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South Island 18 Year Old Single Malt

Review: South Island 18 Year Old Single Malt  (87.5/100)
(Part of the New Zealand Whisky Collection)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on March 28, 2013

My reviews of the New Zealand Whisky Collection continue with the South Island Single Malt 18 Year Old Whisky. The now closed distillery at Dunedin on the South Island once produced both Single Malt and blended whisky. After the closure, about 600 barrels of single malt and blended grain whisky remained at the distillery and were left to mature. Two years ago, Mr Greg Ramsey, a young Australian whisky enthusiast from Tasmania, bought those barrels and set about bottling the whisky as part of a plan to revive the New Zealand whisky industry. As part of that plan, he created the New Zealand Whisky Collection.

The South Island Single Malt 18 Year Old Whisky was produced from Single Malt stocks which were aged in American-Oak (ex-bourbon barrels) for 18 years, and then bottled at 40% alcohol by volume. It is currently available in Ontario, Canada through the LCBO, and may soon be available here in Alberta as well.

I was sent a small 150 ml sample such that I could share my thoughts with respect to the whisky here on my website:

South Island 18

In the Bottle  4.5/5

Although I was given a 150 ml sample for review, I was able to obtain a nice bottle shot of the regular 750ml size bottle from the New Zealand Whisky Company’s media site. Like the previously reviewed Dunedin Distillery – DoubleWood 10 Year Old, the New Zealand heritage of this whisky is highlighted in the bottle presentation with nice graphical illustration of the ‘Water of Leith’ Distillery on the front label. A nice touch is the tasting notes found at the bottom of the label which aid the consumer in understanding the expected taste profile prior to the purchase decision.

Although I do not know if the closure of my sample bottle was representative of the larger 750 ml bottle, but I did note a problem with the corkage. Simply put the synthetic cork slides of the bottle much too easily. It seems to be of a hard plastic construction and lacks the ‘springiness’ of a regular cork.

In the Glass 9.0/10

When I poured a sample of the South Island 18 Year Old into my glencairn glass and gave it a good sniff, I was pleased by the complexity that greeted my nose. Smells of sweet lowland grasses (sawgrass and timothy), clumps of heather, willow thicket, and freshly harvested grain wander upwards out of the glass. I notice the some butterscotch and fresh honey, gooseberries, and light dabbles of vanilla in the breezes as well.

As the glass sits I notice the herbal aroma seems to build in the breezes. The scents of heather and willow in particular increase in strength along with a growing indication of lemongrass. As well a touch of boggy wetland seems to reach out and tickle my nostrils with ever so light indications of peat smoke and lush green ferns. This is very nice, and I am quite eager to see if the flavour can live up to the nose.

In the Mouth 52.5/60

I was not expecting the light but firm peat smoke which lies within the whisky. It is a delicate thread of peat which seems to be linked to the herbal character of the whisky. I taste a strong indication of heather, some wood spices, a few grassy notes,  a bit of willow bark, and a light maltiness residing within the whisky. There is though just enough honey like sweetness and butterscotch present to bring balance to those lightly bitter flavours. Finally there is a persistence of fruit in the form of green apples and gooseberries.

As the whisky breathes I notice more wood spice pushing through heating the palate but not building up to the point where I would call this spicy. Flavours of almond, vanilla, and malted barley (lightly beer-like) lie underneath rounding out the flavour which I would describe as well-balanced and tasty.

In the Throat 13/15

The finish seems to carry more spice than the delivery, Things are lightly bitter with flavours of heather, willow and timothy pushing aside the light butterscotch and honey. A very light punch of peat punctuates the ending.

All in all this is quite nice!

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I don’t want to give anyone the wrong impression here. I have indicated the light presence of peat within the flavour of the South Island 18 Year Old Single Malt more than once in the review. Just to be clear, we are not talking Talisker levels here. We are not even remotely close to Highland Park. But there is a delicate thread of smokey peat which works extremely well with the other flavours. I quite enjoyed this new Zealand Whisky and regret that I had only 150 ml to sample.

My final score of 87.5 indicates that this whisky is very good. (Perhaps at higher strength it would have scored in the 90s.)

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

 
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