Booze Review

Whisky Reviews – Sullivans Cove Double Cask, 11 Year Old French Oak, and 11 Year Old American Oak

Sullivans Cove

Way back in mid September, I went back and forth with Raj Sabharwal (Managing Director of Purple Valley Imports) via Twitter and email about two whisky events that he would be hosting in Philadelphia during the week of October 22nd. One event would be for Sullivans Cove Tasmanian Whisky and the other would be for Amrut Distillery of India (unfortunately, we weren’t able to attend).

During this exchange, Raj asked if we would like some samples from Purple Valley Import’s product line up. Since I had heard so much about Amrut and Sullivans Cove over the past year, but had yet to try any of their expressions, this was an offer that I couldn’t pass up!

This is the second in a series of posts featuring whiskies brought to the United States by Purple Valley Imports. Let’s keep the ball rolling with reviews of three different whisky expressions from the Tasmania Distillery, makers of Sullivans Cove Single Malt Whisky

Sullivans Cove Double Cask

Limpd’s Tasting Notes

  • Appearance: Golden and leggy.
  • Aroma: Light notes of honey, vanilla and mint with time notes of butterscotch and toffee appear.
  • Taste: Sweet (like the aroma would suggest), slightly peppery mid-palate and then a sweet, soft finish.
  • ABV: 40%

Conclusion: At only 40% ABV, it might be a little too soft for some and I certainly could understand if someone found this to be too sweet. But, for me, it hit all the right notes and had just a nice finish. This is a very drinkable whiskey.

G-LO’s Tasting Notes

  • Appearance: Pale copper color.
  • Aroma: Very light and fruity on the nose. There’s a musty grape aroma going on that reminds me of late September in South Philly when an Italian housewares store called Vigilante’s used to sell cases of grapes for wine making (thankfully there are no bees buzzing around as I nose this whisky!).  A bit of nougat. Here’s a weird one that I can’t get out of my head: wet cardboard!
  • Taste: No point in adding any water to this one since it is oh so very light. Getting a white wine vibe all around. Not much in the way of heat or spiciness. An alcohol tingle is how I would describe it. Very short and dry finish.
  • ABV: 40%

Conclusion: Overall, I have lukewarm feelings about the Sullivans Cove Double Cask. There was nothing particularly wrong with this whisky, it just didn’t hold my interest for very long.


Sullivans Cove 11 Year Old French Oak

Limpd’s Tasting Notes

  • Appearance: Golden amber with a little bit of legs.
  • Aroma: Alcohol, a little medicinal, a little astringent with time a little caramel and a little candied coconut.
  • Taste: Mild sweetness with a smooth, caramel flavor (like a Werther’s) followed by a little menthol and a little cinnamon ending with a little bit of heat in a rather short finish.
  • ABV: 47.5%

Conclusion: The use of the French Oak was a noticeable change as was the higher ABV. I think this might be the right balance of alcohol, sweetness and spice. I would have liked a little longer finish but this was a very good whiskey. Of the three, I would say that the French Oak was easily my favorite.

G-LO’s Tasting Notes

  • Appearance: Clover honey color.
  • Aroma: The extra 7.5% ABV is very noticeable, i.e. there’s much more alcohol vapor. This whisky is also quite light and fruity, with those grape notes coming through again, but this time, without the mustiness. There’s also a hint of vanilla, cumin, and fresh, raw coconut (I also detected this in the Double Cask, but it’s much more noticeable in this expression).
  • Taste: Once again, I don’t think this whisky needs any water. There’s a bit more fire on the palate thanks to the extra potency. All of the flavors are concentrated on the tip of my tongue with a mild cinnamon spiciness. Once that subsides a bit, the fruitiness really comes through along with some vanilla. Warm soothing finish with lots of fruit and a hint of cinnamon/cumin spice.
  • ABV: 47.5%

Conclusion: The 11 Year Old French Oak is a HUGE improvement over the Double Cask. Compared to what I usually drink, this is definitely on the lighter end of the whisky spectrum. I found all of the flavors to be well developed and there is a definite easy drinking nature to this whisky. This would be a good alternative to one of the lighter Scottish blends, i.e. Johnnie Walker Black or Chivas Regal 12. I like it!


Sullivans Cove 11 Year Old American Oak

Limpd’s Tasting Notes

  • Appearance: Straw with good legs.
  • Aroma: Woodie with a lot of vanilla and little bit medicinal.
  • Taste: Not terribly sweet or spicy and not much heat in the finish.
  • ABV: 47.5%

Conclusion: Everything that the French Oak was the American Oak wasn’t. It wasn’t that the flavors weren’t balanced; I just found them to be a little muted. I just wasn’t picking up on anything that was all that remarkable. I didn’t find that this one differentiated itself from all of the others like the French Oak did.

G-LO’s Tasting Notes

  • Appearance: Light golden yellow color.
  • Aroma: The alcohol vapors are a bit more subdued considering that it is bottled at the same ABV as the 11 Year Old French Oak. There goes that raw coconut note again! Does that mean that the only real difference between the French and American Oak is the barrel it was aged in, i.e. same distillate, different barrel types? The aromas are much lighter than the French Oak. I’m getting vanilla, nougat, and a hint of caramel. There are also some light floral notes that I just can’t put my finger on it. If hard pressed, I’d have to go with honeysuckle (very subtle, but definitely there).
  • Taste: Quite a light and subdued dram of whisky. Very very smooth with very little alcohol burn when sipped at full strength. There’s a bit of light spice that lies somewhere between a cinnamon and chile pepper (poblano?) type heat. The spice factor escalates a bit as you approach mid-palate, but it doesn’t overwhelm. As you approach the finish, vanilla and nougat show up. The finish is dry with a lingering spiciness that coats your mouth with flavor.
  • ABV: 47.5%

Conclusion: The Sullivans Cove 11 Year Old American Oak is easily my favorite of the three expressions. It has a lovely balance of sweet, spicy, and floral notes, with none of these elements taking control. I also enjoyed the somewhat dry finish which left me a bit parched and wishing that I had more of it to drink. Well done Sullivans Cove!


Many thanks to Raj Sabharwal of Purple Valley Imports for sending us these very generous whisky samples!

14 replies »

  1. A fascinating vertical – a clinic on wood finishing with the angle being French versus American oak (instead of Sherry versus Bourbon – which is the usual issue). I loved it. French oak is becoming more and more common – with such offerings as Maker’s Mark 46, Compass Box Spice Tree & Oak Cross, Brenne & Bastille, coming to mind straight off the top of my head. I really enjoyed this review. Particularly interested to get the contrasting tasting notes and rankings!


    • Thanks Josh! It was definitely an interesting tasting experience. While I definitely enjoy the French Oak influence in the superb whiskies that you mentioned, I think the American Oak effect worked better in the case of Sullivans Cove. Not saying that I didn’t enjoy the French Oak, just preferred the American Oak this time around. Regardless of the wood finish, it was fun to see some of the flavors show up in all three versions. Fun stuff!

      Once again, thanks for the insightful comments! We must hook up for some whisky schooling at some point in 2013. Let’s make it happen!

      Cheers and Happy New Year!


  2. Awesome to see a distillery outside of the established whisky world that’s producing such a wide variety of styles. I was given a bottle of their port cask a few years ago and I really enjoyed it.


  3. Thanks for the excellent notes! Makes me eager to try Sullivan’s Cove, particularly the French Oak. As Josh noted, it’s definitely becoming more popular and, having had a couple of the examples he listed, I can certainly see why. Would definitely love to compare three separate examples from the same distillery though — fabulous!


    • Thanks for the compliment! We had a good deal of fun comparing and contrasting each expression. As I have already said, it was really interesting to see the similarities in each whisky and how barrel selection changed the flavor profiles ever so slightly. Definitely a good time!



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