Yesterday I had a report on my visit to Highland Park in June. Today I have a review of a Highland Park whisky of a kind you won’t hear too much about on a tour at Highland Park: one from an ex-bourbon cask. At the distillery they are very focused on official Highland Park’s sherry-based identity, though they will concede when asked that bourbon cask Highland Park is used to make some of their special editions. It’s a pity that they don’t embrace those casks and that profile more fully as, in my (unoriginal) opinion, bourbon cask Highland Parks can be one of the great and unusual pleasures of the world of single malt Scotch whisky. It is where you get to experience peat most fully in Highland Park, and it’s quite a unique flavour of peat, derived as it is from local heather, and quite different from the phenol-soaked variants of Islay or Jura or even the smoke of Springbank or some distilleries in the highlands. I’ve had some very good ones and I’m happy to say that this one is not a disappointment.
Highland Park 10, 2001 (57.7%; Gordon & MacPhail; bourbon barrel #2998; from my own bottle)
Nose: Wood smoke, pepper, cereals, a big hit of lime. Then there’s malted milk edging into milk chocolate.and some toasted oak. With longer airing there’s more lime and some chalk. With water there’s quite a bit of citronella and some moth balls.
Palate: Smokier on the palate with a lot of ash, and also a bit sweeter; the lime is still here as is the pepper (a lot of it) and the malt. The oak pops up as I swallow. Very drinkable at full strength but the bottle has been open a while and is now below the halfway mark. A few drops of water integrate it all and the smoke is now of a rounder, charred variety, and, unlike on the nose, there’s less acid.
Finish: Long. The smoke lingers for a while and the oak emerges again to have the last word. As on the palate with water.
Comment: Yet another bourbon cask Highland Park that shows off a lot more smoke and pepper than the profile of the official releases. Very nice stuff. This bottle is, of course, long gone, but it’s yet more evidence that bourbon cask Highland Parks are a very safe buy, if you should happen to come across others.
Rating: 87 points.