Review: Playboy Spirits Rare Hare The Tempest Tasmanian Single Malt 20 Years Old

Review: Playboy Spirits Rare Hare The Tempest Tasmanian Single Malt 20 Years Old

And now for something completely different…

Playboy Spirits’ Rare Hare line specializes in ultra-luxe, ultra-expensive whiskeys, to date including a bourbon and an old Canadian bottling. The third installment in the series hails from, of all places, Tasmania, Australia. And it’s 20 years old.

Here we go:

If you didn’t know that Tasmania has a storied history of producing outstanding single malt whiskies, you’re not alone. This small, rugged island south of mainland Australia and east of New Zealand is more renowned for its pristine microclimate and unique wildlife than its distilleries. But for whiskey aficionados, this island harbors a special secret: it’s a veritable Eden for small batch whiskies. Chances are, you are not going to find a Tasmanian whisky on the back bar of your favorite watering hole or even at your local purveyor of fine spirits. With only a handful of craft producers scattered across the island, the quest for Tasmanian whisky requires exploration.

Tasmania experienced its own Prohibition, from 1830 until the 1990s, stifling all production until a Scotch-loving land surveyor, inspired by a fishing trip in the Tasmanian highlands, successfully lobbied the government to reverse the ban. Centuries-old production methods have emerged from hibernation and are now being recognized and awarded at spirits competitions around the globe.

In its quest to deliver its fourth ultra-premium release, Rare Hare partnered with one of the pioneers of Tasmanian whisky making, the acclaimed Hellyers Road Distillery, one of Australia’s oldest and most revered distilleries. Hellyers Road Distillery is Tasmania’s first single malt whisky producer to emerge during this renaissance, and its aged expressions are only now becoming available in this post-prohibition era. We named this special expression “The Tempest,” a nod to Shakespeare’s tale of nature’s power and deliverance. The Tempest is smooth and mellow yet delivers a tour de force of flavors and a long finish to savor. It is the perfect embodiment of Tasmania’s temperate maritime climate, where hot summers, short cold winters, abundant sunshine, and low humidity create the perfect storm for producing exceptional single malt whiskey.

Hellyers Road Distillery employs a centuries-old pot still distillation process that spans three days, followed by a secondary slow still distillation to yield a whisky of unparalleled quality and character. The air currents that bring rain to Tasmania’s western shores originate in Antarctica, traveling thousands of miles across the open ocean before reaching the island. The resulting water source is akin to soft rainwater, a unique characteristic not found in other regions producing single malt whiskies. The malt and barley used to create this small batch elixir are locally sourced and benefit from the rich soil and unique Tasmanian climate.

While most Tasmanian whiskies are aged in small barrels to accelerate maturation, Hellyers Road Distillery aged this whisky for seventeen years in standard-size bourbon casks, and then aged it for another three years in Port casks.

“It’s not often you get to experience the first run of something this unique and exceptional,” said Alex Moore, Master Blender for Rare Hare Spirits. “Tempest is a celebration of the Tasmanian terroir. It should be on the bucket list of any serious whiskey collector.”

So, spoiler alert: This is one of the most unique and distinctive whiskies I’ve encountered in years. It defies easy categorization, with a sweet and perfumed nose that could easily be mistaken for brandy or even an old rum. I can’t think of another whisky I’ve reviewed with such a floral nose, possibly ever. Orange blossoms, tea leaf, and hibiscus are all represented, tamped down by aromas of rum raisin and fresh-baked shortbread cookies.

The palate tempers the florals and focuses more on baked goods — pain au chocolat, Walker’s shortbread, and almond biscotti. A chewier, barley-driven character comes into focus in short order, offering notes of toasted bread, barrel char, and some wet leather. A hint of mushroom gives the late game a more seductive and austere quality, the whisky at last starting to show its significant age. With time in glass and time to settle down, the finish hits deceptively like a classic single malt Scotch, well-aged and a little dusty, like an old tweed jacket with the patches on the elbows. The lingering fade-out evokes orangey sherry more than Port — there’s really no Port influence here at all that I can discern — but it’s delicious all the same.

I found this whisky hard to put down — and easy to come back to after finally leaving for dinner and coming back to it afterward. The Rare Hare series has had ups and downs, but this could be the biggest — and most surprising — highlight to date.

84 proof.

A / $999 / rareharespirits.com

Playboy Spirits Rare Hare The Tempest Tasmanian Single Malt

$999
9.5

Rating

9.5/10

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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