Deceptor whisky

page 289

The Tasmania Distillery's  infamous third expression was expunged from the book. Not even a photograph of it is shown.

The earliest reviews of Tasmania Distillery whiskies were harsh. I reported the good with the bad, but at the behest of Robert Hosken all negative reviews were removed and all references to what I dubbed the Deceptor expression were removed. 

The Corrected Text

The Business Review Weekly reported Robert Hosken as saying that he had sold vodka to a Russian fishing fleet, orange-spiced liqueur to Chinese restaurants for Peking Duck, date-of-birth whisky barrels to hundreds of Japanese maternity hospitals, glass koalas to duty free shops, and, to mark the end of British rule in Hong Kong, Paris decanters of “Last Prize of Empire” whisky, accompanied by a book he had authored. Almost twenty years later Hosken told me the same stories, but his lawyer subsequently informed me that there were no koalas filled to their furry eyebrows with whisky, indeed all this had been incorrectly reported. 

The distillery did release several whiskies.

image courtesy of Robert Hosken

Golden Age whisky liqueur

(ABV 25%)

“The original Tasmanian classic premium liqueur” (perhaps of the modern era, but not of all eras), it was a Scotch whisky “compounded with herbs, spices, sugar, flavourings and honey from the bees of Tasmania”. It was made by Lyn Lark and was a model for Lark's Slainte.


Expression #1: The Commemorative

image brochure courtesy of Robert Hosken

A Scotch blend of 37% strength released in December 1994

Available only for one night and labelled “to commemorate the opening of the Tasmania Distillery, December 1994”, this give-away expression came in a faux Johnnie Walker square-faced bottle (even the typeface was sloped) with a green and gold label that featured a sailing ship and the distillery’s crest of two unicorns rampant aside a shield. Labelled Sullivans Cove Whisky, at the foot of the front label were the words PRODUCT OF SCOTLAND and below that BOTTLED IN AUSTRALIA. In it was a mix of 75 per cent neutral spirit and 25 per cent no-name (peated?) Scotch malt whiskies that had been imported, broken down, blended and bottled in Victoria.

image Bernard Lloyd, bottle courtesy Pat Maguire

Expression #2: Deceptor

A Scotch blend of 37% strength released between about December 1995 and June 1997

At some early time modified labels were affixed to the “Commemorative” bottles. Though still containing the same Scotch, the word that followed PRODUCT OF … was changed from SCOTLAND to AUSTRALIA. The label’s claim to being a “Sullivans Cove Whisky” now deceived. Its neck wrap quotes the Bible “drop as rain, distil as dew” but this whisky exhibited, by its very nature, the odour of snake oil.

Expression #3 Sullivan's Cove First Edition

700 ml of cold-filtered, caramel coloured 2-year-old single cask bottled at 40% and released in 1997

image Osborne Images

Tasmania’s first commercially released single malt since colonial times. Barrel #1 was a two year old—exactly—unpeated single cask matured in a heavily toasted 300 litre virgin alba oak hogshead. Distilled in March 1995, in a production run of two 300-litre casks, t was decanted on March 12th, 1997 and offered for sale a week later presented in ornately fluted, Paris decanter stoppered bottles packed in individually numbered (1–700) pine boxes. Pitched at collectors for $89, today’s ebay price is $450. The gold embossed fluoro-blue label (with a swing tag) featured many calligraphic embellishments, armorial discs and a line of five stars ominously reminiscent of Corio Distillery’s infamous “5 star” whisky brand. The word Australia appears at least eight times. Perhaps the longest whisky tagline ever: The Original Classic Sullivans Cove Single Malt Premium Whisky. Was anything original, classic or premium about it? As well as its “aromatic nose, golden flavour, full lush body and stimulating finish, the press release stated that it had “a unique woodiness”.

It was a very woody spirit—‘with a mouthfeel as sharp as buggery,’ according to a connoisseur who tried it the day after its launch, and ‘tasted of nothing but caramel’. The Age reported it as ‘a pale golden colour with heat evident in the nose. The palate shows hot flavour notes with some sweet and medicinal characters.’ The whisky tasting doyen Craig Daniels wrote that it was “seriously bad” and had “no palate”. But that can be explained. Laird Ron Sutherland tried it too, sitting with Hosken at the Gasworks after pouring his host a 21-year-old Auchentoshan in return. Hosken opined that the Auchentoshan wasn’t really much good, whereas his whisky was wonderful, great. Considering that nothing could be further from the truth, Sutherland told me he thought to himself this guy’s a salesman, not a whisky drinker. He’s got no palate at all.


image courtesy Rob Walls

Expression #4: the Indisputable

A two-year-old Tasmanian single malt from ex-bourbon American Oak casks released at 37% from March 1997

This expression was genuine Sullivans Cove spirit. It filled bottles similar to #1 and #2, but with the purple and gold colour scheme of the Barrel #1 First Edition label.

Bernard LloydComment