The Great “Down Under” Tasting Tour – Part 5
Onwards and upwards with our Down Under Tasting Tour Part 5 – at least I sure hope it is upwards after our last review, the nice, but rather simple Starward Single Malt. Today’s review is another Australian single malt whisky, this one coming from Southern Coast Distillers.
About Southern Coast Distillers
While I hope you enjoy this review, don’t get your hopes too high or set yourself a goal to obtain a bottle of this Southern Coast Single Malt whisky, because if you go to their website this is the greeting you will get…..
Southern Coast Distillers are no longer in operation.
While we enjoyed much success and a spirited journey with you,
the time has come to move on – but perhaps all is not lost…
Sadly, the history of Southern Coast Distillers is a short one, but let’s go back to the beginning, because it was filled with promise, and only later will serve as a cautionary tale:
Southern Coast began when Ian Schmidt met Tony Fitzgerald and Victor Orlow through their children’s Rose Park school. Over time the three men discovered a shared passion for whisky and began talking about the possibility of opening their own distillery. Investing about $30,000 each and making a shared commitment to invest their personal time and efforts on a voluntary, but equal basis, they established Southern Coast Distilling Pty Ltd, obtaining the necessary license in 2004.
The company was set up in a site in Welland owned by the Schmidts and distillation began in 2005. Southern Coast used Australian malt sourced from Bintani in Melbourne, including a small portion that was smoked with a peat mixture that lent a hint of eucalyptus to the whisky. Southern Coast Single Malt whisky is matured in American oak barrels for a minimum of two years in a site in the Adelaide Hills that offers a temperate climate.
Batch 4, which is the subject of today’s review, was released in mid-2012. While the Southern Coast website indicates a Batch 5, I could find no record that this ever reached the market.
And here is where the story goes south. In February 2012, the business relationships between the three owners. which had begun to unravel, led to conflicting buyout proposals, accusations of financial misdeeds, and demands for additional financial investments to keep the company running.
Fitzgerald sent in his accountant to assess the state of the company and reported that funds and stock of unmatured whisky had been moved to another company, “Tin Shed Distillery Pty Ltd”, which was owned by Schmidt and Orlow. Tin Shed was described by Fitzgerald as a “Phoenix” company – a company that rises from the ashes of another company after declared insolvency. This led to claims and counterclaims between the parties and the dispute ended up in civil litigation.
As a result, Southern Coast ceased trading on 21 December 2012 and everything was left to the courts. On 5 March 2014, Tin Shed was granted an “interim” license despite Fitzgerald’s request to delay issuance pending the conclusion of the civil litigation between the ex-partners. At this point, Southern Coast is gone, Tin Shed has yet to release any whiskies, and the litigation remains mired in the typical back-and-forth, where only the attorneys win.
Review: Southern Coast Single Malt Whisky
Southern Coast Single Malt whisky, Batch 004 was distilled and barrelled in September 2007. Matured in a 100 liter American oak port cask, this batch was bottled in December 2011 at a tad over 4 years of age. According to the Southern Coast website, this batch was subject to high maturation losses – approximately 4.6% per year – due to the “warm” relative temps in Adelaide, more than double the typical rate in Scotland.
Nose: Immensely fruity – ripe red plums, berries, even a hint of the wild cherry note that I commonly find in bourbon! Raisins, orange peel and roasted nuts, a touch or varnish, and a rather good dose of oak spices – black pepper, cardamon, and dried ginger. Cedar wood (pencil shavings), vanilla bean, a touch of banana and coconut. Youthful and fresh with a slight alcohol bite, when neat. With water I get a beautiful brown sugar and cinnamon that I didn’t pick up earlier. Really quite expressive in the glass!
Taste: Sweet vanilla, a sharp lemon juice citrus, the ripe red fruits, caramel – no, make that burnt caramel, salted nuts, a tad hot in the mid-palate. A light and delicate mouthfeel. On the palate, water doesn’t seem to have the same impact, remaining long on the vanilla and fruit sweetness, and the body becomes a bit “thin” but not overly so.
Finish: The finish has quite a bit of the vanilla, the fruits are there, but softer, peppery and a softly tannic bitterness at the end. Moderately long.
Overall: During my first tasting of this one I had it rated 80 as it was good, but didn’t seem to distinguish itself. Upon re-tasting this one, I increased the rating to 82 because time and some oxidation have helped this one blossom. It is still youthful, fresh and vibrant, but shows greater complexity. Certainly when compared to the previous whiskies from this series, this one deserves a slightly higher rating. To me, the nose of this one is the definite star of the show, but the palate and finish are reasonably good. It is a shame that Southern Coast has closed, because they looked to be on the right track. With luck, if the owners can get the new Tin Shed distillery running, they will be able to successfully pick up where they left off.
Region: Welland, Southern Australia
Distillery: Southern Coast Distillers (closed 2012)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 4 years (not stated on label)
Maturation: American oak Port cask (100 liter)
Availability: Unavailable via retail channels
Sample Source: Mike D.
Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014, Ingvar Ronde, MagDig Media, Ltd.