Are all Tasting notes, as so many distillers told me, all shiite?
When I was creating the Aroma Pie of Tasmanian whisky tastes I got very little interest from distillers. I was shocked, but then intrigued to discover the negative—bordering on contemptuous—attitude of many distillers toward tasting notes. The contempt was an insider view the industry did not want revealed. Redlands spokesperson Robbie Gillhern, the president of the TWPA as well as Lyn Lark not only insisted that their expletives deleted (which I agreed to) but their comments redacted. Hellyers Road went so far as to insist that even their own tasting note not be printed in this section. The publisher acquiesced.
The unpublished text
Co-founder Lyn Lark says ‘I ask myself how they are made? It might be a young, lively whisky. I could talk about that. The sense of alcohol—the explosion—may be low or high. Is it sweet, creamy, dry? Does it build or fall short? But apricot, peach, honeycomb? They’re all probably valid terms, but they don’t mean much to me. Either I like them or I don’t. I know what I like and I like a variety. I like peaty whiskies, but words like “medicinal”, “under-carpet”, “kipperish”? Nup. Nup. Nup.’
‘Can I quote you on that?’
Not blunt enough? Redlands man Robbie Gilligan says ‘It’s all fucking shiite.’
When I stare at him he bursts out laughing. ‘Well…. no, there’s a wee something to it.’
Salt-of-the-earth distillery proprietor Laurie House had no time for ‘whisky wankers who go on and on about nothing’. What would he make of the tasting note for Hellyers own drop Wey River? It is described on Hellyers website as tasting of a “Damp forest mulch banished by a confusion of fresh cherry essence and a hint of salted chocolate. Traces of vanilla treacle gently abscond, leaving behind more questions than answers. A little water merely adds to a compulsive intrigue.”