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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

March 1, 2016


Highland Park, the sequel

Remember that a fabulous old 15 for the Orkney Hotel had broken our momentum last time, so we’ll have to do a part 2 today, higgledy-piggledy. Not that we shall complain, of course. We’ll (re)start this with a wee apéritif of moderate strength…

Highland Park 19 yo 1989/2009 (46%, Scoma, sherry cask)

Highland Park 19 yo 1989/2009 (46%, Scoma, sherry cask) Three stars and a half Scoma/Glenscoma have rather been pioneers in Germany, haven’t they. Colour: pale gold. Nose: rather low-key, a little herbal, a little citrusy, a little mineral, a little farmy. I’m finding it slightly indistinctive, with a moderate sherriness, but the spirit’s characterful enough to make it worth our sniffs. Mouth: no wait, there wasn’t a lot happening on the nose, but the palate’s quite different, with a lemony/mineral arrival and a development on piny honey and sweet lemon marmalade. That’s good. Perfect texture, ala Highland Park. There are even touches of tinned pineapples that are working very well. Finish: medium, rather on honeydew and more lemon. Comments: maybe a bit average, but average in the better sense of that word. One to sip while watching the best of Inspektor Derrick. SGP:452 - 84 points.

Highland Park 14 yo 1996/2010 (46%, Silver Seal, 345 bottles)

Highland Park 14 yo 1996/2010 (46%, Silver Seal, 345 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: same ballpark. Perhaps a wee tad rounder and smokier at the same time? Tends to become a little leafier as well. But patience-patience, these drams tend to become more talkative on your palate, in my experience, unless they are very sherried, which this one isn’t. Mouth: indeed. This is great, flinty, smoky, waxy, very ‘old Highlands’, slightly rough, tense, almost angular… Green apples, cough syrup, green pepper, black pepper, citrons… It is extremely Highland-Parky on the palate, more so than many contemporary officials if you ask me (but yet again, who am I?) Finish: long, citrusy, herbal, a tad medicinal. Lime in the aftertaste. Comments: once again, not quite a nosing whisky – which makes it lose points – but on your palate, it does deliver impeccably. SGP:462 - 85 points.

And while we’re with Silver Seal…

Highland Park 23 yo 1991/2015 (51.5%, Silver Seal, cask #8090, 240 bottles)

Highland Park 23 yo 1991/2015 (51.5%, Silver Seal, cask #8090, 240 bottles) Five stars With superb cheetahs on the label. Aren’t those  big cats cheetahs? Colour: straw. Nose: pah-pah-pah… Dill, lime, chartreuse, wet chalk, wormwood, verbena, honeydew… This is perfect, extremely fresh, profound at the same time, perfectly constructed… And I find this kind of earthy vanilla just mesmerising. Well, almost. With water: gets coastal. Have your lifejackets ready. Mouth (neat): exceptional. Everything’s perfect. Starts smooth and even ‘stupidly’ tropical (mangos, passion fruits), and then never stops developing with everything HP, chiefly mineral/mentholated honey, then many tiny herbs – won’t list them, no worries – and waxes. With water: a class act. Some kind of mixed tropical fruit juice, but with body and structure. Funny how this one swims. Finish: medium, and extremely fruity. Benriach or Tomatin, come out of this body! Comments: an HP that’s a little tropical at times. Totally sexy and yet not too populist. Oh well, I know what I’m trying to say. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Highland Park 25 yo 1990/2015 (50.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 426 bottles)

Highland Park 25 yo 1990/2015 (50.6%, Cadenhead, Small Batch, 426 bottles) Five stars It seems that this baby sold out in a flash. More or less. They’ve vatted two bourbon hogsheads. In my meagre experience, vattings of two or three carefully chosen casks will always pull a better result than a single cask. Well, perhaps not profits-wise… Colour: white wine (ah, third-fill or more!) Nose: the Silver Seal. This will be short. Just a little more angular and ‘fresh’, and a little more herbal. The spirit is luminous. With water: perfect. You’re holding a fistful of Orkney barley in your hands, and just nosing the stuff. Mouth (neat): my stuff indeed. Sharp, waxy, citrusy, herbal, very much focused, well-chiselled, slightly smoky… And there’s this bitterness that keeps it a little ‘intellectual’ (oh come on!) With water: wine. A sauvignon blanc by the Dagueneaus (whether father or son). Finish: sadly. Funny wee touches of sage and basil. Comments: you know, when you ask the Cadenhead folks about how they select their casks and sometimes vat them, they usually answer ‘we do nothing, they’re just there’. It’s like these old Jimi Hendrix interviews, you know, ‘I just play my guitar’. No flannel, that’s so refreshing! As refreshing as this super-great wee HP… SGP:462 - 91 points (P.S., why don’t the owners/distillers have these? Even with the name of some kind of imaginary Norse celebrity, they would be hitsl P.P.S. there are notes of burnt agave and natural rubber arising after twenty minutes, that’s unusual!)

This is getting ballistic again, I’m afraid. But let’s go on, our heads held high…

Highland Park 1990/2015 (55.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive for Ramseyer's Whisky Connection, refill hogshead, cask #5101, 244 bottles)

Highland Park 1990/2015 (55.1%, Gordon & MacPhail, Exclusive for Ramseyer's Whisky Connection, refill hogshead, cask #5101, 244 bottles) Five stars Colour: white wine. Nose: you bet! A little more closed, perhaps, more austerely mineral, but that’s probably the higher strength. Lime juice, and rather Muscadet than Pouilly-Fumé, perhaps. Did you know there were super-great Muscadets out there? With water: chalk, wool, all that. Perhaps a tad narrower then the CAD. That’s single cask vs. small batch issues, I’m sure. I mean, genuine small batch, we’re not talking about 15,000-bottle-small-batches of course. Mouth (neat): a blade. Perfect sharp mineral lemon, with even a fizziness that reminds me of some bone-dry ultra-brut champagnes (this is not, S.! Please hold your horses!) With water: it loves water, provided you do not drown it. Lemon curd, more chalk, rhubarb juice… Finish: quite long, very sharp, precise… A great Muscadet indeed. Or maybe check Thierry Michon’s whites (S., please!) Comments: zest and zing. What a distillate. The Cadenhead was just a tad more, say entertaining, while this one was cleaner and sharper. SGP:452 - 90 points.

Time to have a last one. Perhaps an older bottle again? Oh, I’ve got this…

Highland Park 18 yo 1978/1996 (57.6%, The Bottlers, cask #3476)

Highland Park 18 yo 1978/1996 (57.6%, The Bottlers, cask #3476) Five stars All right. I may have said that before, but when I started whiskyfun (I should have broken a leg on that very day) this little bottler was reigning supreme on my list. Every bottling a benchmark, as someone else is saying these days. But most sadly, they stopped doing their own bottlings, for reasons I ignore, and the new generations of whisky lovers just don’t know about The Bottlers. Long story short, tasting one of their whiskies always sends positive shivers down my spine. Colour: straw. Nose: we’re approaching rum territories, and that would rather be Jamaica, with a fatness – and yet an elegance – that’s just thrilling. Olives, clay, lemon, brine, and all that. Now it’s also very strong, so let’s be cautious… With water: makes you miaow. Intensely mineral, waxy, lemony, ‘natural’ (raw wool, barley)… Well, it’s just stupendously barleyish. Mouth (neat): impossible. So perfect, so immensely mineral and medicinal, so amazingly herbal and lemony… That’s you’d better call the anti-maltoporn brigade. NOW. With water: take some old cough medicine. Take limestone, crush, mix. Add the juice of one lemon, perhaps a little tea and tobacco, something smoked, a little aniseed and fennel, a drizzle of grapefruit juice, and one small green olive. Picholines are my favourites. Stir… Finish: very long, admirably chiselled, and very Jimi-Hendrixian. In other words, perfect. Comments: simply grand cru stuff. Indeed, every bottle a benchmark… I just hope the good people at The Bottlers/Raeburn Fine Wines in Edinburgh are reading this. Why did you stop? SGP:562 - 93 points.

Ite HP Missa est.
(Merci encore, Nicolas!)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Highland Park I've tasted so far







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