This is an older release from Hart Brothers, a bottler who I don’t think I’ve seen anything new from in the US for a while—are they still in the country? Anyway, this was released in 2005 and hung around for a long time at Binny’s before they finally discounted it massively for one of their Spring sales a couple of years ago, which is when I decided to finally give it a go. It is from a bourbon cask (I believe, there’s no specific info on the label). The distillery only releases sherry-aged malt and so it is to the indies we must go for Highland Park from bourbon cask. (I assume the distillery produces these casks for use in the group’s blends: I’m not sure to what degree sherry cask Highland Park itself is allocated for blending.)
This is not my favourite profile of Highland Park by any means (like everyone else I’m a sucker for their quintessential sherried style) but it’s always very nice as a change-up. And if you haven’t had a bourbon cask Highland Park it’s also an opportunity to see how much sherry cask aging alters the base spirit—which, if my limited experience is anything to go by, starts out much more minerally, peppery and peaty than you would expect from the official distillery profile.
Littlemill, a closed distillery from the Lowlands region, is yet more proof of the fact that the best thing a distillery can do for its reputation is to shut down. Never beloved by the masses when it was open, the bottles available in the first decade and a half after it closed (in 1994) did little to change anyone’s mind. But every worm turns and in the last couple of years a number of highly regarded Littlemills from the late 1980s and early 1990s have been released by a number of indie bottlers. I have a few of those in the stash, but this is not one of them.
This bottle is from 1984–considered by some to be part of a problematic era at Littlemill. However, the sudden recent uptick in the reputation of the recent releases made me wonder if older ones from earlier in the 1980s might in fact be better than the distillery’s reputation might suggest (whisky geeks, alas, are very prone to herd mentality in confirming the virtues or faults of entire distilleries or eras at distilleries that are supposed to be exceptional one way or the other). And the very low price asked for it by Binny’s as part of their ongoing closeout sale emboldened me. Good idea? Bad idea? Let’s see.