This is Willie Smith’s Whisky Aged Cider. I often talk about a sense of place with a cider. Apples reflect the soil they’re rooted in. Vintages reflect the season. Wild yeasts native to a cider house sneak in with a signature flourish. A simple glass of cider can be a lesson in everything from meteorology to geography and even history.
I keep coming back to Willie Smith’s Ciders because they tell a story of a semi coastal orchard with a funky yeast that reminds me of time spent in a sheep shearing shed (yeah they don’t like me saying that but it is very comforting to me). Their latest release ages an already fine cider in Tasmania’s Sullivans Cove whisky barrels.
Ok here comes the history lesson. Oak barrels serve 2 purposes, first store a liquid, second add flavour. The oak can add some tannins. There are plenty of oak trees where the barrels were made in America, coincidentally where the Bourbon was (still is) being made. The barrels full of bourbon were loaded onto boats and shipped down the Mississippi to where it was served. The bourbon boys didn’t bother getting the barrels back because it was just cheaper to build a new barrel.
If a bourbon maker did try and use the same barrel again the spirit wouldn’t taste as bold. At the same time the coopers union (the tradespeople who make the barrels) lobbied the US government to make the definition of bourbon include the fact that a new barrel was used.
This law is still in effect today. You may think that this is a lot of barrels going to waste. That’s where the whisky industry comes to the rescue. From Islay to Tasmania, whisky distillers have been using 2nd hand bourbon barrels for years. The barrels have mellowed and now aren’t as, well … American. Yes some bourbon comes out of the wood and into the whisky. Whisky can sit in the barrels for over a decade.
Now we are going to talk about cider. After the whisky has been bottled and sent off to win many awards, Willie Smiths take the barrels and use them to age their finest blend of cloudy cider for 16 months before bottling.
I’m going to state the obvious. It smells like whisky. A light and slightly malty whisky with a little honey. I’ve had a Sullivan’s Whisky before and it had a slight fruitiness which melts into the apple to warm and spicy apple tones of the base cider. It moves away from the signature sheep station Willie Smiths scent; It would be far too busy if that had stuck around. Instead this is a grown up cider, no, a gentlemanly cider.
This is still a cider, the apples are king. A dry and earthy cider, the type of thing that I gravitate to. The cloudy cider has some heat from the whisky. When you add a dash of water to a whisky it opens up and reveals the malty and peaty flavour that are no longer masked 40 odd percent alcohol. The difference here is cider is opening up the flavours in a very complementary way. Fruity whisky , earthy and vanilla cider. While it is pretty dry it does have a sweet malt aspect.
The backend is more focused on Sullivan’s Whisky, this is where that American wood gets a chance to shine, it doesn’t shout but you will listen.
Final Thoughts on the Willie Smith’s Whisky Aged Cider
I don’t do flavoured ciders, 98% of them are cheap over sweetened rubbish, that includes the other whisky cider I’ve tried. But with glass of history, Willie’s have created something truly polished in the Willie Smith’s Whisky Aged Cider. It is the perfect blend of an elegant flute of cider and a sophisticated tumbler of whisky.
|Product||Whisky Aged – Vintage 2016|
|Country of Origin||Australia|
|Region||Huon Valley, Tasmania|