Alchemist: Highland Park 16 Year Old Calvados Finish (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 16 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: A light amber with an appropriately apple juice like look.

Viscosity: Some medium speed streaks form instantly, but the main section are from slow and thin puckering.

Nose:  Sea air, a light dash of apples. Salt. Light roasted nuts. Wood shavings and liquorice. Quite meaty – beef. Vanilla backed. With water, the more subtle smells smooth giving the salt a more evident playfield and adding perfume.

Body: Vanilla and custard. Peat. Sugared apple crumble. Beef stew. Shortbread and toffee. Water allows the dessert style and crumble flavours free reign and the apple more evident.

Finish: Peat and beef. Custard. Apple pie and toffee. Lingering chocolate and leather.  Water makes the chocolate smoother, like Belgium chocolate.

Conclusion: Highland Park is one of the all time classic spirits, always coming in with great complexity behind its force.  Here we find a calvados finished version, and unlike my fears the calvados is subtly added giving a sweet syrup back to the beef and peat body.

It really does add just that little bit extra, as mentioned I feared the finish would overwhelm the spirit, but instead it is the calvados that fears being hidden.  The Highland Park flavour comes right through, and the flavours mix for a wonderful range of distinct elements that balance against each other very well. Dessert sweetness and heavy meatiness have never sat so well together.

The delicate touches added by the finish are so unlike what I would expect from a Highland Park spirit, and gives a rewarding and renewed interest in the fine whisky, then leaves you with a long chocolate finish.

Really top notch. Like the Gaja Barolo Longrow, this show shows what can be done when you combine two rich flavours. It’s a sign of its quality that I nearly forgot to test adding water to see how it altered the range.

Apple crumble, beef, peat and leather. A full meal in glass.

Background: Highland Park is possibly my most tasting noted whisky, and a favourite of the style. This version is finished in apple brandy casks by the independent bottler’s Alchemist, who I have not run into before.

My best attempts to find a full bottle of this interesting sounding whisky came to naught, but I did manage to find an online store that does samples from splitting bottles into 3cl jars, a commendable habit that makes it easier to try the odder whisky’s that normally don’t get miniature made.