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Water of Life - The Gospel Straight Rye Whiskey & Chief’s Son Distillery

We must have covered more than fifty Australian distilleries as part of this series along with a wide range of whiskeys and approaches to distillation and maturation that have become idiosyncratic characteristics for local practises, however, claiming that terra australis is “nascent” when it comes to rye whiskies would be an understatement par excellence.

However, with the few whiskey distilleries championing American-influenced rye, I would make a case that they are on par with the best ones on international terrain and would be welcomed with open arms in the United States.

Enter the entity that has evolved from what started five years ago as Melbourne Moonshine, i.e. The Gospel Distillers.

We covered their whiskey debut right after release, i.e. their Solera Rye expression in 2019 and since then, they have further refined their approach and seem to have set their focus firmly and solely on rye.

With a focus on provenance, i.e. their unmalted rye being sourced from the local Murray Mallee and chosen for its compact flavourfullness and rye bread density, The Gospel’s rye expression is aged in two year old specifically coopered American oak barrels for an average of two and a half years following distillation in their custom-made six metre high column still within the confines of their largely self-built distillery, with the juice satisfying both Australian and American whiskey regulations.

The result is a lip smackingly good Straight Rye Whiskey, the oakyness of which tickles the nostrils upon approach along with aromas of freshly baked rye bread and brown sugary vanilla.

On the top of the mouth things start out slightly acidic and bitter, before the DNA of the rye unfolds its magic nuanced by raisiny, cereally, savoury and grainy highlights and a spiciness that is amplified as it is counterpointed by a faint leathery backdrop. The lingering finish culminates in a crescendo of spices and ginger, which is rounded out by a delicate sweetness.

While I unfortunately missed out on the first incarnation of their special release series under the moniker Gospel Projects, I can only hope that Gospel Distillers will confidently continue to stride on their progressive path and release a cask strength expression.

I’d imagine that the meticulous way they approach the selection of their casks and every facet of the production process, it will be pushing the boundaries of what is thought to be possible with grain bills and crowned with success not only because Australia is one of the biggest markets for rye and corn-based spirits, but because in the new world will embrace it lovingly as well.

Let the fifth gospel be the doctrine of rye...

Chief’s Son

This feature of Chief’s Son Distillery has been in the making for the longest time.

Having released its first commercial batch in 2016, I was first exposed to the distillery from the Mornington Peninsula through an Australian whiskey tasting event where there three and four year old single malts were proffered.

The variety of Chief’s Son’s range intrigued me from the get go - not merely due to the variety of its range but because of the distinct complex flavour profiles, which are derived from experimentation with approaches to distillation, use of different malts and peat levels.

With this instalment I would like to zero in on Chief’s Son’s fantastic cask strength expressions, the 900 Standard variant of which has been matured for a minimum of three years in Seppeltsfield fortified wine casks, the use of which seems to be the only constant across Chief’s Son’s range with the odd exception.

What tickles the nostrils upon approach is a refreshing melange of fresh, sweet and slightly acrid hay, earthy ginseng and peppery sharp ginger, anethol and liquorice.

On the top of the mouth, cinnamon unfolds its magic, flanked by the nuances that the nose promised, i.e. spicy ginger, bready and syrupy highlights, which culminate in an orangey crescendo. A beautifully balanced dram.

The cask strength version of the 900 Standard Pure Malt should delight anyone remotely into whiskies of the Speyside persuasion. On the nose there is vanilla, honey and rum, completed by a bouquet of nutty, earthy and toasty oak nuances. The palate is caressed by buttery, brown sugary overtones and backed by warming alcohol, accentuated by dried mangoes. As the name suggests, the elongated finish is dominated by a sweet and nutty maltiness, making this expression an indulgent cracker.

My favourite Chief’s Son expression has to be the 900 Sweet Peat.

At cask strength, things are elevated to new heights with berry, cherry and plum aromas and the most subtle hint of delicious smokiness. On the palate this little number takes an interesting and unexpected detour into tart and earthy territory, before meandering between tropical fruits, tobacco and sweetly creamy flavours, which sit comfortably against a backdrop of peat.

The moreish finish leaves on smacking one’s lips with slightly floral juiciness and a solid smoky woodiness.

Another highlight of the Chief’s Son range is their most recent “Dark Russian” expression, which is an example par excellence for the distillery’s finely calibrated approach when it comes to infusing and accentuating their DNA by using the characteristics the use of new casks imbue.

Imagine the aforementioned Standard variant but with a twist: Deliciously hoppy, slightly bitter rich malty flavours imbue this juice with an unrivalled level of depth.

I cannot wait to taste Chief’s Son’s future emissions.


images from company websites

T • September 6, 2021

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