Allow me to continue my geographically-inexact series of whisky reviews. Last week I posted a review of a Speyside whisky (a Balmenach) on the day I left for Glasgow, and a review of an Old Pulteney when up in the Highlands (okay, so that one wasn’t so far off the map). Today is our last day in Skye and as I don’t have any Talisker at hand I am posting this review of a Highland Park (which is at least also located on an island).
This was bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America and they saw fit to give it the name “Nordic Nosh”. It’s from a bourbon cask. The distillery doesn’t put out anything (?) that’s exclusively bourbon cask—even though ex-bourbon Highland Park can be excellent—but the indies pick up the slack. I quite liked the last ex-bourbon Highland Park from the SMWSA that I reviewed, so I’m hopeful. Continue reading
I don’t really follow distillery press releases and marketing so please forgive me if I’m wrong about the following: my understanding is that Highland Park 10 is only available in a couple of countries in Europe (the Netherlands among them) and only available in 350 ml bottles. Why either of these things should be so, I don’t know. And I suppose it is possible that neither is still true—this is not a new whisky. At any rate, I guess we should just be happy that Highland Park are putting out an age stated whisky even younger than their mainstay 12 yo. (This seems to be a bit of a happy trend these days, by the way, what with Lagavulin’s new 8 yo-–though that may not continue past this year—and Bowmore just releasing a new 9 yo.) Maybe there’s a faction at the distillery who’re embarrassed about Highland Park’s endless parade of whiskies with silly names and stories and this is a sop to them. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
It has been more than six months since I’ve reviewed a Highland Park. Considering it was once one of my very favourite distilleries that seems like a long gap. I say “was once” not “is” because it’s been hard to get excited about Highland Park of late. They seem to have gone irrevocably down the path of premiumization at one end of their range and NAS’ization at the other, and silly names and stories and gimmicks like Dark Origins and Ice taking the place of the no-nonsense quality that was once their calling card. Of their old range the 15 yo has been phased out, the 18 yo‘s price has long gone out of the “good value” range and the 25 yo and 30 yo are now only for the very wealthy. The 12 yo remains their one saving grace, though I haven’t had a recent bottling: who knows if, with all the NAS stuff they’re putting out, enough quality casks remain for what was once the cornerstone of their range. Continue reading
I have had very little Scapa and reviewed even less (only this old, long discontinued 12 yo). There doesn’t seem to be very much indie Scapa around these days—Whiskybase lists only two independent releases from 2015 and only another two from 2014. It’s not the case that there was once an ocean of indie Scapa sloshing around but the releases seem to have slowed to a trickle a few years ago. As the owners show little interest in official releases this means it’s mostly being reserved for blends (which is, of course, the case for many distilleries). The only steady official releases have been in the excellent Cask Strength Edition series from Chivas Bros.—500 ml bottles, small batch rather than single cask, I believe, and originally available only at the distilleries. This sample is from one of those, released in 2013 (many an excellent Glenburgie and Longmorn have also been released in this series). Let’s see what it it’s like. Continue reading
Highland Park, as I have noted on many occasions, is one of my very favourite distilleries. And as I have doubtless also noted on many occasions, bourbon cask Highland Parks—which are rarely available from the distillery—always catch my eye. They’re obviously very different from the distillery’s usual fare: as Highland Park matures its spirit predominantly in sherry casks, bourbon casks are rare from even the independents. Unsurprisingly, they’re also quite different from the standard profile. While I don’t myself believe that it it’s in bourbon cask matured malt that a distillery’s true profile/character is revealed (this is because I don’t believe in “distillery character” as something separate from maturation*), it is true that it is from bourbon casks that you can most clearly get a sense of the nature of Highland Park’s peat, in particular. And the continuities between bourbon cask Highland Park and malt from distilleries like Clynelish and Springbank that I also like very much indeed are interesting as well. Continue reading
I purchased this cask strength Highland Park 19, 1990 from Signatory a long while ago with the express purpose of comparing it with this marvelous OB 19 distilled four years previous. I finally opened it last year but I still haven’t gotten around to the head to head comparison. This is because I only just remembered that that was why I’d purchased it. Isn’t getting older so much fun?
That’s all I have by way of introduction, I’m afraid.
Highland Park 19, 1990 (56.5%; Signatory; sherry butt 15696; from my own bottle)
Nose: It’s a bit tight but with my nose deep in the glass there are dark sherry notes to be found: raisins, orange peel, toffee edging into fudge territory. Some leathery oak as well. Something farmy/leafy too (and is that a whiff of peat?). Water should open it up nicely. With more time the sweeter notes mix with savoury and there’s a mild inkiness too. The apricot that emerges late on the palate shows up on the nose too along with some maple syrup. With a few drops of water the sweeter fruit are emphasized and there’s a light dusting of cocoa powder. Continue reading
Last week I referred to Glen Scotia as the other Campbeltown distillery. Here now is a malt from the other Orkney distillery, Scapa, who labour in the shadow of Highland Park. It is operated by Chivas Brothers, themselves part of Pernod-Ricard’s portfolio (you can find out more about the distillery at Malt Madness). I’ve not had very much of Scapa’s output in the past and so it’s appropriate that my first review of Scapa’s whisky should be of a general release distillery bottling (they don’t show up much from the indies anyway); and an entry-level bottling at that. However, this is not the current entry-level Scapa: that is a 16 yo, which replaced a 14 yo in 2008; that in turn had replaced this 12 yo in 2004 (they may have upped the age with each iteration but they’ve all stayed at 40%). So, if you’re one of those people who grumble that I don’t review enough entry-level whisky you can now grumble that I don’t review enough current entry-level whisky.
After the recent mini-run of bourbon cask matured Highland Park from indie bottlers (1 and 2) here’s an OB sherried version. This NAS Highland Park was released last year and is said to contain twice as much first-fill sherry cask matured malt than the regular Highland Park 12. Of course, for all we know the Highland Park 12 has been matured twice as long. Highland Park, one of my favourite distilleries, have really upped the ante on NAS releases and general tomfoolery in recent years but as long as they continue to give us the core age stated range at reasonable prices I’m not going to complain. Oh wait, the prices of the 25 yo and 30 yo have reportedly skyrocketed recently and even the 18 yo seems to be going up. And with all these younger and/or travel retail releases will they have enough stock to keep the 12 yo a viable concern or is that the next endangered creature? That sound you hear is my complaint engine beginning to rev up. Continue reading
Let’s stick with Highland Park and let’s go with another from an atypical (for the distillery) bourbon cask (after last Friday’s 11 yo from Hart Brothers). This is a 17 yo from the German bottler Malts of Scotland, who seem to have bottled more bourbon cask Highland Parks than they have sherry casks (I have an older one that I plan to open later this year; fascinating information, I know). Anyway, let’s get right to it.
Highland Park 17, 1996 (54.2%; Malts of Scotland; bourbon cask 14040; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Opens with honey; some lime peel as well and a hint of apricot. Despite the strength not being particularly high it feels somewhat closed. Let’s see if some air doesn’t open it up. No, still quite closed 20 minutes or so later, with only a little bit of pine and more lime zest showing up. Time for water. With water, the lime peel/zest retreats a bit and it’s sweeter with some cream. Continue reading
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.
I’ve previously reviewed the Highland Park 12 and 15, and here is the third in the classic trifecta from the distillery. The Highland Park 18 is one of the great distillery bottlings and in some ways may be the quintessential Highland Park malt. Richer and rounder than the 15 yo, mellower and fruitier than the 12 yo, this and the Lagavulin 16 would be at the top of my list if I was told that I had to pick only a handful of widely available bottles to drink for the rest of my life (the Laphroaig 10, the Nadurra and the Clynelish 14 would probably round out the top five).
The price has gone up over the years but it remains good value in my book (and it helps that in our neck of the woods it can still be found a little south of $100 from time to time). I think it’s between this and the Yamazaki 18 for the title in the OB heavily sherried class, and the Yamazaki 18 now costs almost twice as much. Let’s hope that the owners don’t muck this (or the 12 yo) up as they continue to release an endless stream of NAS/young bottles with silly concepts and packaging.
Last week I reviewed the Highland Park 15, the least loved of the Orkney distillery’s regular line and apparently marked for extinction. Today I have its younger sibling, the Highland Park 12, an altogether better known and more popular whisky (though not the youngest in Highland Park’s range anymore). As you have doubtless become sick of hearing, the Highland Park 12 is considered the all-rounder of single malt whisky, bringing together the major characteristic aromas and flavours of single malt whisky. If someone is new to single malt whisky and wants tips on what they might like it’s not uncommon to hear whisky geeks recommend that they try Highland Park 12 and note which aspects of it they like—the smoke, the sherried notes, the citrus, the sweetness, the brine. It is also remains a very reasonably priced whisky—available in Minnesota for less than $40.
It was one of my gateway malts—along with the Clynelish 14, the Talisker 10 and Laphroaig 10, it confirmed my ensuing obsession with single malt whisky and with Highland Park in particular (it is one my very favourite distilleries). And it has been a staple on my shelves ever since. I am pleased to finally be reviewing it for the blog. Continue reading
Situated between the more famous 12 and 18 year olds in Highland Park’s core range, the 15 year old tends to get lost in the shuffle. I know a lot of people who’ve had a lot of Highland Park but have not tried it. It may be, I suppose, that it’s not as widely available as its siblings or that it falls into an awkward price category, being neither entry-level not qualifying as a “special” purchase. As it happens it is different from the 12 yo and the 18 yo in production terms as well: as Gerry Tosh is quoted as saying on this blog’s review from 2010, whereas the 12 yo and the 18 yo are aged primarily in sherry casks made of European oak, the 15 yo is aged predominantly in sherry casks made of American oak.
I’m not really sure, by the way, what the status of this expression is. I’d heard rumours a couple of years ago that it was being discontinued, but it’s still listed on the distillery’s website and is still widely available in Minnesota. Continue reading
This Highland Park 21 was first released in duty free stores in 2007 and was very reasonably priced. Passing through Heathrow in late 2009 I sampled it early in the morning at World of Whiskies and made the mistake of trusting a palate soured by travel unease: in short, I did not purchase it. Later, I got to try a sample again and liked it much, much more and kicked myself. By this time it was available in regular retail but had been brought down to 40% abv. The current version (unavailable in the US) is back up in strength but it now costs quite a bit more than it originally did. I tasted the current version at a celebration of sherried whiskies in St. Paul earlier
thislast year and it’s still very good. This sample, however, is from the original release.
Highland Park 21 (47.5%; for travel retail; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Oranges, milk chocolate, a little caramel and a whiff of smoke. With time there’s honey and apricot and maybe a hint of peach as well; and the orange seems to take a turn towards lemon. Some toasted wood emerges as well along with honey. Wonderfully integrated and the notes intensify with time. Water doesn’t do anything worth mentioning. Continue reading