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

April 2, 2019


Another box of HPs

As it says.

Highland Park 10 yo ‘Viking Scars’ (40%, OB, +/-2018)

Highland Park 10 yo ‘Viking Scars’ (40%, OB, +/-2018) Five stars
€35 at Carrefour in France, so this is rather an entry-of-the-entry-level HP. No need to say that we like the fact that they did not drop the age statement, while wondering if they did not reach the limits of Vikingdom. Scars? What’s next, Viking Dishwasher? Nah, love them, really, it’s all a bit second-degree anyway, is it not. Is it? Colour: gold. Nose: no or very little sherry seasoning here, so it’s rather bright, showcasing the trademark heather honey and this mineral side that we always enjoyed. Salty beach rocks, shells, ripe apples and quinces, beach bonfire afar, honey drops, wallflowers (sublime!)… But I like this very much! Mouth: very good, very very good! Even the lower strength does not pose problems here. Perfect honey, lemons, salt, smoked shells, clay, oysters, grapefruits… Finish: medium, superbly fresh, complex, and fruity. Even more honey in the aftertaste, that is perfect. Comments: hey Orkney, we need a CS version of the very same juice! Fantastic interplay between the minerality, the honey and the citrus. Probably my favourite BFYB this month, although the month isn’t over yet.
SGP:652 - 90 points.

Crikey, that one was meant to make for a wee aperitif, while it’s rather been a serious challenger. Let’s pay more attention… And find another wee aperitif…

Highland Park 14 yo 1988/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, refill sherry, cask #MM733)

Highland Park 14 yo 1988/2002 (46%, Murray McDavid, refill sherry, cask #MM733) Five stars
Used to like these orange boxes… Colour: straw. Nose: this one’s got more leather and tobacco, as well as a little more rubber, most probably from the sherry. On the other hand, it’s one of these HPs that are going towards Springbank, with these medicinal and mineral touches that are bordering plastic and plasticine – and which I enjoy a lot. Also grapefruit skin, seawater and kelp, heather honey (grassier honey), a drop of gasoline, and perhaps one of brake fluid. Mouth: it’s big, it’s tense, it’s very mineral and waxy, coastal, rooty (ginseng), spicy (turmeric, nutmeg), and rather salty. All that’s coated with proper honey and lemon juice, which is excellent. Finish: rather long, and even more Springbanky. It’s well Springbank that we just had, is it not? Funny touches of sea salt playing with your lips. Comments: fantastic. Sad to have missed this one when it came out, but it’s true that just everyone was busy with the newly acquired Bruichladdich at that time.
SGP:552 - 90 points.

Shall we ever manage to find a wee aperitif? Isn’t it too late?...

Orkney 9 yo (63.1%, Chorlton Whisky, bourbon hogshead, 191 bottles, +/-2019)

Orkney 9 yo (63.1%, Chorlton Whisky, bourbon hogshead, 191 bottles, +/-2019) Four stars
Sure we couldn’t claim that this is HP, but it isn’t Bladnoch either, is it (and, Sherlock?) Colour: white wine. Nose: a softer, rounder style, with more cakes and fruit syrups and jams, but at this strength, anything noses sweet. So… With water: mead, barley syrup, whiffs of cigarette tobacco, a little chocolate. In truth, it could as well be the other one, as it’s rather softer and rounder than the usual HPs. No, not Stromness. Mouth (neat): fine, lemony and sugary. But hey, 63% vol. With water: well, the HPness is up and kicking, with lemons, chalk, cough medicine (drops), and some camphor. And it is excellent. Finish: long, grassier, more mineral and chalky. And medicinal in the aftertaste. Comments: a tad brutal, and that’s not only the high strength, but quality’s as high as expected. Moreish, as they used to say in pre-Brexit London Clubs.
SGP:462 - 87 points.

Single Orkney Malt 11 yo 2007/2019 (58%, Asta Morris, cask #AM131)

Single Orkney Malt 11 yo 2007/2019 (58%, Asta Morris, cask #AM131) Four stars
No proper picture that I could find at this point, I am sorry. Had to improvise. Indeed this is brand new. Colour: straw. Nose: take cough medicine, add lamp oil, add fresh grated vanilla, add liquid furniture polish, add sea water, add limoncello, add diesel oil, add carbon paper, add liquid honey. Blend well. There, you did well! With water: rubbed citron peel and new Ducati saddle. Yeah, pushing things a bit… Mouth (neat): excellent. Lemon liqueur, liquid wax again, plasticine, limestone, grapefruits… With water: same-ish, a tad more mineral, chalky… And rounder as well. Agave syrup, perhaps. Finish: long, waxy, pretty perfect again. A little rounder than the Chorlton, but that may be the two extra-years. Limoncello again in the aftertaste. Comments: did anyone ever ask us European Citizens if we wanted to keep the U.K. within our union?? Why take that for granted??? Err, well, yes, digressing, this little Asta Morris was just excellent.
SGP:452 - 87 points.

Good, some older ones now, perhaps…

Highland Park 29 yo 2018 (40.6%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, hogshead, 198 bottles)

Highland Park 29 yo 1989/2018 (40.6%, Cadenhead, Single Cask, hogshead, 198 bottles) Four stars and a half
It’s always a little tricky when strengths dropped this low, especially when the whisky’s not extremely old, but I have to say we’ve had both wonders and disappointing juices. Never ‘in the middle’. Colour: white wine. Nose: lovely. First ripe strawberries on praline and whipped cream, then star fruits, bergamots and apples, then assorted honeyed notes, while it would never totally become ‘beehive-y’. Some fresh hay, cut flowers, fruit peel… seems to be a little fragile, but not sure about that… Mouth: it’s alive, it’s alive! What’s this sorcery? While they did not, I’m sure, reduce it? No oak in excess, at all, rather a blend of lemony herbal teas with greener fruits (kiwis again) and just a touch of coastality. Coastalness. Oh drop that. Finish: not short, quite amazingly, and very fresh. Herbal fruits, green earl grey, only the aftertaste is a tad too green and tannic for me. Just a wee tad (tea). Comments: it was less mineral and petroly than the youngsters, for sure. A whole different style.
SGP:461 - 89 points.

Highland Park 29 yo 1989/2018 (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry butt, cask #18/084, 613 bottles)

Highland Park 29 yo 1989/2018 (57%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, refill sherry butt, cask #18/084, 613 bottles) Four stars
I was telling a good friend of mine that refill sherry was way better than first fill, and he replied that you had to do first fill in order to have refill later on. Made sense, but actually, no, good wood technologists would fill the first fill casks with cheap grain whisky in order to take the unwanted oaky/wine-y stuff off (well, formerly unwanted stuff), before filling the cask with precious malt whisky, like they used to do with first fill bourbon, let alone with crappy virgin oak. So, refill rules anyway, don’t listen to those poor drunken marketeers who are only screaming ‘oak oak oak’! Colour: gold. Nose: nice, just a tad leathery, with cigar boxes and touches of cured ham. And the obligatory heather honey, naturally. With water: the minerality’s coming out. Chalk and clay, plus bigger, obvious notes of bergamots. Please try the Bergamotes de Nancy whenever you’ve got a chance! (I won’t say it again!) Mouth (neat): textbook marmalade-y HP, with many spices and even more dried fruits such as figs and dates. But once again, the distillate’s much less characterful that its modern counterparts, exactly what happened at, say, Bowmore as well. In my humble opinion. With water: loses a bit of knack, perhaps, which happens much more often with sherry casks than with bourbon or refill hogsheads when you add water. In my humble experience, as always. Finish: long, both more lemony and salty and more spicy. Ginger, curry, Thai basil… Lime in the aftertaste, all impeccable. Comments: we like them even more ‘natural’, but this baby was still way below the boundaries of normality, as far as malt whisky is concerned (not too sure about your conclusions this time, S.)
SGP:462 - 87 points.

A last one, an let’s make it an even older one

Highland Park 8 yo (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 26 2/3 FL.OZS, mid 1970s)

Highland Park 8 yo (100° proof, Gordon & MacPhail, 26 2/3 FL.OZS, mid 1970s) Five stars
Quick, call the Anti-maltoporn Brigade, as these wee ones are legendary… Colour: gold. Nose: it’s more massive, it’s fuller, more compact, less subtle, and yet superb. Rubber bands, new car, roasted chestnuts, earthy tea (pu-her and such), old marmalades, Spanish ham (belotta stuff), old embrocations and ointments (who knows what they used to put into those things)… and then, as often with the older bottles, more pine-y notes, saps, resins, camphor… With water: sit and listen to this whisky. Not that the story will always be the same, mind you. Mouth (neat): totally a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Huge mentholness, immense sappy side (fir liqueur), all dried fruits anyone could think of (starting with figs, as almost always), and then a total maelstrom of tiny spicy flavours. Caraway seems to be fly amongst them, as well as pink pepper. Careful, these ones will almost always dominate you, there isn’t much you could do against that. With water: they get Asian. Sauces, chutneys, creams, spicy stuff… Finish: I’m reminded of some old Cuban cigars they used to make when the Russians were still delivering ‘what was needed’ to make them. No, not drugs. Comments: legends of whisky. Naturally, the age statements were actually brands, in this case ‘8’ did not mean that it was ‘only 8’. Huge whisky.
SGP:552 - 93 points.

(Merci Angus and merci Lucero)

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