Highland Park 1986-2007 (Scott’s Selection)

Highland Park, 1986This is the second bottle in my recent consortial purchase of bottles from Scott’s Selection. Let’s get right to it.

[Note: This review was published simultaneously with that of Michael Kravitz at Diving for Pearls. This was one of two bottles he split with me and two of my friends here in Minnesota. A synchronized review of the other bottle will similarly appear on Thursday.]

Highland Park 1986-2007 (54.1%; Scott’s Selection; from a bottle split with friends)

Nose: A touch of caramel to start but then expanding pine resin, a leathery, briny note and a touch of gunpowder. Gets more vegetal/mossy with time and the leathery quality expands as well (a new briefcase). Got called away and left it alone (and covered) for 40 minutes. Now there’s sweet, mossy peat. With a drop of water the gunpowder turns to rock salt.

Palate: Sweet peat and light gunpowder along with that pine resin from the nose. Quite a lot of salt and there’s lemon peel and apricot lurking in the back too. The lemon comes to the fore with time and the salt settles down a little and there’s a little more bitterness; more minerally too now (peppery olive oil), and there’s some paraffin and soot in the background too. A very narrow band of flavours, but very nice. With water there’s some wet stones as well but not much other change.

Finish: Medium. Very salty. With time the salt recedes a little and the bitterness hangs around.

Comments: Very Brora, if you ask me, and very good (though not just for that reason). A very old-school minerally, briny peaty profile–not unlike some contemporary Longrows. Just needs a little more fruit to push it over the top. Now this one I wish I had an entire bottle of. Not for those who are absolutely, completely turned off by any hint of sulphur though.

Rating: 88 points.

5 thoughts on “Highland Park 1986-2007 (Scott’s Selection)

  1. As I noted elsewhere, I don’t think our reviews are as far apart as they appeared to me when I first read yours this morning. We both got the vegetal peat note on the nose–I think what you separated out as yeasty I probably clustered with peat. We both got apricot and citrus on the palate and the bitterness (though you got that more with water). We also both got pepperiness/heat on the palate, and while I got more smoke/soot than you did neither of us found it at all phenolic. And we both got caramel at different points in the nose. Some of the other things I think are examples of similar notes calling out slightly different associations: your old paint and my new briefcase, for example. Similarly, your black liquorice may be related to my pine resin.

    Of course, there are differences: you didn’t remark the gunpowder/rock salt notes, which seems striking because I think you are generally more turned off by sulphur than I am. It may be those notes dissipated in the two weeks between the actual taking of our notes (for those not involved: my notes are from a fresh crack of the bottle taken not too long after it was divided up, and Michael’s came two weeks later thanks to my laziness in getting his share to him). It may also be that I am describing as “gunpowder” briny/metallic notes that you wouldn’t characterize that way. And, on the whole, you obviously found it more fruity than I did, especially on the nose.

    I don’t mean to try to explain away differences/discrepancies in any of the above. I think it is important to stress how subjective the whisky nosing/tasting experience is and how idiosyncratic the language into which we translate that experience can be.

    I’m looking forward to Thursday’s session. And I think I’ll revisit my sample again so as to try and remove the time variable a bit.

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    • Yeah, when I first read your review this morning I laughed thinking, “Holy moley, it’s like different whiskies.” But I agree, we did have a number of similar experiences but expressed it differently. For instance, I wasn’t 100% sure about defining what I’d smelled as black licorice, but it’s the connection my brain was most confident in making. An interesting study in sensory experience / language connections for me.

      The sulphuric issue interests me as well. I’m usually pretty sensitive to sulphur. And I don’t mind a little bit of it, but when I found a big wallop of it in that Old Malt Cask Brora (a few months ago), I did begin to wonder how much sulphur I could enjoy. Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail said on Twitter that sulfides will oxidize to disulfides which don’t smell as strongly, so I’m wondering if the decanting process and a couple weeks time softened up the gunpowder note in this HP.

      Ultimately, we both actually liked the whisky, though for different reasons. You probably liked your experience a little more than I, though my experience preferred to swim. Now I’m really curious about Thursday’s whisky.

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