Thanks to /u/all_smoke_n_mirrors for the samples.
Heartwood is an independent bottler. However, to stop there in describing them doesn’t really do them justice.
Most independent bottlers make their way into a distillery, buy a cask that the distillery is willing to sell (typically one that doesn’t fit with their release schedules or flavour profiles), they bottle it, and sell it out to us, the whisky lovers.
Heartwood decided that they needed to go that extra step: They have an entire warehouse. 7000+ litres of whisky. All from Tasmania, all aging how they want it, in casks they move it about.
Frankly that’s hardcore by any standards. Few other independent bottlers have the space to do that for all of their releases. Few have someone on hand who can vat these together, or handle the casks.
Not only that, they source the unaged spirit from the distilleries. And then age it themselves. This is truly next level.
So frankly Heartwood is impressive. At least on paper. Or digital paper. But how do they taste? We should keep trying them to make sure all that hard work is worth it.
I’m doing this for you guys, truly. I’m a saint. Let’s see how they taste, shall we?
Heartwood The Beagle 4 is up first. The idea of these is evolution. The Beagle was the name of the ship that Darwin was on, in which he was the Geologist (not the biologist).
In this case, we have twelve casks from Lark and Tasmanian distillery which have been vatted together. There have been multiple releases of the Beagle, telling me that they’re still figuring out the age, casks used, amount of each. And maybe there’s no “right way”, there’s just a “right now” way.
So this release saw them use bourbon, port, sherry, and peated casks.
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Cask No: Evolved from twelve Lark and Tasmanian Distillery casks
Cask Types: Bourbon/Port/Sherry/Peated
Total Bottle Outturn: 187 bottles
Bottled: Feb 2017
Sphagnum Peat Influence Too hard to calculate
Colour: 5YR 3/6
Nose: Rich caramel, violets, Xmas cake, key lime pie
Initial big caramel and floral characteristics. The port cask has taken prime space here. Biggest it can be.
I review whiskies with as little knowledge I can about them. Yes, I knew that this was Heartwood. Beyond that? Nothing. And didn’t get any peat notes on the nose.
Taste: Blueberry pie filling, caramel, thyme extract, cocoa, grilled beef
Man, now I want blueberry pie. Need to go hunting for some of those before the bears get to them.
Again great caramel and meatiness. Some umami comes out with water, which really knocks this up to the next level.
Finish: Thyme lamb oak, blueberry muffin, anise, cotton, cherries
Long finish. More meatiness than the taste, lighter blueberry but still there, and these flour notes as well. It’s cakey. The insane amount of casks used shines through.
Conclusion: An odd, well put together vatted malt. What we tend to forget is that someone did an amazing job of making something that was tasty from multiple casks.
And in this case, it’s a blueberry bomb. With meatiness. That’s insanely tasty and makes you come back for more. Lovely umami on the sides, reminded me of great meals I’ve had in the past.
This is a no-brainer pickup.
Heartwood @#$%&^ is named for the most human reason I’ve ever heard. We’ve all been there. Working on something, trying your hardest, and being frustrated. Well that’s what happened with this one. And by the end of fighting with a second fill port pipe and then two first fill sherry casks, it came out as something they were proud to pour.
Or they just wanted it out of there. Either way, I’m interested in how swearing helps whisky develop.
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Cask No: TD0124
Cask Types: Seven years in 2nd Fill Port, then finished for three years in two first fill sherry casks as well as numerous belting and verbal abuse
Filled: August 2006
Bottled: May 2017
Total Bottle Outturn: 337 bottles
Colour: 5YR 3/6
Nose: Cinnamon bread, strawberry, carrot cake, peach juice, cream
Alright, this is a mean one. Lots of cinnamon and carrot cake notes. Big fruit aspects, creamy. It noses like it’s meant to be bad for you. Or is angry at you, at least. Not really angry, but “had a bad day” angry.
Taste: Papaya, brine, cloves extract, pear, walnut
Taste is a little simpler then I was looking for, compared to the nose. If the nose is the cake, the taste is what went into the cake, maybe before baking, and maybe even before mixing.
That said, this is an Autumn dram. Which is funny because the location doesn’t really get what I’d consider Autumn weather, but that’s splitting hairs.
Finish: Quince, lemongrass, pear smoothie, mint, oak, rich caramel
Floral, odd finish. I’m assuming that comes from the grand-daddy of all swear words.
Joking aside, this goes in a completely new direction. I frankly can’t figure out what cause this finish. It’s only connection to the taste is the pear and some of the oak. Did someone just David Blaine a different dram into my throat?
Conclusion: What a weird, angry dram. It’s spice and fruit, and then finishes with a medley of flowers. Like some sort of abusive spouse that you really shouldn’t put up with and leave, because honestly if they aren’t getting help you deserve to be treated like a human being.
That got dark. Jumping back, this is a prickly, painful, angry dram. I like it, however I can’t really compare it to anything. It pretends to be all Autumn and then the taste kinda continues that, and then… Yeah, it’s odd. I like it.
Heartwood Calm before the Storm is getting back to a more traditional release. It’s all peated, and aged in ex-sherry casks. So what happens when you have a 7 year old Lark distillate that’s all peated? I have no idea, I better put this in my face.
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Cask No: LD588
Cask Type: Oloroso Sherry cask
Sphagnum Peat Influence: 100%
Filled: November 2009
Bottled: November 2016
Total Bottle Outturn: 292 bottles
Colour: 2.5YR 4/8
Nose: Lemon pepper, oak, passionfruit, red liquorice, peach
Oddly enough, for Heartwood, this has a simpler nose at first. It’s lighter (especially given the strength) with simpler notes. With time that goes aside with a tropical note showing up to make it different.
That said, it’s nice to nose. Good fruit/oak balance here.
Taste: Taffy, papaya, fennel, peach, oak, smoke, chocolate
Sweet. Initial taste of salt and caramel is nice, and that prepares you for a rich sherry influence. It takes the peat at it’s face, with smoke showing up, yet it’s all not basics, with more chocolate and fennel popping up.
Finish: Oak, anise, oregano, brine, dry pear, cinnamon
Long finish, which is impressive given the age. That said, the finish needs some work here. Maybe a bit longer. It’s quite dry and spice driven. I’m begging for some fruit, which water brings out, but it’s too few, too furious.
That’s a Fast and Furious joke. Cause I’m old.
Conclusion: The idea of sherry and peat mixed together is one of the “no brainer” ideas out there, so I don’t give anyone any guff about attempting it. This is young, and it shows in comparison to other releases from Heartwood.
Frankly, I expect more. It’s a good dram, but the finish needs work, the nose is light. The taste is still stellar. It’s funny to think of this as a “weak” dram, as from anyone else it’d sell in a minute.
So yeah. Count this as a “bad Rolex”, if you will. It’s still a Rolex.
Heartwood Devil in the Detail is different again. In that it’s probably the simple malt of the bunch. Today. Not of all of them. You see, this is purely ex-bourbon, aged 15 years, no finish, and no peat. Nothing to hide here, it’s all the malt and all the standard whisky method of now.
Oh, and it’s 147 proof, so stronger than most things I’ve drank. Time to spout flames, like my tattoo.
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Age: 15 years old
Cask No. HH0244
Cask Type: Bourbon
Distilled: April 2000
Bottled: May 2015
Total Bottle Outturn: 152 bottles
Colour: 7.5Y 8/8
Nose: Almond pear tart, molasses, roast chestnuts, mulled wine
Oddly enough doesn’t burn up my nose on contact, like Michael Jackson on a Pepsi commercial.
Lots of almond and peat. Takes time to get beyond that note, with it popping up more nuttiness and mulled wine. It’s basically another Autumn dram, save this one seems more determined.
Taste: Caramel, dinner roll, sunflower seeds, brown butter, nutmeg, peanuts
Odd mixture of flavour here. There are aspects that work, with the seed/baked bread aspects making sense, however, the caramel and brown butter is too sweet to get along. It’s a bit of a jumble.
Finish: Butter, pear, mint, cashew, peanut butter, dry
Buttery, dry finish. Super dry. Not a very long finish, which is a first. This is very nut heavy, like a Games Workshop store. Frankly better tasting, but let’s be honest, most things are.
That’s a nerd joke.
Conclusion: This is ballsy. Bring out something this strong, this powerful, that hasn’t had anything done to it? It certainly is straightforward. The taste didn’t so much work, however, I’m impressed at the amount of flavours.
And the nose? Great. Really great. The finish could be better, but maybe I’m not the biggest fan of dry finishes. So it may be better for others. Overall I enjoyed this, though I don’t think I need a full bottle.
World Whisky review #320-323, Australia review #13-16, Whisky Network review #1451-1454