Hellyers Road is one of the largest whisky distilleries in Australia, with a capacity of 120.000 litres of pure alcohol per annum. Located near the town of Burnie, in Tasmania, it was founded by dairy farmers in 1999, and is named after Henry Hellyer, an explorer and cartographer who carved a bushy trail into a road in 1827. The distillery features a 60.000 litres wash still and a 20.000 litres capacity spirit still, and I must admit their capacity compared to the global capacity of production of the distillery eludes me. But I couldn’t find a lot of information on this distillery. Anyway. Dram 3 of my whisky calendar is a Hellyers Road 2004 that is 16 years old and peated, so let’s try that!
Hellyers Road 2004
Today’s dram is as I said from Tasmania. This is a single cask, distilled from peated malted barley sourced from Inverness in Scotland in 2004, matured in an American oak ex-bourbon cask #4082.01, and bottled after 16 years of maturation in 2020. It gave 192 bottles at cask strength at 61.7% ABV, without chill filtering nor colouring. This is an edition bottled for La Maison Du Whisky, though a few shops in Germany and in France, including La Maison Du Whisky, still have some for a price ranging approximately from €230 to €250.
A gentle peat welcomes you… but arrives accompanied by the high ABV, providing a tingling on your nostrils. It’s supposed to be just slightly peated, but the peat is really noticeable, though not as powerful as with an Ardmore or a Kilkerran for example. There’s a huge presence of exotic fruits, with roasted pineapple, lychee and passion fruit. The peat is on the medicinal side, with plasters, bandage, camphor and menthol (makes me think of Salonpas, an Asian pain relieving patch I could sniff all day long). There’s also a soft smokiness like a cold fireplace the morning after a fire.
Reduction doesn’t tone down the prickliness but increases the smokiness whilst bringing some kind of chalky minerality.
The arrival is surprisingly soft and sharp at the same time, but with a thick mouthfeel, really mouth coating and oily. There’s a bit of heat from the high ABV, but just a reasonable heat, it’s not burning at all. Peat is there from the start but quickly followed by exotic fruits again, passion fruit and roasted pineapple again. The mid-palate is herbaceous, with parsley and fresh mint leaves, then spices take over (pepper, ginger, clove).
A few drops of water bring the spices and the smokiness forward while hiding the exotic fruits.
Sugar dusted grapefruit and smoked passion fruit jam and chlorophyll chewing gums, for a soft finish with a medium length. When reduced, the finish seems longer and also provides chocolate.
If all the drams from my advent calendar are as good as this one and the previous two, my heart is not going to keep up. I am very surprised by this Hellyers Road, it’s been a long time since I was last able to write my tasting notes this easily. Everything is very, very precise, all the aromas and flavours are very well defined, but all working together in great harmony. The mix of medicinal peat, smoky notes and exotic fruits works very well, especially neat. While the nose may be slightly better with a few drops of water, I think I prefer the palate when neat, especially since it stays easy to drink despite the ABV, without burning your face off. This was my first Hellyers Road, and I’m really interested to try some more now.