So the first World Whisky Wednesday of 2022 has rolled in and with it so have the resolutions. Now while I am not normally one for the resolution this year I took up three, firstly to see my partner again, next to get in shape, and finally to continue with my writing. After all I pay for this space and should continue to use it, so let’s try and get at least a review a month, shall we?
As with the resolutions we’ve also seen the beginning of the Australian summer, so this seemed to be a perfect time to review an Australian whisky. I wanted something big, something bold, something that matched the heat of my room with it’s horrific insulation that locks in the heat and lets out the cold air. It seems to be a perfect time to look at one of my favourite Australian distilleries, Black Gate, and their Black Gate Apera Vatting from 2020.
Black Gate sits in Mendooran in central New South Wales, surrounded by gum trees, farm land, rich dirt and very little else (the coast is an odd 330 kilometres east). In 2009 though distillers Brian and Genise Hollingworth started this little distillery and stuck true to ideals of hard yakka, integrity and transparency, leading them to discover fame through the spirit world with multiple awards, Genise being asked to speak at Tales of The Cocktail, radio interviews and of course their whisky in rum, both of which are in high demand.
As for distillation we see a capacity of 3000L of whisky and 1000L of rum annually, brewed and distilled onsight, with a 630L wash still and 300L spirit still (both direct fired) and a huge variety of casks. What their distillery is best known for however is likely the climate. Mendooran occupies an area that see’s temperatures as low as 5C in July and August and as high as the high 30’s to mid 40’s through the summer months, coupled with humidity that see’s 50% during the summer months but 80% during June and July. All of this, the distillation, maturation, and climate leads to a rich and very textile whisky, rich in all character. So where does our little whisky fit into this?
Distilled between December 2015 and April 2016, our little bottle here was bottled in August 2020 and is a marriage of three separate 100L casks, specifically casks BG040, BG048 and BG049, each of which are unpeated but pack a whollop with the previous filling of Apera working with the unique climate to have an intense interaction with the resting spirit. In total only 634 bottles came from this vatting however at the time that represented the largest whisky bottling in Black Gates history. The Apera in question by the way is Australian sherry, in 2010 Australia moved from using the term sherry for fortifieds made within the country to ‘Apera’, a play on the word aperitif.
So, Apera cask vatting, young at 4 – 5 years old, hot climate maturation and bottled at 47%, what’s there to lose? Let’s jump into the bottle to find out.
The nose starts with this smooth polished sugar, the top of a perfect crème brulee. The slightest whiff somehow breaks that seal and we are pulled underneath in heavily mashed and stewed stone fruits, cherry, cranberries, raspberries, plums and peaches, all of them overripe and bursting at the seams with their juices. Deeper we dive into this amber wonder and find touches of pepper, cinnamon, tajin and fruit spice, deeper still is white sugar making itself knew with fruit rollups, red ripper lollies and a touch of rancio out of the blue with dark wood and eucalyptus. In all, the whisky bubbles on the nose, smelling excited and eager to be enjoyed. Let’s not disappoint the whisky.
On the palate it’s immediate with mint, eucalyptus, cola cubes, chestnut and macadamia nuts somehow blended and rolled together for the texture of hot jam, and it just keeps getting better. The sugar start again, white and dark, but is held back by a perfect wall of fruit, tropical lychee and rambutan, fresh figs and sultanas. This all sits lovingly atop a dark wood base which turns to spices mixed with butter, barley and oats as the fruit falls in and suddenly, we have a Mendooran cranachan with a lovely creamy texture. The fruits begin to sink as the walls collapse and the sugar flows in, leading first to sticky date pudding, then black forest gateau until finally the whisky settles in flavour and we are greeted with that same crème brulee we saw at the start. The only real choice is to break that top and dive in once again.
This is a whisky with both good and bad. Firstly the good, it is frustratingly, exasperatingly delicious and a real treat to sip on. If I were able to buy another bottle of this every month then I would, but there is where the bad. As earlier mentioned there are only 634 bottles of this bottling, and given that it was bottled in 2020 I don’t have high hopes of finding it again.
But is that really a bad thing? Finding a bottle of whisky such as this and being able to try it is one of the highlights of what I do. As much as I has been absent of late I have continued to try whiskies, and this has stood out as one of the best whiskies I have had in quite some time. While I will be sad when the whisky is gone, I will always remember trying it, sitting down in the sun, yelling at my housemates to come out and try it with me while we listen to some music. In the end, that is what good whisky is, a great experience and a fantastic time. And the best way to experience this whisky? A great tune that makes you sad when it’s gone but you remember it all the same.
Thanks Brian and Genise, now I just need to find more.
This review is not sponsored or endorsed by any distillery, Black Gate or otherwise, and is entirely the words of the author Somewhiskybloke.
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