A week of reviews of Highland Park began on Monday with the first edition of the relatively new official Cask Strength release. It continues today with an indie release that is doubtless quite a bit old. This 17 yo from Duncan Taylor was also released recently—just last year in fact. Assuming it’s the same one, Whiskybase indicated an outturn of almost 650 bottles, which would indicate a sherry cask (if it was indeed a single cask release). I’m waiting to hear if the source of my sample has any more information on the cask. If so, the colour after 17 years suggests it would have been a refill cask. It’s been a while since I’ve had a Duncan Taylor release—they weren’t always good with divulging cask details back in the day. Who knows, perhaps contemporary Duncan Taylor is more forthcoming with the details. I’ll let you know what I hear. I was actually kind of hoping it would be a bourbon cask as I am rather partial to bourbon cask Highland Park—an incarnation we very rarely get from the distillery itself. Anyway, whatever this is, I hope it is good.
Highland Park 17, 2004 (55%; Duncan Taylor; from a bottle split)
Nose: A pleasant opening with cereals, light citrus, a touch of honey and some dusty oak. A bit more of the oak on the second sniff and there also seems to be more fruit getting ready to uncoil. Hmm the doesn’t quite uncoil—maybe will need water for that—but it does get a bit sweeter (berries). A few drops of water pull out some malt and some cherries.
Palate: Comes in as predicted with more of the citrus (lemon), backed nicely by the oak. Oily texture and quite approachable at full strength. The lemon expands on the second sip—more peel than juice—and picks up a bit hit of wax and a light lick of smoke (not phenolic). With more time some pineapple emerges to join the lemon and the smoke expands a bit (more char now). Okay, let’s add some water. Water pulls out more of the oak (not tannic) and makes it drier on the whole. After a bit there’s more smoke as well.
Finish: Long. The oak leads and the cereals re-emerge. With time there’s some pepper as well. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is high quality malt whisky. There is nothing explosive here: no big notes of peat or sherry or over-the-top fruit. Just lovely balance of citrus and oak and cereals. I was expecting to like it more with water but ended up preferring it neat (I may have added too much). And, yes, this could very easily be a refill sherry cask (American oak).
Rating: 87 points.