After Monday’s Jamaican rum and ex-bourbon cask lovechild, let’s move on to an altogether more conventionally matured Highland Park. Well, not very conventionally by the standards of the distillery’s own releases which are overwhelmingly sherry cask-driven. This 14 yo bottled by Berry Bros. and Rudd is from an ex-bourbon cask. And like almost all current indie releases of Highland Park, seemingly, it does not bear the distillery’s name. Instead it’s billed as “Orkney Islands” (this crackdown on the use of official distillery names by indies seems to be spreading through the industry). Well, I suppose it could theoretically be Scapa too. I will note, as I always do when reviewing bourbon cask Highland Park, that I really dig this profile and wish the distillery itself would release more in this vein and not just the massive single sherry casks that seem to be their current calling card (I”ll be reviewing one of those on Friday). Of course, there’s far more money to be made by selling massive sherry cask whiskies in this market and no one ever accused the proprietors of Highland Park, the Edrington Group, of being averse to making large amounts of money. Anyway, let’s see what this is like.
Orkney Islands 14, 2005 (59.7%; Berry Bros. & Rudd; from my own bottle)
Nose: Bracing in the way bourbon cask Highland Park often is, with lemon and peppery, mineral peat leading the way. On the second sniff there’s some gooseberry and tart-sweet apple. Stays acidic but with time there’s some sweeter fruit under the austere notes (plum?). The lemon and mineral peat begin to transition to a mix of citronella and paraffin. With a few drops of water the lemon comes back and brings some lime and green mango with it; the tart-sweet apple expands as well.
Palate: Comes in as predicted by the nose, turning sweeter as I swallow. Expectedly hot at full strength but not unapproachable. Nice, thick texture. With time the chalk from the finish starts showing up a bit earlier. Okay, time to add water. Ah yes, water makes it more approachable and more balanced: tart citrus still, yes, but the whole is sweeter now and the chalk goes away. The peat is more palpable here too now.
Finish: Long. The citrus turns a bit chalky as it goes out and quite a bit of salt shows up to replace it. Peppery olive oil and some ash at the end. As on the palate with water but the pepper and ash still pop out at the end.
Comments: Lovely austere Highland Park of a profile the distillery does not give us. God only knows why. This is not terribly complex stuff but it’s very good, old-school whisky of a type that always makes me happy.
Rating: 87 points.