It wasn’t that many years ago that finding genuinely interesting whisky in Canberra involved sneaking some extras bottles in your luggage after a trip to the UK, or wearing the additional costs of international delivery and the pain of dealing with customs. But now if you’re interested in something a little different, your options have improved. Canberra now hosts two dedicated whisky bars – Molly and Hippo Bar – both in the city.
Recently, So Frank were lucky enough to be guests of Adelphi Whisky and Molly for a tasting of Adelphi’s new releases for the year (if you want to sound like a proper whisky snob, call them ‘expressions’). Adelphi isn’t a distillery. Usually at a distillery, whisky in different casks are “married” together to ensure a more consistent product – but sometimes the contents of particular single casks can be something very special indeed, and this is where Adelphi comes in.
Adelphi are what the trade calls ‘independent bottlers’ who hunt out these interesting individual casks of single malt whisky and when they find them (Adelphi are accepts only about 4% of casks offered) they bottle that magic. As Ben Baranow of Baranows Emporium (the only Australian importer) describes it, what Adelphi provide is “the simplest expression of whisky” – i.e. virtually straight from the cask to you. This is simple in a production sense, but it allows the unadulterated natural complexity of the product to shine. Alex Bruce, Managing Director of Adelphi (one of our hosts) was clear that the main criteria for selecting casks was flavour – the age of the whisky, and the fame of the distillery were not considered. Because they deal with single casks, production numbers for each whisky are limited to only about 100 to 700 bottles.
It was from this rare group we had the opportunity to sample. The whiskies themselves are surprisingly approachable. Usually this is code for ‘dull and bland’, but not in this case. The expressions are dangerously drinkable and full of complex interesting flavours – one that was all apricot jam and barbeque sauce, and another that was Christmas pudding with brandy. The flavours change and develop over the course of several minutes, which is a pleasant surprise and adds to the experience of drinking the whisky.
If you’re keen to try for yourself, you have just a few options. Canberra is lucky enough to get an “allocation”, but it is very modest and is snapped up quickly. Molly and Hippo will be serving Adelphi whiskies over the bar, and Molly has even fitted out an entire section of the bar for the Adelphi range. Ainslie Cellars also have a small number of bottles for sale.
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*Thank you to our friend Whisky Bravo for his contribution to this post & for graciously offering to to taste this fantastic whisky on our behalf.