Journey to Doppelbock: Dark Harmony Limited 2024 Release

Journey to Doppelbock: Dark Harmony Limited 2024 Release

In the heart of North West Tasmania, Australia’s oldest continually operating whisky distillery is marrying the robust world of craft beer with the refined elegance of whisky. In 2023, Hellyers Road Distillery partnered with Burnie’s very own Communion Brewing Co., leading to the creation of the Dark Harmony series.

Following the triumph of Dark Harmony No. 1, awarded Gold at the 2024 World Whiskies Awards, the next limited release in the series epitomises the distillery’s pioneering spirit and commitment to innovation, collaboration, and the relentless pursuit of flavour. What makes this Dark Harmony release unique?  

The Birth of Dark Harmony

Since its inception, Hellyers Road Distillery has been blending cask types that embody a spirit of adventure and innovation. The Dark Harmony series continues this ethos, combining craft beer with whisky, resulting in a beer-cask-finished whisky series with flavour that goes beyond traditional.

Head Distiller Fiona Coutts shares her experience on the genesis of this series. “Collaborating with Communion Brewing Co. was a natural extension of my own journey, from brewing beer with Andrew [Head Brewer of Communion Brewing Co.] to exploring the nuances of beer-cask-finished whisky,” Fiona says. “It’s a nice way to collaborate and get people excited about what we can do here in a very regional area of Tasmania.”

The Dark Harmony series, which began with a stout-cask-finish, now proudly introduces its second expression, a Doppelbock cask finish. This innovative series is not just about creating unique whisky; it represents Hellyers Road Distillery’s commitment to innovation, drawing upon Fiona’s scientific background to push the boundaries of traditional whisky making.

“It’s been really exciting to bring these whiskies to life,” says Fiona, reflecting on her transition from a biomedical scientist to head distiller. “They’re a passion project for me, blending the art and science of whisky making.”

The Process of Crafting Dark Harmony

The creation of Dark Harmony No. 2 started with selecting the perfect whisky to use in the barrel-ageing process.

The process continues at Communion Brewing Co., where Andrew traditionally ferments his beer until just shy of completion. At this pivotal moment, freshly decanted barrels from Hellyers Road Distillery make their way to the brewery. These aren’t just any barrels; they’ve previously cradled a seven-year-old whisky matured in American ex-bourbon casks. The beer is then transferred into these barrels, resting for several months. This maturation period allows the beer to mellow, absorbing the complex tapestry of flavours left by the whisky and oak.

Once the beer has matured, absorbing the whisky and the barrel’s characteristics, it’s bottled and sent to eagerly awaiting customers. Saturated with the beer’s flavour, the barrels return to Hellyers Road Distillery, where they’re filled once more with whisky. This whisky, already mature and confident in its own right, embraces the unique characteristics of the beer-soaked wood, acquiring new layers of flavour and complexity.

Fiona describes this process not only as an exciting project that showcases the best of North West Tasmanian producers but also as one that has a personal connection. “One of the lovely things about it is my history. I used to brew beer with my dad. He was a whisky-loving Scotsman, and it’s a really nice way to bring whisky and beer together and remember my dad and the times we used to brew his god-awful stouts in the backyard,” Fiona says.

“It’s a little bit niche, but it’s fun to play with. At the end of the process, both Hellyers and Communion Brewing get a novel kind of product out of it. So Andrew gets his barrel-aged beer, and we get our beer-cask-finished whisky.” 

Dark Harmony’s Tasting Notes

The Dark Harmony No. 2 release is a harmonious blend that evolves and reveals itself over time. “With time in the glass, you really pick up beautiful milk chocolate notes, and there’s some strawberry shortcake, a little bit of raspberry jam, and that malt and sweet profile from the beer,” shares Fiona. “It’s really, really good. I love this whisky.” 

This expression, the Doppelbock-cask-finish, carries a high residual sweetness from the beer’s caramelisation during brewing. This is down to the extensive boil that transforms the malt, enriching its natural qualities, Andrew explains. “Normally, we boil for around an hour. This one got three hours, so it just caramelises all of the malts that are already quite malty in this style. And that's how you get that sort of deep, deep red colour. So super stoked with the colour.”

 Dark Harmony No. 2 gradually unfolds as it sits in the glass, revealing layers of multi-sweet notes, milk chocolate, and hints of strawberry shortcake tart. “It’s a nice, sweet, balanced expression. It’s fun coming back to it and discovering different layers,” Fiona explains.

 Pairing this whisky with its beer counterpart in a ‘boilermaker’ enhances this sensory journey, allowing enthusiasts to appreciate the interplay of flavours between the two. The colour, a deep red transitioning to an excellent rose hue in the whisky, hints at the candied, berry-infused, and nectarine notes that lie within. This latest iteration in the Dark Harmony series stands out for its innovative origin and complex, evolving taste profile. “I didn’t think we could beat Dark Harmony one, but this one’s going to knock it out of the park,” Fiona concludes, already contemplating the next creation in this captivating series.

 A Toast to Depth and Complexity

Dark Harmony No. 2 is more than a whisky; it’s a narrative of local craftsmanship, modern whisky innovation and a passion to produce something extraordinary. Hellyers Road Distillery invites you on this journey to explore the nuanced flavours and embrace the spirit of innovation that defines our craft. Indulge in a bottle of Dark Harmony 2023 Limited Release today. 


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