Whisky review: revisiting Hellyers Road

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On tasting: Hellyers Road Original, Hellyers Road 15 Year Old, Hellyers Road Pinot Noir, Hellyers Road 16 Year Old Pinot Noir Finish by The Whisky Club, Hellyers Road Peated, Hellyers Road Slightly Peated 15 Year Old, Hellyers Road Masters Series 14 Year Old Peated

My first experience with Hellyers Road whisky was back in 2012. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too fond of it back then.

I’ve still got my notes from that first encounter, and next to ‘light and lemony, roasted hazelnuts’ (that nuttiness has remained a persistent trait), I also reported ‘metallic edge taints the finish, and not enough weight to the spirit – revisit in a few years’.

Fast forward to the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards in 2017, and when I saw the scores our whisky panel gave Hellyers Road malts (all judged blind), I had to pick my jaw off the floor. It was time to revisit Hellyers Road.

But between having kids, exploring new career paths, and, more recently, slogging through 2020 and all the associated budgetary constraints, I hadn’t got the chance to properly explore the range. Until now.

Clearly, we’ve both changed.

These days, where many Australian whiskies are bold, brash and a bit palate damaging at times, you breathe a sigh of relief when encountering some of the top Hellyers malts, with their fruity, floral maltiness, approachable ABV’s and affordable price points.

I applaud team Hellyers Road for championing a lighter, fruitier style of whisky (the ‘Original’ is delicious!). The peated malts, provenance issues aside (see below), should also be on your radar – huge, complex whiskies. But we need to talk about the choice of wine casks moving forward.

  • Hellyers Road Original Single Malt Whisky
    The Stats
    • ABV: 46.2%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Single malt whisky
    • Production Story: Distilled at Hellyers Road Distillery from a mash of Tasmanian malt and matured in 200 litre ex-Bourbon casks. Bottled unchillfiltered and without colouring.
    • Location: Burnie, TAS
    • Score: 90
    Nose
    Intense sweet malt initially, then dark cocoa, peach blossoms and candied Meyer lemon rind.
    Palate
    Plenty of weight here. Golden raisins, apricot kernel, fresh white nectarine, and a creamy marzipan as it spreads out.
    Finish
    Long, with dried apricots and pears lingering.
    Comments
    So easy drinking. There's a risk of over consumption with this one (should be a warning on the label). Also makes a delightful whisky sour, and at that price, why wouldn't you throw this in a cocktail. Great value.
  • Hellyers Road 15 Year Old Single Malt Whisky
    The Stats
    • ABV: 46.5%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Single malt whisky
    • Production Story: Distilled from a mash of Tasmanian malt and matured in 200 litre ex-Bourbon casks for a minimum 15 years.
    • Location: Burnie, TAS
    • Score: 84
    Nose
    Boiled lollies, vanilla, citrus and an intriguing linseed, oily fish character.
    Palate
    Plenty of spice here. Ginger and cardamon, and a good dose of American oak, but the spirit's a bit hot and it's lacking body for me.
    Finish
    Again, find that heat's persisting.
    Comments
    Where did all the sweet malt from the 'Original' go? There's some nice moments here, but found the spirit to be still a bit aggressive, which threw off the balance and palate of the whisky.
  • Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Single Malt Whisky
    The Stats
    • ABV: 46.5%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Single malt whisky
    • Production Story: Initially matured in 200 litre ex-Bourbon casks before undergoing a finish in French oak Tasmanian pinot noir casks.
    • Location: Burnie, TAS
    • Score: 72
    Nose
    Closed at first. The pinot influence is subtle, but then everything turns to lanolin, black pepper and some odd fruit notes.
    Palate
    Big hit of malt upfront, then the pinot comes on but it's disjointed. The oak and wine influence, which is dank and oddly musty, zigzags all over the place and sits heavy on the mid-palate.
    Finish
    Pear juice.
    Comments
    Is pinot noir the best match for Hellyers' spirit profile? Even though the wine influence is fairly subtle here, it distracts from the malt and orchard fruits that are signatures of the Hellyers distillate. These casks also seem to bring on a weird dankness which is not particularly pleasant. It develops with time in glass, but I need more convincing.
  • Hellyers Road 16 Year Old Pinot Noir Finish by The Whisky Club
    The Stats
    • ABV: 46.2%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Single malt
    • Production Story: Initially matured in ex-Bourbon casks for 15 years and then finished in French oak Tasmanian pinot noir casks. This was bottled for The Whisky Club and released March 2021.
    • Location: Burnie, TAS
    • Score: 79
    Nose
    Candied capsicums, milk cocoa, orange cordial and sugar coated almonds.
    Palate
    Lychee skins, thyme, marzipan and then root beer and ginger spice as it progresses into something a bit disjointed. The flavours and textures start jumping all over the place. Not quite together.
    Finish
    Fruit dancing on floorboards.
    Comments
    There's some interesting fruit and wine flavours here, and some well matured whisky lurking underneath. But the elements are clashing, leaving a sour, oaky residue - symptomatic of the Hellyers pinot noir offerings.
  • Hellyers Road Peated Single Malt Whisky
    The Stats
    • ABV: 46.5%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Single malt whisky
    • Production Story: Distilled from a mash of peated malt sourced from Bairds in Scotland and matured in 200 litre ex-Bourbon casks.
    • Location: Burnie, TAS
    • Score: 87
    Nose
    Hello Islay! Dirty peat, boot polish and a real sootiness here.
    Palate
    Reminds me of BenRiach Birnie Moss. The trademark Hellyers lanolin is here, and the sweet malt carries nicely against all the herbal, vegetal notes.
    Finish
    Black cardamon. Long, malty finish as peat lingers.
    Comments
    There are no faults to this, it's very well put together. But there's a discussion to be had about the source of the peated malt. It looses some points for me because of that provenance - it would be great if Hellyers could capture Australian peat flavours with some of their whiskies.
  • Hellyers Road Slightly Peated 15 Year Old
    The Stats
    • ABV: 46.2%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Single malt whisky
    • Production Story: Distilled from a mash of lightly peated malt sourced from Bairds in Scotland and matured for a minimum 15 years in 200 litre ex-Bourbon casks.
    • Location: Burnie, TAS
    • Score: 93
    Nose
    Powdery cocoa, sweet peat, and the oily lanolin again. Then the orchard fruits open up - yellow peach and apricot.
    Palate
    That sweet, subtle peat gently intertwines with the malt, and the fruits keep coming - Johnathan apple rind.
    Finish
    Fruity here, too, with some drying oak tannins.
    Comments
    Delicious. Provenance of the peat aside, this showcases what you can do with a light hand. Intricate, balanced and well executed.
  • Hellyers Road Masters Series 14 Year Old Peated
    The Stats
    • ABV: 63%
    • Price Band: $ $ $ $ $
    • Style: Single malt whisky
    • Production Story: Distilled from a mash of heavily peated malt sourced from Bairds in Scotland. Matured for 14 years in a single 200 litre ex-Bourbon cask. 185 bottles in total.
    • Location: Burnie, TAS
    • Score: 89
    Nose
    Sweet malt, and not much peat prevalent on the first pass. With time, barley sugars and a slight iodine note.
    Palate
    Vegetal peat. Savoury as it moves along, with green oak and an almost herbal bitterness. Peat gets sooty as it takes over the palate.
    Finish
    Peat bomb! But plenty of malt and richness through to the last.
    Comments
    This one's a bit shy on the nose, which is deceiving, because it opens up to reveal a massive whisky. There's so much peat here, and the high ABV works well to carry it. Islay fans, give this a go.
Ev Liong
Ev Liong is one of Australia's most distinguished whisky and hospitality professionals. She's been a venue manager, bartender and sommelier in some of the country's top bars and restaurants, including Whisky & Alement, Lee Ho Fook and Spice Temple, and designed numerous award-winning beverage programs and events. She now works as a wine and spirits buyer, distiller and spirits judge, and as a consultant to the whisky industry.