Tag Archive: Highland Park

Berry Bros and Rudd: Orkney Islands 17 Year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 17 Year: 56.4% ABV)

Visual: Very light yellowed gold. Fast, thick streaks come initially from the spirit, followed by slow puckering.

Nose: Caramel. Vanilla toffee. Honeyed shreddies. Wisp of smoke. White grapes. Pencil shavings. Water makes mossy and brings out more oak.

Body: Burning alcohol. Crumpets. Charred oak. Butter. Water makes more buttery and adds shortbread.

Finish: Charred oak. Bitter. Light salt and sea breeze. Water adds wet rocks. Butter. Peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, for one, this needs water. Neat it is burning, buttery and very much lacking in any subtlety. Not that the aroma lets you know what is coming, oh no, that aroma is a sneaky one. It tells you that what is coming is sweet and gentle with just a wisp of smoke. Lying fucking aroma.

Now water does its job and smooths the alcohol down, making it into a very robust (and I mean VERY robust) crumpety, bready, buttery dram, with a peppery finish and still that wisp of smoke. It is heavy feeling and still very different from that sweet, gentle aroma. If you pay attention there are slight grapes, slight vanilla, but generally it is just a straight forward crumpets and butter kind of savoury thing.

So, with that said, it is not a favourite of mine. Some people at the tasting seemed to get more from it than I did, but for me it is too burning neat, and still too simple with water, so overall is a comparatively empty dram flavour wise.

Feels solid in texture, but feels like the base of a whisky to be built from, rather than a decent whisky in itself. A pity as I love a good Highland Park (sorry, a good “Orkney Islands” WINK), but this one doesn’t grab me.

Background: Uber whisky time again at Independent Spirit. I love these events, where you get to try some pretty rare whisky that would normally be prohibitively expensive by the dram. As always with events like these, it was a busy event, with talking and other people describing notes so I may have been influenced by that and my notes may be shorter and more incoherent than even normal. Now, while this could be one of two Orkey distilleries, it is blatantly a Highland Park. They barely even try to hide it. I’m a big fan of Highland Park, not revisited them for a while so had high hopes for this. From the bottle it was distilled 2000 and bottled 2018.

Highland Park: Fire Edition (Scotland Island Single Malt Whisky: 15 Year: 45.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold.

Viscosity: Moderate speed and thickness streaks.

Nose: Dry rum and brandy cream. Slight smoke. Moss. Thick aroma. Light oak. Butter. Water adds some blueberries.

Body: Toffee. Light caramel. Light treacle. Strawberry. Alcohol is noticeable. Buttered crumpets. Water brings out sweet butter. More strawberry. Fudge. Vanilla and brambles.

Finish: Alcohol air. Toast. Light charring. Red berries. Toasted teacakes. Butter. Smoke. Water brings more butter and red berries. Blueberry.

Conclusion: This is very bready indeed – like a mix of toast to toasted teacakes. Really solid, and packed through with red fruit. It is very interesting examining this one immediately after the Springbank 25 year – they both wear their port influence proudly. This is more solid, and because of that is more immediately appreciable as a whisky. However because of that it also doesn’t wear quite the same range of flavour at the tail end of its life. By the way that isn’t intended as a harsh criticism – more an examination of the trade off you get with whisky. It is very nice, with subtle vanilla sweetness matched with lightly tart red and dark berries.

It is a full on, rich berry expression – very much pushing the imagery of picking your own berries on a summer picnic kind of thing – the Highland Park base giving a solid texture and weight for the fruity experience to work from.

It feels full of brambles – and if this was just slightly jammy it would make a perfect image of full on jam covered toasted sandwiches. It isn’t so it doesn’t, but it is that kind of thing it is coming close to. As it is it is a fresher faced experience, with a solid whisky base. Without water it feels a bit more thick and musky – with water the freshness of the fruit opens up. So, Springbank 25 wins on complexity – but you cannot go far wrong with this for a solid experience. Again, maybe not worth the cost of a fancy bottle, but very much worth trying if you can.

Background: Yep, it is the fourth of the whiskies tried at the recent Independent Spirit Uber Whisky Tasting. This one, well I am a big Highland Park fan, but I can’t quite shake the impression that you are paying a lot for the bottle on this one. It is a pretty bottle I will admit. Not several hundred quid pretty, but pretty. Anyway, this is one of 28,000 bottles and is aged completely in port casks. Anyway, as always for these events – I was doing my notes in a social environment, with five strong whiskies back to back – my notes may be affected by other peoples thoughts, the drunkenness, and the other whisky I had. However, as before, for trying five expensive and rare whiskies like this I could hardly miss the chance to do some notes. Hope they are ok by you.


Signatory Vintage: Highland Park 1987 (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 24 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Gold.

Viscosity: Slow to break into streaks from the liquid. Thin and light when streaks do form.

Nose: Sweet vanilla. Light salty rocks. Smooth and toffee notes.; Dims when water is added.

Body: Smooth with slight rocks character. Sweet lime. Custard and toffee. Honeycomb. Water bring out full on honey and makes very sweet and an almost syrup texture. More toffee with water.

Finish: Lime jelly custard and, yes, toffee.  Dry shortbread. Light oak and smoke. Malt chocolate. Water makes for more chocolate and cough drops like honey taste.

Conclusion: This is very smooth, even for a Highland Park. By default it is notably smooth, but with water it becomes exceedingly so.  There is barely any island character, a touch of light salt and rocks but the main notable element is this real thick honey flavour.  There can be an almost cough drop like take on it with water and the texture, though smooth, has a syrup like quality to it.  Despite the finishes cough drop imitations at time it is still shockingly easy going.

It took me a while to get use to this, mainly as it was completely different to what I expected. There’s nice sweet notes of toffee, vanilla and chocolate dusted throughout laced over that light salty rocks.  It is very relaxing and , when you get used to it, a great texture that just slips down.

The honey can get too heavy, especially in the finish where it can be a bit sickly sweet, but that very slight rocks helps balance by reigning it in just a touch.  It’s a tasty whisky but doesn’t have anywhere near the robust range I was hoping for.

So a great texture, utterly smooth, good sweetness and a dash of rough offset. Could do with a bit more range but still tasty.

A good relaxing island walk of a drink.

Background: Bottled 2011, I found this independent bottling at the Tasting Rooms in Bath. Since I had a gift voucher for there form Christmas it seemed the perfect time to treat myself.  I love Highland Park and find it a nice balance of smoothness to island character.  The 18 year in particular is a favourite.

The Macphails Collection: Highland Park 8 Year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 8 years: 40% ABV)

Visual: Clear light straw to gold.

Viscosity: Quite fast streaks of medium thickness.

Nose:  Light peat smoke, vanilla and grain. Alcohol prickles. Beef stew. Slightly marshy.  Cooked onions.

Body: Sweet Dill pickles and gherkins.  Lime. Golden syrup. Banana. Water weakens the front but makes sweeter and adds custard. A broth like back is also added.

Finish:  Charring. Smoke, cigars and a tongue tingling feel.  Custard sweetness with water into malt chocolate and fudge.

Conclusion: Dill pickles and gherkins in a whisky tasting note? Never thought I’d see the day.   Highland Park is a fine spirit and this youthful version comes in with the expected light smoke and sweet touch.  Then you get the aforementioned pickles, which is oddly actually quite cool, giving a tingle instead of a full on alcohol burn.

I find myself preferring this without water. The water does make it smoother and into an absolutely lovely finish, but that manic middle is lost, and it is that quirkiness that I find so fun.  That said, the finish with water is very much welcome, so it is a bottle that’s worth a good experiment with.

Lively and joyous, Highland Park can do no wrong by me it seems.

Background:  Highland Park from Orkney is one of the spirits that seems to be able to pull off many styles well and I have had a grand history with its products so far.  Similarly Gordon and Macphail do a wonderful range of odd whisky’s, closed distilleries and own the Benromach distillery which has found favour with me. All in all I go into this tasting with high hopes.

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.

Highland Park 21 Year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: Scotland: 21 Year: 47.5% ABV)

(Apparently this whisky is made exclusively for travel retail, which makes me wonder how I got it in the first place)

Visual: Deep seeped bronzed honey.

Viscosity: Slight puckering only for the first 30 seconds before finally a small set of infinitely slow streaks form.

Nose: Raisins, planed wood and vanilla. The abv is very evident. Hay. Water added brings out gingerbread, coriander and crushed orange peel. A touch more and you find carrot, whipped cream and crushed mint leaves.

Body: Plums, honeycomb, raisins and wood. Water adds golden syrup, more raisins, carrot, fruitcake raspberry and grass.

Finish: Chocolate, charring, slight salt and peat. More malt chocolate. Spirit soaked fruit, earthy and some grassiness again.

Conclusion: Highland Park always turns out good spirit, and this expression is no exception. Definitely needs a touch of water though as the high ABV burns out some of the flavour without.

An odd carrot and coriander feel to this whisky makes it an intriguing almost carrot cake drink. Fascinating though that may be, it doesn’t bring quite the spark I attribute to the 18 and 25 year versions of this Whisky.

It’s a more down to earth dram, that experiments with earthy grounded flavours, very much calling to the cut earth, turned peat and wild island environ in which it is made.

In a pinch I would call this the Farmers Yard delight of the Highland Parks, Down to earth and distinctly unsubtle, but with am enjoyable rough and ready quality

Highland Park 18 Year (Scottish single malt island whisky: 18 Years Old: 43% ABV)

Visual: Deep enriched amber.

Viscosity: Extremely slow and quite thin streaks.

Nose: Cherries and fruitcake, shortbread and liquorice with tiny hints of smoke. Small trace of bubblegum like flavour. Water adds light lavender touches to mellow out the flavour.

Body: Roasted nuts, blackberries. Marzipan and toffee. Lemon tart/treacle tart. Not too sweet but effortlessly mixes many dessert tastes. Water adds a spicy touch in the form of gingerbread.

Finish: Slightest salt, roasted nuts. Slight harshess and coffee granules. Rising charcoal. Builds slowly over repeated tastes to a treacle touch. Port and the tiniest peat. Water adds an almost cheesecake base element which is distinctly unexpected.

Conclusion: A masterpiece: The expected island influence is instead a subtle rounding to an altogether more complex sweet sherried whisky with wonderful dessert flavours and a fantastic range.

Sweet and just slightly fiery this whisky competes with the 25-year edition on even terms, and is far superior to the already impressive 12-year version.

A brilliant whisky at any price point.

(Thanks to mum and dad for this wonderful Christmas present)

Highland Park 40 Year Old (Scottish Whisky: Orkney Island Single Malt: 48.3% ABV)

Disclaimer: tasted at a whisky show, this was a comparatively short measure so the tasting note is similarly reduced as I did not get time to contemplate the full range. However I still felt it worth sharing my thoughts on these whiskys I would otherwise have been unable to experience.

Visual: light gold

Viscosity: Fast thin streaks.

Nose: Touch of smoke, very clean smell. Some vanilla and almost floral comes through. Trace of light salt.

Body: Sweet, the alcohol punch is surprisingly present. Burnt wood roams around and light saltiness. An unexpectedly light and sweet expression.

Finish: Floral, vanilla. Light and airy. By far the cleanest finish on a Highland Park.

Conclusion: An amazingly light and smooth expression of Highland Park, with the elements introduced in a far more easy going and laid back manner than we
have become used to. It takes much more time to reveal itself and dances lightly where the earlier expressions assault the senses.

This may show my lack of culture, but I found the still smooth but just slightly more forceful highland park 25 year a more enjoyable dram. But this speaks more to the heights of that drink than the weakness of this one.

Highland Park 12 Year (Scottish: Orkney Island Single Malt: 12 Year:40% ABV)

Visual: Light grain and gold.

Viscosity: Fast forming thick trails.

Nose: Salt, fudge, sea cliffs. Warm and rocky.

Body: Slick; competing sweet and salt in satisfying doses. Syrup. Lighter vanilla and fresher notes add to the complexity. Finally dancing biting golden glow and fresh grain fields.

Finish: Harsh and salty, wood; dry mouth. Sweet butter.

Conclusion: This takes the distinct island saltiness and harshness then adds in lighter notes to offset it making for a satisfying whisky with a decent range.

It sacrifices its punch somewhat but adds complexity to make for a decent all rounder.

Harviestoun: Old Dubh 40 Year Special Reserve (Scotland: Old Ale: 8% ABV)

(Aged in Highland Park Whisky Casks)

Visual: Black, a thin brown froth eases away leaving a bubbling around the edge of the glass. Small bubbles fizz up from its impenetrable centre.

Nose: Charcoal, sickly sweet treacle. Peat and salt, sea cliff breezes over an oil spill. Id be lying if I said the Islay charm and almost medicinal nature where not hinted at. Victorian house attics and ageing cellars.

Body: Light for a second then rich expensive sweets, luxury boxes worth. Butterscotch froth. A feeling of descent into deep rocky canyons. Sweet strawberry crème centre as the chocolate breaks open. Roasted and sugared nuts intertwined. Surprisingly slick mouthfeel.

Finish: Dry oak, sweet black toffee, warm alcohol haze .liquorice. A whisky air and memories of a fire warmed room. Raw cane sugar.

Conclusion: It’s hard to say when the whisky end and the ale begins. A wonderful harshness on a rich and playful beer that feels very stout like in its composition. Worth just breathing air in over you tongue after swallowing a large mouthful to enjoy its whisky finish. Drinkable like a lighter ale, but enjoyable and rewarding to investigate like a fine beer, and probable for depths like a fine whisky.

In comparison with the Paradox stout expressions I’ve tried from the mighty Brewdog brewery this beer beats them out to be the finest whisky aged beer I have sampled yet.

Another beer for careful consideration and verbal dissection with a verbose group of companions. Top notch.

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