Tasmanian distillery Sullivans Cove is one of the pioneers of modern Australian whiskey (Australia’s first legal distillery opened in Tassie in 1822), settling on Hobart’s waterfront in 1994.
The early years were a bit of a struggle, not without controversy, and the company changed hands twice. Then Patrick Maguire, who had learned the craft of distilling along with the godparents of Australian whisky, Bill and Lyn Lark, took over the company in 2004 with British and American investors. His smartest move was also acquiring over 600 casks of whisky, made with the involvement of the Larks, from the liquidators.
That decision paid off ten years later, when Sullivans Cove was named the world’s best whiskey in 2014. 200 liter and 300 liter French oak barrels (the older the whiskey, the less you get from evaporation, also called “the angel’s share”).
When the distillery won the best whiskey award, they only had a few bottles of Cask HH525 left in stock, and bottles in the rest of the world suddenly changed hands for as much as $10,000.
More avid whiskey makers and fans in established regions such as Scotland, the US and Japan thought Sullivans Cove had pulled something off a Bradbury (the Australian skater who won Olympic gold), but when at the 2018 World Whiskeys Awards, Cask HH0351 was named World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt. It was 16 years old, aged in an ex-bourbon barrel of American oak, with only 136 bottles produced at 47.5%.
And in 2019 it happened again with TD0217, aged in French oak.
Last year, the American Oak Old & Rare HH0609 was named Best Australian Single Cask Single Malt.
Sullivans Cove had truly earned its place on the world stage.
Nearly 30 years later, and now based in Cambridge near Hobart Airport, the distillery is once again breaking new ground, releasing Australia’s oldest whiskey later this month.
There are only 209 bottles of the 21-year-old American Oak ex-bourbon cask whiskey, which was laid down in March 2000 – six months before Sydney hosted the Olympics.
It was bottled in May 2021 at 48.3% and will go on sale on March 20 via online voting. At $2,250 a bottle, it’s best paired with a Series A investor on their second 10x exit or selling their BNPL stock at the top of the market.
One thing Startup Daily loves about Sullivans Cove is their tasting notes, co-written by Heather Tillott, former winemaker and distillery manager.
The 21 is described as follows:
“Very soft entry into very pleasant territory: sweet coconut, ripe apple, light raspberry jam and pineapple juice on top of chocolate, earthy nougat and carob. Yum Cha mango pancakes, crème caramel and rice pudding. Somewhere between the middle and top notes, a beautiful floral medley comes into its own; a touch of rose and a good dose of frangipani/mysterious waxy tropical flower. A deep spicy element of rooibos tea and wormwood in the corners.”
Startup Daily sampled the 21-year-old and described him as “like a pine-lime Splice before stripping down and diving naked into the Derwent at Dark Mofo”. It also has an incredibly beautiful, delicate and floral nose that evolves over time.
The point is how unique it is. Tillott said single cask whiskey is a very pure expression of their craft.
“One barrel – with all its nuances, gloriously and transparently displayed. At Sullivans Cove, we’re just going to decant our whisky and sell a barrel when we think it has reached its peak, its moment of absolute harmony,” she said
This 21 year old whiskey we’ve bottled is the oldest ever produced by an Australian distillery and is a wonderful example of this era of Sullivans cove production in its tropical-sweet earth texture nature. But other than ticking all the boxes to be true to type, it’s absolutely delicious. The transitions between aspects are perfect and the mind is given plenty of room to express itself.”
If you miss a bottle, it is available by dram from: Whiskey & Alement, Melbourne; Burrow Bar, Sydney; and the cellar door of Sullivans Cove in Hobart.
Failing that, if you want to get a taste of what all the fuss is about, Sullivan Cove whiskeys start at around $250 a bottle, and because they don’t produce that much, they often sell out.
Keep an eye out for the 15-year-old, aged in casks used to make Australian tawny fortified wine (we used to call it port), coming soon for $550 a bottle.