Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year Heartwood

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Gold Medal Award

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Winner of the inaugural Peter Duly ‘Dram Of The Year’ Award from the Macquarie Branch of The Gillies Club - Australia.

 

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Drink good whisky slowly and responsibly...

Tasting Notes by Chookster

This review is of bottle 86/124 of the Heartwood "Convict Unchained" batch 1.

For the full spiel on the Australian independent bottler, see my earlier review of another Heartwood product; "Release the Beast", which this will inevitably be compared to.

The Convict was distilled by Bill lark at Tasmania distillery and has zero sphagnum peat influence (as opposed to Release the Beasts 50%). The spirit was distilled in May of 2001 and bottled November 2012, making for approximately 11 and a half years of maturation in a Port cask, and coming out at (no, this is not a mistype) 71.9% ABV.

First, its colour; deep maroon, but definitely a shade or two lighter than its sibling the Beast.

To smell; ahhhh, no need to wait for it to open up, it springs forth a barrage of deep, rich, heavy, and dirty port notes from the get-go; A fusion of red fruits with an industrial twist. Allowably, there¹s alcohol in abundance, but that in my opinion only seems to enhance the experience. In the background behind the monstrous cask influenced notes there¹s wood shavings (definitely less of a wood influence than the Beast) and caramel, and even some licorice. Ok, enough with the nosing or I might pass out from the fumes.

To taste (small sips for safety); much less alcohol driven than the nose would suggest (A¹bunadh batch 38, at a full 11.6% ABV less, came across to me as much more spirituous). The Convict might blush but I could easily describe the mouth-feel as creamy, delicate, and beautiful. Driven by the oak and red fruits again I¹d have to put the estimated date of this flavour leaving my taste buds in the vicinity of hours rather than minutes. The tannins of the wood don¹t even threaten to ruin the near flawless experience.

I found myself very impressed by "Release the Beast" and the "Convict Unchained" has again raised the bar significantly higher. I find it extremely hard to compare either to a product of Scotland, and in the same notion couldn¹t rate them better or worse, all that matters is that they are bloody enjoyable.

This review is of bottle 86/124 of the Heartwood ‘Convict Unchained’ batch 1.

For the full spiel on the Australian independent bottler, see my earlier review of another Heartwood product; ‘Release the Beast’, which this will inevitably be compared to.

The Convict was distilled by Bill lark at Tasmania distillery and has zero sphagnum peat influence (as opposed to Release the Beast’s 50%). The spirit was distilled in May of 2001 and bottled November 2012, making for approximately 11 and a half years of maturation in a Port cask, and coming out at (no, this is not a mistype) 71.9% ABV.

First, its colour; deep maroon, but definitely a shade or two lighter than its sibling the Beast.

To smell; ahhhh, no need to wait for it to open up, it springs forth a barrage of deep, rich, heavy, and dirty port notes from the get-go; A fusion of red fruits with an industrial twist. Allowably, there’s alcohol in abundance, but that in my opinion only seems to enhance the experience. In the background behind the monstrous cask influenced notes there’s wood shavings (definitely less of a wood influence than the Beast) and caramel, and even some licorice. Ok, enough with the nosing or I might pass out from the fumes.

To taste (small sips for safety); much less alcohol driven than the nose would suggest (A’bunadh batch 38, at a full 11.6% ABV less, came across to me as much more spirituous). The Convict might blush but I could easily describe the mouth-feel as creamy, delicate, and beautiful. Driven by the oak and red fruits again I’d have to put the estimated date of this flavour leaving my taste buds in the vicinity of hours rather than minutes. The tannins of the wood don’t even threaten to ruin the near flawless experience.

I found myself very impressed by ‘Release the Beast’ and the ‘Convict Unchained’ has again raised the bar significantly higher. I find it extremely hard to compare either to a product of Scotland, and in the same notion couldn’t rate them better or worse, all that matters is that they are bloody enjoyable.

Review by Matthew Fowler

Convict Unchained

Nose: Toffeed honeycomb, or Violet Crumble. Toasty oak. The spice of port oak influence is evident.
Palate: High ABV is not obvious – it’s cask strength, but not at all aggressive. The balance of sweetness, alcohol, wood and malt is nigh on perfect.
Finish: Consistent with the palate – everything is here and it holds its line without deteriorating.
Comments: Remarkable…..and all the more so when considering the insane strength! Just great and balanced all around, with the oak at perfect potency. Very happy and pleasing flavours.

Andrew Derbidge
Director & Cellarmaster
NSW Manager
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Dear Tim

You have achieved something quite unique in Australian Whisky production
with your Heartwood 'Convict Unchained' release: you blew the socks off each
and every one of those attending tonight's meeting of the Macquarie Branch
of The Gillies Club - Australia, easily securing the highest score of the
night and highest score ever awarded by us to an Australian Whisky.

Only rarely do we award any malt a score in the 8's, and such a score
indicates something quite outstanding has been experienced by the panel.

Convict Unchained secured the stratospheric score of 8.49! It clearly
eclipsed the runner up, again one of yours...the Convict Released which
obtained the still highly remarkable score of 7.75 but it must be said that
it really paled into comparative insignificance against its mightily more
powerful, yet incredibly soft, smooth and velvety 71.2% abv big brother!

Comments included: "Incredibly soft volatility", "Lost for words - how can
something SO strong be so incredibly wonderful?", ""the Mel Torme of malts -
incredibly soft, smooth and velvety", "insane strength yet so balanced and
not at all overwhelming", "one of the finest Whiskies ever".

I was quite taken aback by this phenomenal result, especially as my
discussions with you some while back left me with the impression you felt
that the 71.9% was simply too potent a dram, and the 58% Convict Release was
probably the better expression.

On a hunch, I decided therefore to try the two expressions in reverse of
what I would call 'the usual order' of starting with lower ABV malts and
moving up: rather I decided to present these two with the 71.9% Convict
Unleashed first up and its watered down stablemate to follow. I do not know
whether the same result would have been forthcoming if we had followed usual
procedure...what I DO know is that the gathering felt this was THE best way
to experience them.

Now all we have to do is reverse the order sometime and put that theory to
the test!

Well done Tim: you have achieved something truly remarkable with your
Heartwood Convict Unchained - Macquarie Gillies applauds you!

Slainte!

Bruce Ferrier,
Laird, Macquarie Branch
The Gillies Club -Australia

I described Convict Unchained as "Godzilla in a pink onesie" - if you know what I mean :-)

Tony Chapman (SMWS member)

From Twitter

Andrew Derbidge ‏@SMWS_Whisky

"Convict Unchained"...big, bold, & beautiful! Huge nose; high ABV but soft & smooth delivery; sweet, balanced flavour...and VERY Aussie! :-)

From Twitter

Andrew Derbidge ‏@SMWS_Whisky

"Convict Unchained": It's 72%. Great neat, but I added a wee splash of H2O eventually. Becomes sweeter, softer, & sublimely refined. Winner.