The Tempest Rare Hare Single Malt Whisky Justifies the Price: Review

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The Tempest Rare Hare Single Malt Whisky Justifies the Price: Review

Australia has been getting more recognition in recent years as being a country that makes some seriously good single malts (they spell it without the “e” like the Scots). Starward has been leading the way, both in terms of familiarity here in the U.S. and quality. But on the island of Tasmania, a distillery called Hellyers Road has been making whisky since 1999, which might seem short by American standards, but that’s a good chunk of time. The new Rare Hare release from Playboy Spirits is a 20-year-old single malt from Hellyers, which means it dates back to the distillery’s early years. And more importantly, it’s a really exceptional whisky, but one that comes with a hefty price tag.

Playboy Spirits, an offshoot of PLBY Group Inc., was founded in 2022 and debuted with the release of Rare Hare 1953, a 17-year-old bourbon finished in XXO Cognac casks. Since then there have been two other Rare Hare releases: a 1961 vintage Cognac and 30-year-old Canadian whisky. And now we have the Tempest, which is an outstanding whisky especially if you go in without any preconceptions or much knowledge about Tasmanian whisky. Tasmania’s Prohibition makes our looks like a disco nap. Production of alcohol was outlawed there from the 1830s until… well, the dates vary depending on who you ask. Rare Hare and the Tasmanian tourism board say the ban was lifted in 1992, but according to Whisky Magazine distillation was made legal again in 1901. Either way, Hellyers Road fired up the equipment in the late ’90s, producing whisky from a mashbill of locally grown barley in pot stills. The Tempest, named after the Shakespeare play, is a single malt aged in bourbon barrels for 17 years which then spent its final three years in port casks.

Simply put, I loved this whisky. It’s beautifully aged, not overbearing with oak or tropical fruit notes as can sometimes be the case with a scotch, but of course this is not a scotch. There are fresh summer fruit notes, along with vanilla, pear (both fresh and canned), pineapple, and an array of baking spices. If I had to pick a complaint, it’s that I would like to try this whisky at a higher ABV. At 84 proof it’s a bit thin on the palate, and it seems that even dialing it up just a few degrees closer to 90 would service it well. But presumably the whisky-making team tried different strengths and settled on this one for a reason.

The Tempest retails for $1,000, and it actually looks like you can find it online at secondary retailers for close to that price. Still, that’s a lot of cheddar, and a luxury whisky has to be worth the admission fee, right? It’s easy to argue that no whisky is really worth that much, and it’s true that prices are kind of arbitrary at times and used to impart a veneer of exclusivity. But The Tempest is a special release, a collector’s prize, and an unusual single malt from a part of the world that you, like me, may not have tried before. The bottom line is that this is a very, very good single malt, and if you can afford it you won’t be disappointed, and you may even be delighted.

Score: 95

  • 100 Worth trading your first born for
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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