When I tell people about world whiskies, the most common response tends to be: “I’ve heard they make whisky in Japan nowadays too.”
When I say that whisky has been made there since the 1920s, many people are often surprised.
But it is when I expand the conversation to mention that there are whisky distilleries all around the world now, including a large number on Tasmania, that people really are taken aback.
“Tasmania? Whisky?…in Tasmania?” tends to come the response.
Maybe it’s our automatic connection between that land and a furry, twirling brown animal that tends to make many shy away from the idea of whisky being created there but, it’s true: there is a fair amount of whisky made in Tasmania.
And recently I’ve had the chance to try some of the products from one of those companies: Overeem.
The whisky is made at the Old Hobart Distillery, which was founded in 2005 by Casey Overeem and began distilling in 2007.
While still young, it has made headlines by receiving plaudits from people such as Jim Murray who gave it a Liquid Gold mention in his Whisky Bible.
The distillery still produces a tiny output – around 8,000 bottles per year are released – so it’s not one you’ll find swamping supermarket shelves. In the UK, it is distributed by two fans – Toby Dudfield and Jonah Costello – who fell in love with it and became determined to bring it to these shores through their company Oak Cask Distribution.
Other than its small output, Overeem stands out for the fact all of the ingredients are locally sourced, such as its Franklin barley. The maturation is done in quarter casks, which – due to their smaller size – will inevitably help to speed up maturation.
So what do the whiskies taste like? I was able to sample the Port Cask Matured, Port Matured Cask Strength, Sherry Cask Matured and Sherry Matured Cask Strength. Here are my thoughts:
(c): Golden honey
(n): Roses and Turkish Delight at first – a bit earthy with notes of incense sticks. Definite tree bark/medicinal notes under the sweetness. With water, more fruity and floral.
(p): Pepper and a good bit of acidity on sides of palate stand out at first. Then freshly squeezed OJ, red currents, cinnamon sticks and prunes. With water, becomes really quaffable – still quite sweet but a slightly more bitter finish.
(f): Ground cinnamon
In conclusion: Big, bold and sweet. Great texture. One to sit with for a while, possibly not after a big meal as this is filling enough to be a course on its own.
Port Cask Matured: Cask Strength: 60%:
(c): Amber honey
(n): More intensely perfumed: as if the Turkish Delight is in concentrated form. More dried leaves underneath too with a slightly bitter, cocoa edge, some musty forests and tea bags. With water, nose has more chocolate notes but a lingering ‘meatiness’ remains.
(p): A huge rush of maple syrup and fudge at first which I was not expecting. Sticky, creamy, intense. Great texture too and not half as much alcohol bite or tannin as I would have expected. With water that BIG sweetness relaxes a bit and some cherry/floral notes come out.
(f): Cherries soaked in booze.
In conclusion: Phew! Again – intense. So much more sweetness on palate than would have expected but equally not as much alcohol bite. It’s so thick you can almost bit into it but it’s not drying or over-woody; there’s still a lot of freshness there. Replace Galaxy Bar with this!
Sherry Cask Matured: 43%:
(n): Nutty with notes of hay, lemon peel and oak, along with – later – strawberry foams and earthy undertone. With water, more red fruits (cranberries and strawberries), a bit of bubblegum and a touch of meatiness again.
(p): Creamy with lots of dark chocolate and red cherry notes. Rich without being cloying. With water, much softer and very pleasant. Really comes into its own with water.
(f): Fairly short finish but, equally, very clean so it’s easy to go back for a second sip.
In conclusion: Really adds a lot with a few drops of water becoming supremely moreish. Leads with red fruit but that earthiness is still there.
Sherry Matured Cask Strength: 60%:
(c): Sticky toffee
(n): Buttery and some more classic raisin notes come through at higher strength. Some coffee bean and dark chocolate with red fruits. Wither water, some woody, earthy/cedar notes become more intense along with fennel seeds and dried herbs.
(p): Much sharper than the Port Cask at the same strength but not in a bad way – just punchier. Lots of acidity and fruity sing. A nice clean finish but slightly spicier. With water, vanilla beans, brown sugar and fresh oranges really shine through.
(f): Orange peels.
In conclusion: Also really holds up well to a bit of water. It’s surprisingly refreshing. The clean lines make it moreish but it does have punch. Kept going back for more sips of this one. Wonderful.
With thanks to Toby Dudfield for providing samples.