This week’s reviews are of whiskies from island distilleries. On Monday I tasted a Bunnahabhain 15 bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California. Today I have a Highland Park 24 bottled by Signatory for another store, the famous La Maison du Whisky in Paris. This was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2015 after maturing in a sherry butt. The cask yielded 489 bottles at 51.4% which must seem like very little to anyone whose notion of sherry cask outturn has been conditioned by Glendronach’s cask shenanigans. I purchased this bottle some years ago and only opened it a week or so ago. I enjoyed the first couple of pours a lot and am looking forward to taking some notes on it. Let’s get right to it.
Highland Park 24, 1990 (51.4%; Signatory for La Maison du Whisky; sherry butt 15706; from my own bottle)
Nose: Orange peel, honey and light caramel with a big seam of toasted malt running through it all. The malt edges into milky cocoa pretty quickly and there’s a bit of vanilla to go with it. Brighter/more acidic with time. With a few drops of water some pastry crust emerges and melds with the orange.
Palate: It’s no sherry bomb on the palate either. It comes in pretty much as indicated by the nose but some spicy oak emerges as I swallow along with some salt. Packs a bigger punch than the abv would indicate but it’s still very approachable; rich texture. On the second sip there’s some peppery peat and a leafy note in there with the oak spice. With time the orange expands and it’s spicier and sweeter; and there’s a slight metallic note as well. Okay, let’s see what water does for it. It pushes the metallic note and the spicy oak back and brightens it up.
Finish: Long. The oak and salt have the last words here even as some lemon emerges. With time the lemon turns to orange. Water pushes the salt back and turns the orange to dried orange peel and brings that leafy note out at the end.
Comments: People looking for a heavily sherried Highland Park, or just a big sherry bomb, will probably be disappointed but this is a very nice Highland Park indeed. And really this is the kind of sherried whisky I enjoy more these days; my days of fetishizing very dark sherry bombs is long over. I’ll be interested to see how this develops over time. Right now it’s just the lack of complexity that keeps it from the next tier but the bottle is only recently opened.
Rating: 88 points.