It’s my favourite day of the week Wednesday, but more than that today is special, it’s the day that my auction house delivery arrived! While normally I picked from the local stores (support local people) I do love me a whisky auction. Not to try and flip things, hardly, but rather because occasionally someone puts on something a bit left of centre. I’ve found a wide array of whiskies I drank in my youth there, and this is something special indeed. Today I’m looking at the Hellyers Road 10 Year Old.
So what makes this whisky so special to me? I know I often talk about how a whisky is special in this way or that, but this whisky does hold a place close to my heart. It was one of the first whiskies I moved onto after years of drinking Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Johnnie Walker and coke in bars, ones which I both worked and drank in. It’s one of Australia’s oldest running distilleries, and it also happens to be one of the first whiskies I professionally reviewed.
Professional is subjective here.
My earlier tasting notes were….. different to what I do now, for sure, but having the blog allows me the opportunity to talk about whiskies in more depth than I had earlier. So lets talk a bit about Hellyers Road first. You can find a background I’ve written to Australian whisky history here, so we’ll dive into the distillery straight away.
By name Hellyers Road has its roots in Hampshire, England, 1790. The distillery is named after Henry Hellyer, architect and surveyor who would become one of the first officers to sign onto the Van Diemans Land (Tasmania) Company which was founded in 1825. He would become chief architect and surveyor in his time, as well as being the first European to reach the summit of Cradle Mountain in 1831 before his retirement in 1832. To this day his name is strewn about the Tasmanian landscape, immortalised in landmarks, roads and of course whisky.
The distillery itself started in 1997 when Betta Milk, Tasmania’s largest dairy producer, made a 10 Million AUD investment into building a distillery. Bringing Mark Littler on board to serve as General Manager and Master Distiller the distillery was up and running within two years, the stills first running in 1999 and Hellyers Road has since it’s humble beginnings been Australia’s largest whisky distillery at 100,000 litres. I know, 100,000 litres isn’t that big compared to some UK distilleries but this is Tasmania, where they do things differently.
The 10 Year Old Original first landed on shelves in 2012, and since that time Hellyers Road have increased the range of their whiskies with numerous standard bottlings and limited released. To allow additional focus on Hellyers Road, parent company Betta Milk sold its dairy arm in 2019.
So what goes into the 10 Year Old?
The spirit is made of Tasmanian barley, malted at the Cascade brewery. Headed into a 6.5 ton mash tun, fermentation lasts for 65 hours before being distilled two and a half times through Hellyers Road unique pot stills, while the head, neck and lyne arms are made of cooper the bodies themselves are stainless steel, complete with remote control so you can run them from the comfort of your bed (remember when I mentioned doing things differently?). The cuts themselves are another curiosity, with the hearts cut lasting up to 24 hours.
After that it’s straight in the barrels for maturation, 10 years in ex-bourbon American oak casks before a bottling at 46.2%.
I’ve always regretted not being able to see Hellyers Road Distillery. A whisky trip to Tasmania did pass through nearby Devonport and Launceston, but a brief chat with a waitress about what there was to do in the city was met with the response ‘I’ve been asking myself that question for a decade.’ To kill some time instead I visited the macaques in the City Park, and then the pub as I’ve no idea why there would be macaques in a Tasmanian park.
Truly Tasmanian is a weird island.
All that aside it’s time to dive into the whisky. Will I take a trip and find the same flavour I found last time? Will I find some unexpected monkeys dancing about? I don’t know, so its time to pour a dram and find out.
That’s more what you expect to find in Tassie….
Wafting towards us is field of lemon grass, strewn through with toffee apples, bubble gum and creeping honey suckle with an apple sauce base. It then kicks over some malt, aloe vera and sweet grapes before landing smack into a glass of chilled tokaji. There’s pear drops, butterscotch and honey lathered fruit roll ups, with a light touch of candle wax in the background and a hint of incense burning on the breeze.
The palate is nice and oily, beautiful peaches and nectarines sliding down the throat and leaving some slow moving fleshy mandarin in their wake. Some roasting apples and a touch of mint follow, with touches of overripe kiwifruit dipped in a tiny bit of honey. Some rockmelon appears and brings with it light sultanas, fresh grapes and pollen of tulip and violets blowing through the dram with a lasting touch of slightly burnt malt. On the finish its that full fruit salad back in a big swing, somewhat chilly to the mouth but very light, crisp and refreshing. Delicious.
I enjoyed it before and I enjoyed it even more this time, it’s always nice to dive back into a whisky I knew years ago and greet it like an old friend. It’s even better when the dram itself recognises you and shows you how it has grown!
Considering the memories it evoked I couldn’t help but whack on something timeless.
So the burning question, would I buy it again? Well see there lies to difficult part. I would, most definitely, but I quested around the internet for a time and looked at all the usual suspects with no luck. Eventually I sent the distillery itself a brief message about the availability of the 10 Year Old.
Hell hath no fury like a discontinued bottle.
Seems like there was more than one reason to play that song. If I had the chance I would buy the whisky again, just to share some samples with people in the UK, unfortunately it looks as though I’ll have to move onto something else.
Farewell 10 Year Old, you will be sorely missed.
This review is not sponsored or endorsed by any whisky or distillery, Hellyers Road or otherwise, and is entirely the thoughts and opinions of the authors Somewhiskybloke.