Aussie distillery Sullivans Cove launches a limited edition brandy

Tassie distiller Sullivans Cove has partnered with auctioneer Christie's to make available one of the few remaining bottles of its most recent world beating whisky.

Bottle number 88 of the winning cask, American Oak Single Cask #HH0351, is presented in a hand-made Tasmanian Blackwood display box and will come with a framed official certificate from the World Whiskies Awards.

A whisky for a cause

All proceeds will go to The Alannah & Madeline Foundation, a charity with the mission of keeping children safe from all forms of violence, created in the memory of Port Arthur massacre victims Alannah and Madeline Mikac.

It will go under the hammer on June 7 and Sullivans Cove managing director Adam Sable expects the auction will be hotly contested.

"We have had significant demand from collectors around the world looking to acquire the award-winning bottle and we are really excited to partner with Christie's to support a Foundation doing great work for our community," he said.

New ventures

For Sullivans Cove fans who are likely to be priced out of the running, the distiller has two new products on the market.

But neither is whisky. Surprising its fans, Sullivans Cove has released its first brandy, the culmination of a project that began many years before current owner Adam Sable took the reigns.

"When I came into the business I was aware that there was brandy that was produced many years ago," he says.

"On average it's probably around ten years old, but there's a few older casks in there as well.

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"It was just a one-off for the team back then. We don't have any plans to lay down more brandy, I guess we'll focus on our core product, which is whisky."

Duelling flavours

Sullivans Cove XO Brandy will be released in two different expressions. XO Single Cask will allow the most complex and intriguing brandy barrels to express their unique characteristics, each batch producing only a few hundred bottles.

Expected later this year, XO Double Cask will be crafted using traditional vatting techniques to create a rich and complex brandy.

"While our still was designed for whisky production, and we're renowned for producing some of the world's best malts, stylistically it has more in common with a brandy still than a traditional Scotch-style still," said Heather Tillott, Sullivans Cove production manager.

From whisky to brandy

The first release of Sullivans Cove XO Single Cask – cask TDB0040 – was matured in a 300L American Oak ex-tawny (Australian port-style fortified wine) barrel for nine years.

It commands a $280 price tag and has almost sold out already, defying brandy's somewhat uncool image today.

"I think as whisky becomes more popular in Australia, single malt whisky drinkers will often look for different experiences, and brandy is a logical step for them," says Sable.

"The flavour profile is generally less sweet and more oak forward than a traditional brandy, and probably more robust," Sable says.

Putting the cider in teamwork

Meanwhile, Sullivans Cove has collaborated with another powerhouse of Tassie drinks, Willie Smith's Cider.

Continuing the category-defying collaborations that are becoming increasingly common across beer, wine, cider and spirits, Willie Smith's has released the 2018 limited edition Special Reserve cider aged in Sullivans Cove whisky barrels.

"We have very high standards for how we approach our product from a quality perspective, so when we do collaborate we're very careful about who we do that with," says Sable.

"We've had a long relationship with the guys from Willie Smith's. We wouldn't do it unless it was a product that we were prepared to stand by, and we were really happy with the result."

Sullivans Cove distiller Patrick McGuire says the barrels used in this project were American oak, ex-bourbon casks.

"They have been used for two to four years before they were emptied and then used by us to mature our whisky for at least 12 years," he says.

Innovation is key

Ageing some of Willie Smith's finest cider in the barrels for 16 months has produced a very complex and very unique product, according to head cider maker Dr Tim Jones.

"We have produced a cider that reflects meticulous integration of distinctive whisky notes and dry cider complexity – it is rich and warming with spicy vanilla and fruit aromas and has a soft and textural palate," he says.

Last year, Willie Smith's 2017 special release cider Somerset Redstreak was named best traditional English cider at the International Cider Awards in Spain.

So at an RRP of $50, the Sullivans Cove whisky-aged cider combines the tastes of two world beating Aussie producers for a price that is well within reach of most drinkers.

But the best may still be yet to come, as Sable says the Sullivans Cove production team has plans for the now empty barrels that have previously accommodated cider, whisky and American bourbon.

"We're excited about getting barrels like that back, which we can then potentially fill with whisky and see what the results are," he says.

"While we concentrate on our core products, our team's also got a real innovative and experimental bent, so we love doing stuff like that."

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