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

July 12, 2017


Another little bag of Highland Park

We said we’d have more Highland Park and I’ll stick to my word. Let’s see what we have and do that in no particular order. If you don’t mind.

Highland Park 21 yo (47.5%, OB, +/-2015)

Highland Park 21 yo (47.5%, OB, +/-2015) Four stars and a half This is well the most recent 21 that had been reissued at a proper strength. Sadly and unless I’m mistaken, this expression is no more. An earlier 21 at 40% had been very good but a little weak (WF 86) while the previous version at 47.5% (circa 2007) had more power (WF 88). Colour: gold. Nose: rather wonderful, aromatic, orange-y, blossomy, and appropriately honeyed. Some hay, the faintest smoke, a wonderful slightly mentholated sherriness, a touch of fudge, and above everything, quite some tobacco. Entering a cigar shop where they’re pouring Assam tea. Also a lovely beeswax. Doesn’t quite feel like 47.5%, though, it’s a tad milder than that. Mouth: perfect creamy honey and soft spices, you’d think this some much earlier HP (early 1960s). Baked apples, oranges, dried apples, then it’s black tea galore, earl grey, quite some cinnamon, a feeling of cedar wood, cloves, more cinnamon… There’s some old oak at play here but we’re extremely far from any dull plankiness. Pu-erh tea. Finish: rather long, a notch bitter in a good way, then more and more honeyed with a layer of strong black honey. The oak’s back in the aftertaste, also black raisins. Good news, some say black raisins purify your blood, is that true? Comments: a rather tense HP, while indeed, some sides remind me of older official bottlings, such as the dumpies with black round ‘LP’ labels. SGP:651 - 88 points.

Highland Park 18 yo (56.4%, OB, Distillery Exclusive, American oak butt, cask #2865, 606 bottles, 2016)

Highland Park 18 yo (56.4%, OB, Distillery Exclusive, American oak butt, cask #2865, 606 bottles, 2016) Four stars and a half Colour: gold. Nose: perfect creamy vanilla and honey, with some fresh orange juice on top of that and a few bits of fresh mint. That’s a perfect combination, not utterly complex, but the balance is flabbergasting. Indeed, vanilla, honey, oranges, mint. I repeat… With water: rather things from a forest, moss, fern, pine needles, humus, mushrooms… All that complements vanilla, honey, oranges and mint to perfection. Mouth (neat): indeed, this is perfect, although it would just be a combination of four elements, namely vanilla, honey, oranges, mint. Exactly the same as on the nose when neat, plus a few oak spices, cinnamon, cloves, star anise… With water: same with just touches of green oak, which translates into green tea. So, green tannins. Finish: rather long and grassier, although the three musketeers are still kicking around. Those would be vanilla, honey, oranges and mint. A touch of wood smoke in the aftertaste. Comments: extremely good but you had or will have to fly to Orkney to get this sexy baby. SGP:652 - 89 points.

Highland Park 'Dark Origins' (46.8%, OB, +/-2016)

Highland Park 'Dark Origins' (46.8%, OB, +/-2016) Four stars Loved the very first rendering of this newish sherry-oriented NAS back in 2014 (WF 88). Colour: amber. Nose: some lovely copper (old kettle) and raisins at first nosing, then rather roasted nuts, plus a spoonful of English mint sauce, then hints of mocha and chocolate. Oranges manage to make it through as well after just one minute. Indeed, a very lovely nose, well as I remembered it. Mouth: really super-excellent, the sherry being quite sweet but it’s no dull PX-y-sherry-like feeling. Honey sauce, triple-sec, strong black tea (from the oak) and, really, Christmas cake. Loads of cloves and juniper. Finish: long, ‘black’ indeed, with as much smoke as in many young official Highland Parks. Aren’t they trying to Ardbegise HP, just a bit? Anyway, this is super-good. Comments: loved the liquid while hating the fact that it’s NAS. Which we never take into account when coming up with a score, naturally. SGP:552 - 87 points.

Highland Park 1992/2016 (51.4%, Sansibar, S Spirit Shop, Chinese Mask, bourbon, 263 bottles)

Highland Park 1992/2016 (51.4%, Sansibar, S Spirit Shop, Chinese Mask, bourbon, 263 bottles) Five stars This one may be pure and crystalline, let’s see… Colour: white wine. Nose: it is pure and crystalline. A very wee touch of coconut from the oak (right, not quite crystalline) and then a superb zesty (mint, lime), mineral (limestone, chalk), waxy (linseed, paraffin) and citrusy (bitter oranges) development. Pure HP. With water: gets chalkier, with is always welcome at WF towers. Fresh concrete. Mouth (neat): everything you’d expect from these batches. Passion fruits plus honey and beeswax, with tarter kiwis and rhubarb in the back. A perfect Clynelishy wax/lemon combo over all that. With water: tiny herbs and green citrus. Parsley, sage, lime, grapefruits… Finish: long, ultra-clean, zesty and mineral. Grassier aftertaste. Comments: the coconut was very temporary, most happily, it’s an immaculately natural HP. My favourite style. SGP:562 - 90 points.

Shouldn’t we also try one or two oldies?

Highland Park 22 yo 1961/1983 (46%, R.W. Duthie for Broadwell Vintners ltd.)

Highland Park 22 yo 1961/1983 (46%, R.W. Duthie for Broadwell Vintners ltd.) Five stars An old bespoke/private bottling by Cadenhead, I can’t wee what could go wrong. Couldn’t find much data about those Broadwell Vintners who used to be Spirit merchants in Moreton-in-Marsh, according to the label. Colour: pale gold. Nose: typical old HP, quite in the style of the stunning official ‘John Goodwin’, or of the 40yos. First superb waxy notes, from beeswax to church candles, then many slightly overripe fruits, apples, plums, pears, even bananas… It’s globally very ‘beehive-y’, which is a style that I just cherish. Cake à l’orange, cut flowers, tangerines, papayas, leaves… It just keeps developing over time. Mouth: it got a little sootier, there’s also a little plasticine and the faintest touch of rose-scented soap, but other than that, this is totally brilliant, with minty fruits, cranberries, prickly pears, pomegranates, blood oranges… In short, a marvellous fruit salad, with mint and honey thrown in. Finish: medium, ultra-clean (the wee soapy notes are gone), and rather more citrusy. More blood oranges. Comments: an amazing old whisky that may have benefited from all those years in glass. Now go find another bottle… SGP:651 - 91 points.

And a last one for the road…

Highland Park 12 yo (80° proof, W. Cadenhead, early 1960s)

Highland Park 12 yo (80° proof, W. Cadenhead, early 1960s) Five stars Well W. Cadenhead of Aberdeen and not W.M. Cadenhead. Probably distilled just after WWII, and possibly quite peated since fuel (and coal) were still in short supply. No need to tell you that these old black labels – tall bottles have become extremely rare. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: sweet Vishnu, indeed this is very smoky, and distinctly sooty! There is some coal and graphite, scoria, plaster, clay, there are kippers as well, there’s a touch of lime, and I’m also finding seaweed and oysters. As far as fruits are concerned, perhaps one slice of green apple in addition to lime? Indeed this baby’s quite ‘green’. Mouth: it’s less smoky this time, but totally northern Highlands, sharp, sooty, extremely mineral, and quite herbal at that. So it’s not a very easy old HP, it’s even got spikes and bumps, but the way it challenges you is most admirable. Gets then much more lemony and peppery, which not any less challenging. Green pepper, salt, a feeling of ‘the driest margarita’. Finish: long, very mineral and very waxy. This well-known feeling of drinking liquid plasticine. Salt, pepper, ginger tonic and lemon in the aftertaste. Comments: a winemaker’s whisky. Sharp as a knife, as they say, despite those fifty years or more in the bottle. Totally a fan of this well-chiselled style. SGP:662 - 92 points.

(Merci beaucoup Emmanuel)

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






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