Nose: Rich caramel, rum & raisin sponge cake, sultanas, dried red berries. Very sweet.
Palate: More caramel up front, joined by sticky toffee and golden syrup – which replace the rum & raisin. The sultanas and dried berries are joined by a whole pack of dried mixed fruits. There’s also a slight hint of some spice; cinnamon and nutmeg. Like a good Irish potstill, some of these flavours just won’t sit still.
Mouth Feel: Thick and chewy. Very creamy. Not even a hint of oil, and no burn at all either. Quite firm and dry.
Finish: The finish is extremely light in comparison to the richness of the whisky, but similar to when it is on the tongue; it is also quite dry. The rum & raisin flavours return for a small cameo before being overrun by the toffee – which has become more burnt toffee than the sticky sweet toffee that was present up front. Although it fades quite quickly, the toffee lingers on as a faint after-taste for a decent amount of time.
On The Rocks: Adding some ice softens up the caramel and toffee, whilst simultaneously wringing more fruit out – particularly ripe red berries and stone fruits. You don’t want to let the ice melt too much though – after a while the whole thing just collapses into a sweet mess of nothingness.
The New Zealand Whisky Company is spearheading the resurrection of New Zealand’s whisky industry (along with the new TeKiwi/Schanpp Dragon, and Hokonui distilleries) which had completely shut down in 1997. They aim to restart distilling new spirit in the not-too-distant future, and I personally wish them well – especially if their new product is anything like this DoubleWood that was distilled at the former Willowbank distillery in Dunedin!
This whisky is really not much like any other that I can think of off the top of my head that I have had the pleasure of trying. It’s almost liqueur sweet without being over the top – packed full of vanilla fudge and rich sticky toffee, it’s also so lusciously thick and creamy that King Island is probably blushing at the thought of it. Then there’s the fruit – so much fruit – lots of rich berries, and dark dried fruits, yet also some fresh stone fruits such as rich ripe juicy plums coming through.
This whisky is a phenomenal implosion of flavours and texture – so much so that as you’re savouring it your mouth can’t quite grasp exactly what it is trying to savour at any particular moment. There are some faint spices – some cinnamon and nutmeg, maybe some slivered almonds – barely there, but seemingly keeping a tight reign on the sweet fudge and toffee, allowing the sweetness to really show some muscle, but not letting it get out of control.
I don’t know what those Kiwis are doing to the few remaining barrels that they have left in Oamaru, but whatever they’re doing has worked wonders – the result is like some sort of supercharged offspring of a French oak casked Speyside and a well-aged Irish pot still; and it is really quite delicious.
The sweet vanilla from its time in the Bourbon casks, with the explosion of fruits fruits the Pinot Noir and Cab Sauv casks, and the superbly thick creamy texture from the French oak used in those wine barrels has really come together in a way that I’m sure even the blender themselves could only have hoped for.
I have been through a few bottles of the Dunedin DoubleWood 15yo, and it seems to me that each bottle is getting just a little bit richer, and a little bit thicker, and a little bit more creamy than the previous bottle was – which is not out of the question seeing as the barrels have all been sitting around since the distillery was mothballed in 2000, and there hasn’t been any newer barrels added to the mix. There is so much going on with this whisky that it really is walking just on the right side of the fine line between rambunctious amazement and a kaleidoscope of mess – and I really do hope that as they work their way through the remaining stockpile, it doesn’t cross that very very fine line.
Whilst this whisky is too sweet and too rich for me to have it as an everyday dram, it is also not quite sweet enough to be considered a “dessert whisky”, it is also nearly thick enough that you could consider it a meal all on its own – or at least a decent snack. On a chilly winter afternoon, lounging around and chatting with friends; this whisky would be absolutely perfect.