Sitting down to write this I discover that I appear to be writing every fortnight as opposed to every week. It’s not a bad thing, but I do miss writing more often. You know what else I missed? My mates. I left Australian in 2016 and lived overseas until early 2021, that was nearly five years during which we communicated…. less than a dozen times? That sounds about right. And they’re doing well, the same people I recall except with thinning hair and the occasional mustache.
Outside of that the only big difference is location. When I left they were scattered about Melbourne and down on the Peninsula, with one of them moving further away than ever before. When I discovered he had moved to Somerville something rang in my head, a little thought that said ‘I’m pretty sure there’s whisky there’. Looking up to my map of Aussies distilleries there you go, it was right there, Chief’s Son Distillery. In preparation for the inevitable distillery visit we’ll make, I decided to head out and get myself a small glass to ponder over. This weeks World Whisky Wednesday is the Chief’s Son 900 Standard, ‘Holden’.
So who are Chief’s Son? Whose the Chief? Which one of the founders are the son? Well, Stuart is Alasdair’s son which makes Naomi the Chief but the name goes a bit deeper than that. Husband and wife Stuart and Naomi have a strong Scottish connection, their last name McIntosh (Scots Gaelic Mhic an Tòisich) translating to Son of the Chief and a passion for whisky that has passed down through the McIntosh family for centuries. And while it might have been a trip to Scotland that Stuart won it was Naomi who really took the trip to heart, her science background leaving her with an understanding of the process of distillation and her love of whisky leading to one obvious conclusion, we should make our own whisky.
After a move to Somerville the distillery was established at the current location in 2013 with three years of testing before the first batch of spirits was distilled. A few years later their first single malt hit the shelves, and the amount of releases has not slowed since. Let’s slow down ourselves though and chat about Chief’s Son Distillery.
First there’s no mash tun. If you’re unfamiliar with the nearby Mornington Peninsula Brewery they make great stuff including the wash for Chief’s Son, though with strict specifications from Naomi and Stuart. Next they’ve only got one still, a 4000L copper pot still which functions as both wash and spirit still and is powered by electricity. As for the whisky the team have had their hearts set on peated whisky since day one, though are still having to import peated barley from Scotland. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Chief’s Son have done something that seem to escape many people, they’ve waited until the whisky is ready before releasing it. Under Australian regulations you only need to mature for two years but at Chief’s Son they waited an additional year to give the whisky a bit more time to relax.
So what’s this, the Standard 900, all about then? Release 2, the ‘Holden’, is a three year old offering made with parts of peated Scottish malt, matured in Seppeltsfield ex-fortified wine casks. That’s really all there is to say about it except for how it tastes, let’s find out.
Straight into the nose and it’s a desert buffet, redskins and raspberry liqourice dissolving as they drop into a river of melted milk chocolate. boiled cherries come out next with a bis whack of musk, then into strawberry fudge with peaches and cream. It’s all being pushed by a gentle hint of smoke, a lovely little fire that softens the flavours and blends them together rather than burning everything in its path. Some malt and jam, a bit of burnt jelly and we sink deeper into flavours of dark sugars and some lovely toasted garamasala.
A sip of this little desert drops show cases smooth jammy dodgers and malts biscuits with orange cream, some spice of bush salt and pepper berry roasting over that small fire and reveling in the flavour that it expands rather than covers. Some touches of mint leaves comes through and whilst undeniably fresh the mouthfeel is prickly, before we find some strawberries dipped in chocolate with fantails and cola cubes.
Finally the finish is just what you want from a dram like this, drawn out cherry in all forms, fruit, jellied fruit, sweets both soft and firm, roll-ups, glace and more, prickly and delicious.
Honestly I’m a big fan of this dram. It lacks that big punch that I normally associate with new Australian distilleries and I think it’s better for it, the spirit is delicate and easy, taking plenty from the casks but not too much, the cask doesn’t blow out or cover the flavours of every other aspect of making whisky. The whisky just has so much more to show for itself than others of a similar nature.
Even comparing it to new distilleries feels odd, as honestly paired against some of the more illustrious and expensive offerings that our older distilleries have recently released I prefer the Chief’s Son. It has all the flavours you want, is enticing and while not cheap it doesn’t cost a ridiculous amount.
Speaking of which, would I buy a bottle?
We’re looking at $180 a bottle here, and while that’s not cheap I think I would . Scratch that, yeah I would. The whisky is interesting enough to hold your attention the bottle through, and you have the benefit of supporting a tiny Australian distillery while you do.
Edit, after writing this I was contacted by the distillery and informed that a bottle is actually $155. I would definitely buy a bottle for that price and you should too.
I think you should buy a bottle of this. Failing that, the least you should do is head to a bar nearby and see if they have some. This is the style of Australian whisky that I have wishing for for years, but never seemed to find. It’s refreshing, it’s honest, and it’s just damn good whisky.
How can anyone not love this?
This review is not sponsored or endorsed by any distillery, Chief’s Son or otherwise, and is entirely the words of the author Somewhiskybloke.
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