Okay, one last ex-bourbon review to make November an all ex-bourbon cask whisky month. Here is what else I have reviewed as part of this unintended, extended series this month: Tomatin 12, 2005, Fettercairn 23, 1993, Glencadam 15, Clynelish 12, 1997, Glen Scotia 1992-2005, Arran 1996-2013, Bowmore 10, 2003, Bladnoch 18, 1992, Aberlour 20, 1990 and Aberlour 17, 1990. That tour has taken me across most of the Scottish mainland and a couple of southern and western islands. For the last stop let’s go north, all the way to Orkney, to what used to be one of my very favourite dstilleries: Highland Park. I’ll go over why I’m far more ambivalent about Highland Park now in a separate post soon. For now, I’ll say only that one of the great pleasures of their whisky is one that the distillery does not give us; and that is the pleasure of bourbon cask Highland Park. It is here that you’ll usually most clearly encounter Highland Park’s peaty character as well as a mineral, oily note, all of which get covered up—for the most part—in the sherry profile of most of the distillery’s official releases. It’s a quality I particularly prize and which I see putting them on a continuum with Clynelish and Springbank/Longrow. I’ve reviewed a few such single casks before and I’m glad to be able to do it again.
Highland Park 16, 1995 (56.2%; A.D. Rattray; bourbon cask #1480; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Lemon mixed with lightly grassy notes along with a touch of peppery peat (not phenolic). With a bit of air the peat expands a bit and the lemon moves towards citronella. The citronella expands with water and there’s some sackcloth now along with a mild dirty/farmy/organic note.
Palate: Leads with the peat and it’s much more pronounced here—still peppery and mineral rather than phenolic. Some mustard seed mixed in with it too. A little sweeter with time and there’s a touch of pine now too. Water pulls everything together very nicely.
Finish: Long. Gets smokier (ashy) and the mustard and lemon hang out a good while too. (Rather Brora’-ish in some ways, actually.) A little sweeter here with water.
Comments: This is really very good and testimony, yet again, to how good ex-bourbon Highland Park can be. I wish the distillery would stop fucking around with stupid branding and just release a good all ex-bourbon whisky. Given how much more peat I’v found in ex-bourbon Highland Parks I’m led to wonder if this is just hidden in their sherry-heavy official releases or if they peat their malt to different specifications for ex-bourbon and ex-sherry maturation. Anyone know?
Rating: 87 points.
Thanks to Alex S. for the sample! (Though he probably has no memory of the actual swap.)