Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Have just tried - The Overeem single cask range

Overeem is a range of single malt whisky from The Old Hobart Distillery in the Australian state of Tasmania.  The state is the centre of the Australian whisky industry, which is now building a strong reputation, and is described as the 'Islay of Australia'.  A number of distilleries and brands have been winning major awards for the past couple of years and this has brought Australian whisky to the attention of a wider audience.  Having not tried many whiskies from Tasmania, we were delighted to be invited to a tasting of the current Overeem range recently.

The Old Hobart Distillery is located in Blackmans Bay, which lies to the south of the Tasmanian city of Hobart.  It was founded by Casey Overeem in 2005, with whisky production starting in 2007.  The whisky is made using a 50:50 mix of unpeated and lightly peated Tasmanian barley, which is mashed and fermented to Overeem's specifications at the nearby Lark distillery.  The wash is then transported to The Old Hobart Distillery for distillation, firstly through an 1,800 litre wash still and then a 1,200 litre spirit still.

Each of the releases to date have been bottled as single casks, which are hand selected by Casey Overeem.  Most of the whisky is matured in either ex-sherry or ex-Australian 'Port' casks, with a small percentage matured in ex-bourbon casks.  The casks are released one at a time to market and the whisky is bottled at either 43% or 60% ABV.  They are available in specialist retailers in Australia with small amounts exported to Belgium, Holland, Sweden and the UK.  The prices are £139.99 for the 43% ABV and £189.99 for the 60% ABV.

Overeem Sherry Cask 43% ABV
Cask #OHD030, 180 bottles.

The colour is deep gold and the nose has lots of fragrant aromas.  These are a mix of sweet, fruity and spicy notes including maple syrup, honeycomb, banana, mango, sultanas, cinnamon and a hint of allspice.  On the palate, the sweet/tropical/spicy combination continues.  There are again heavy vanilla and maple syrup notes and these are complimented by mouth watering exotic fruits (think of peach, apricot and pineapple especially).  These sumptuous notes are backed up by some robust malty cereals and some warming oaky wood spices including cinnamon, nutmeg and a hint of star anise.  The finish begins with a juicy fruitiness and sweetness, before turning spicier and drier.

Overeem 'Port' Cask 43% ABV
Cask OHD #026, 160 bottles.

The colour is a reddish amber and the nose is highly perfumed.  There are distinct notes of dried red fruits (especially cranberries), caramel and cinnamon spice.  Underneath is a further note of vanilla pod, along with hints of cocoa powder, treacle and liquorice.  On the palate there is an initial note of drying wood spice (think of cinnamon with a hint of cloves) and a fruity characteristic, which is most reminiscent of juicy raisins and fresh plums.  Late notes of golden syrup, slightly burnt caramel, bittersweet malt and a hint of earthy smokiness add to the complexity.  The finish is very drying, woody and spicy, especially once the sweetness and the fruitiness begin to fade.

Overeem Sherry Cask 60% ABV
Cask OHD #32, 135 bottles.

The colour is golden yellow and the nose is big, rich and fruity.  There are prominent aromas of dried tropical fruits with elements of apricot, banana, mango and pineapple present.  There is also some vanilla custard, plus fragrant allspice and a hint of milk chocolate.  On the palate, this feels robust and oily.  There is plenty of feisty wood spice (especially cinnamon) to begin with and this note is quickly joined by others - think of maple syrup, raisins and sugared almonds, plus an increasing tropical fruit characteristic similar to that on the nose.  The finish has a pleasant sweetness but this quickly fades to leave a bone dry woodiness and an interesting milky instant coffee note.

Overeem 'Port' Cask 60% ABV
Cask OHD #029, 125 bottles.

The colour is dark reddish amber and the powerful nose has prominent aromas of vanilla, caramel and something reminiscent of rum and raisin ice cream.  Underneath are further aromas of fudge, espresso coffee, dark chocolate and lots of cinnamon.  On the palate, this whisky feels very dry and spicy (think of allspice, cinnamon and a hint of cloves).  This gives it a slightly savoury edge.  Then comes sweetness and fruitiness, especially icing sugar, raisins and raspberry.  Underneath are notes of coffee, chocolate and molasses with a late hint of something floral, which is similar to palma violet sweets.  The finish is long, bold and expressive.  The caramel/molasses-like sweetness slowly fades to leave the bitter chocolate and coffee notes.

Overeem Bourbon Cask 43% ABV
Cask OHD #055, 170 bottles.

So far, this is the first and only ex-bourbon cask to have been released from the small amount that are currently maturing.  This made it a real privilege to be able to taste.  The colour is golden yellow and the nose is clean, fresh and delicate.  It has a lovely grassy and malty aroma that is backed up by honey, vanilla, coconut, fresh green apple and over ripe banana.

On the palate, it feels equally as light and delicate.  There are icing sugar and marshmallow notes that quickly give way to honey, vanilla and creamed coconut.  The grassy and malty notes from the nose are again present, but are not so prominent.  Further elements of lemon zest, drying wood spice (especially cinnamon) and a hint of earthy ginger add depth and complexity.  The finish is on the short side with the malty and woody notes outlasting everything else.

What's the verdict?
The Overeem single cask range is a delicious set of whiskies.  The quality reflects the attention to detail, production methods and casking used by Casey Overeem and his team at The Old Hobart Distillery.  As a result, the standard is superb across the board and means that they are one of the best 'craft' and 'world' whiskies that we have tasted to date.  If only all such products were as consistent and this good ...

The only potential sticking point to wider success could be the retail price.  This is not a criticism, just the reality (said with our retailer hats on ...) - they are a bit high even for a single cask of 'craft' or 'world' whisky.  Having said that, as more people sample the liquid and taste the quality we can see Overeem quickly achieving something like cult status.  We certainly hope that it does, because it deserves to ...

For more information about The Old Hobart Distillery or the Overeem brand, please visit or

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