose of dry, spicy oak, then guava, papaya and underripe pineapple. With time, it opens up, and delivers blueberry and tart strawberry jam.
    Palate
    Again the Hibiscus, rose tea, raspberry coulis and blueberry jus.
    Finish
    Getting sweeter, white sugar on a hot saucer.
    Comments
    Tokaji cask delivers beautiful red fruits, but it never becomes cloying, and maintains its weight and central malt character.
  • Hobart Whisky Last Rites Brewing Co. Stout Cask Finish
    The Stats
    • ABV: 49.6%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Single malt whisky
    • Production Story: A marriage of ex-Bourbon matured whisky casks finished in a Last Rites Brewing Co. stout barrel.
    • Location: Hobart, TAS
    • Score: 89
    Nose
    Guylian chocolate, chalk, limestone, ripe stone fruits, cranberry sauce, old library books, thrifted fur coat, raspberry chocolate stout, Old Gold rum & raisin dark chocolate.
    Palate
    Burnt baking chocolate, vanilla cookie dough, hokey pokey ice cream, a little tannin adds weight and texture.
    Finish
    Burnt butter caramel, Cottee’s orange cordial, chestnut.
    Comments
    Why don’t we use stout casks more? If distillery manager John Jarvis can continue to produce stout finishes of this quality, there’ll be no need to experiment with roasted malts. More please.
  • Hobart Whisky Winter Feast 2019 Rum Maple Finish
    The Stats
    • ABV: 58.6%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Single malt whisky
    • Production Story: Initially matured for three years in 40L ex-Bourbon casks. The whisky was then finished for three months in a Guatemalan rum cask, that, before being filled with Hobart Whisky, also contained cask-matured maple syrup.
    • Location: Hobart, TAS
    • Score: 75
    Nose
    Maple syrup, new make, hickory BBQ, maple smoked bacon, home-made tomato sauce, tanbark, French apple cider.
    Palate
    Orange oil, lemon balm, vanilla room fresheners, heat like hot pot or a mouthful of chilli.
    Finish
    Little to no finish. Malt and caramel water, vanilla maple cream.
    Comments
    A pancake lovers heaven at first sniff, but all the malt character is lost here. I know this was an incredibly popular bottling, and I can see why, but the maple syrup’s just a topping over youthful spirit.
Brooke Hayman
Brooke Hayman is the co-owner and business director of Melbourne’s Whisky & Alement. She’s also a judge at the Royal Australian Spirits Awards, the Tasting Australia Spirits Awards, and is currently the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Champion after winning the 2018 competition.