Wednesday has rolled round once again and last weeks Aussie dram lit a fire in my belly. If you don’t recall you can read through the review of the Limeburners here, which also includes some background information about the history of Australian whisky.
So, what does that leave us with today? What other Australian whisky could possibly follow? I think you know where I’m heading with this… this World Whisky Wednesday I’m looking at the Overeem Port Cask Whisky, 43%.
From Old Hobart Distillery (located in Hobart Tasmania), Overeem is a famous name in Australian whisky. It all started with Casey Overeem, founder of the original distillery. Casey got a taste for whisky and distilling in the 1980s when he experimented in his cousin’s cellar before acquiring his distilling licence in 2005. In 2007, he opened Old Hobart Distillery, joined by his daughter, Jane along the way, and first released a whisky in 2012.
It should be noted that many articles and press releases over here stated ‘Casey and his partner Jane’ but, in fact, Jane is his daughter (I understand confusion may have come from the term ‘work-partner’, but seriously..!).
At the time, the wash was made at the neighbouring Lark distillery. Overeem would see huge success to the point that their website would constantly crash when releasing new batches of whisky. In January 2014, the distillery was sold to Lark distillery, keeping true to the Overeem spirit but the distillery was now out of family hands. Casey would retire and Jane would leave the company to start the Sawford distillery with her (actual partner), husband Mark who is also her distilling partner.
Overeem stayed in Larks’ hands until earlier this year when Jane and Mark reacquired the original distillery. The barrels of whisky from the Sawford distillery were scheduled for a 2022 release though, now having reacquired Overeem, those barrels will be released under the Overeem distillery label. The distilling duties are shared between Jane and Mark and, though Casey is retired, he serves on the tasting panel to ensure consistency and to keep it in the family.
Moving onto the whisky, Overeem is what most people would tend to think of as typical style for an Australian whisky. First, the barley is a local Franklin brewing barley, a 50/50 split of unpeated and lightly peated barley. The peat in question is Tasmanian peat, built of gum tree, grass and flowers, resulting in a lightly woody, mossy and herb smoke. For distillation, Overeem double distils through a tiny 1,800l wash still and 800l spirit still (note how much smaller that is than the 1901 act would allow). For the wood, the distillery sources ex-port French Oak of around 600l, breaking them down at a local cooperage and recoopering them to 100l quarter casks.
Combining the conditions of small casks and a varied climate with large temperature fluctuations, Overeem whisky is considered fully matured around 5 to 7 years of age. It’s also important to recognise how small Overeem is – in the UK and the States (and to a certain extent Ireland) we are used to large scale operations. Overeem does a single run a day for 12 hours, drawing 130l of heart spirit. They get about 10,000 bottles per year from this, making them incredibly boutique and small with a focus on single cask releases, mainly in those quarter casks though they have laid down some 200l ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.
When all is said and done, the flavour shows through in the whisky but I’m getting ahead of myself here, so let’s get to tasting.
It’s an incredibly rich nose to start off the dram. A solid thump of dark plums and cherries with gratings of dark chocolate, turning to raspberry and sultana infused malt biscuits. A hit of crème brulee and sultanas soaked in rum brings the nose around and leaves you gasping for more, and yes, there is more. Burnt barley sugars, glace cherries, poached strawberries and apples and then into a spice basket of ginger and star anise, the dram has it all and begs a taste.
It’s remarkably sweeter than the nose lets on, the ginger and star anise coming through first before calmly stepping down and letting the full show through: strawberries dipped in milk chocolate, thick whipped double cream, poached pears and cinnamon. Then, a big old Christmas cake wakes from a brandy soaked slumber and stumbles into the room, the ginger and aniseed snapping back to action, pipe tobacco and raisins falling from the roof, baked cherries bursting through and all falling onto those malt biscuits and dashed lovingly with Armagnac. The finish is warm and soothing, bringing vanilla and fruit through for a long lasting mouth feel, a dram to last for days.
As you might be able to tell from those notes, I love this whisky.
It holds enough flavour to stand up to anything from around the world and, at such a young age, still holds a youthful vibrancy that serves it well. I’ve found other drams with similar notes tend to be older and head towards tweed wearing musty old notes, but this just has such a youthful expression of joy that I can’t help but smile whenever I taste the whisky.
I realise that the price of the whisky may put some off, yes. Typically around the £200 mark, paying for such a young whisky without an age statement or hand crafted wooden box seems abhorrent to some, but you have to remember a few things. Firstly, the whisky is worth every cent/penny. Secondly, it’s a fledgling industry. (As I outlined in last week’s review, Australian whisky is climbing its way back and faces a lot of opposition: the taxes and VAT heaped upon the distilleries being one of them.) And thirdly, you’re paying not for a name here, but supporting someone small, someone fresh, someone new. Doesn’t that sound better?
Sure, you could spend your money on the latest Dalmore, Macallan or Midleton but you’ll be getting the same boring whisky they’ve been peddling for the last few centuries, more style than substance and existing off what’s on the outside of the bottle, not the inside. With a whisky like this you get to experience what whisky is meant to be; for fun, for sharing, for drinking. And that’s what whisky is all about.
If you don’t enjoy it then send me the bottle. I’ll love it and give it a great home in my glass.
This review is not sponsored or endorsed by any whisky or distillery, Overeem or otherwise, and is entirely the thoughts and opinions of the authors Somewhiskybloke.