Today is the day before Christmas and therefore I have for you a whisky with Christmas in its name. This is the 2021 edition of the Whisky Exchange’s “A Fine Christmas Malt”. It is 16 years old and ostensibly from a mystery distillery. However, at the bottom of the product page for this whisky on the TWE website the links offer “More from Highland Park”. I think this means that this is a Highland Park. Actually, I know it is but don’t ask me how I know: if word gets out that he’s been so indiscreet someone might have to shave his beard. I rather liked the last Highland Park I reviewed of this general age: a 17 yo bottled for K&L. Unlike that one this is not a single cask but a vatting of bourbon and sherry casks. A friend visiting London in November muled a bottle back to me. I was expecting it to be sold out by now but somehow it is still available—oh, when will the war on Christmas end? On the other hand, this means I am reviewing yet another currently available whisky. I truly am the king of timely whisky reviewers.
A Fine Christmas Malt (53.2%; The Whisky Exchange; from my own bottle)
Nose: Quite a bit of orange off the top (a mix of dried peel and tart juice) along with leather, salted nuts and rock salt—some wood smoke runs through it all. More of the rock salt/savoury gunpowder on the second and third sniffs. With time the rock salt recedes a fair bit and lets more fruit out—more of the sweeter fruit from the palate now. A few drops of water pull out more fruit still—some apricot too now—along with some toffee.
Palate: Comes in peatier than indicated by the nose—and the peat is quite peppery. The salt follows and then there’s a big fruity expansion as I swallow: a mix of sweet (peach) and tart-musky fruit (pineapple). More citrus here too with time and the leather from the nose emerges to join it. Okay, let’s add some water. Ah yes, water integrates everything nicely, emphasizing the citrus (dried tangerine peel) and knocking the peat back a bit.
Finish: Long. The fruit transitions to salt and the peat comes back. Then the musky fruit re-emerges at the end. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Well, this is a lovely whisky. The dedicated sulphur-phobe may find things to complain about but I loved the mix of savoury, salty and fruity notes. I have a suspicion this bottle is going to only improve as it stays open. I will try to report back either way.
Rating: 88 points.