May 172016
 

When you think of Highland Park, you immediately think of the gentle peat and sherry combination so characteristic of the most northern of major whisky distilleries in Scotland. Indeed, whereas over 90% of Scotch whisky is bottled in ex bourbon casks, Highland Park has sherry maturation as one of its five keystones. Additionally, Highland Park uses only traditionally “Scottish” sized casks: butts, puncheons or hogsheads. No barrels are used by the distillery, which makes this G&M TWE exclusive release of a 16 year old Highland Park in a first fill barrel special indeed.

Photo Credit: highlandpark.co.uk

Photo Credit: highlandpark.co.uk

Despite that, Highland Park has bottled expressions matured in bourbon casks, including the beautiful Freya and the new Ice, but those are rarities.

This cask adds quite a bit of spice to the whisky, and working with water should be done slowly, but this is a very enjoyable dram, showcasing some of the lesser highlighted qualities of the Highland Park spirit.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Gordon and MacPhail Highland Park 1999, 16 Year Old, TWE Exclusive, Cask 4260, Distilled 30/08/1999, Bottled 13/01/2016 (56.6% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, very viscous, it coats the edges of the glass.

Nose: Fresh fruit and gentle spices with honey and floral honeysuckle. A seriously malty vanilla, with some very shy peat. Water allows some more fruit and a little more peat to come out

Palate: Honey and peat, with a lot of malt and a spicy freshness. Water takes the spice out for a dance, and highlights it, together with some more of the peat.

Linger: Peat, light pepper and honey, with a very creamy linger left behind. With water, you get some lemon drops on the back of the tongue.

Conclusion

This is a seriously solid dram, which on the one hand needs water, but you pay a clear price in turning into a true spice behemoth in the process. It highlights nicely what HP is like without the sherry.

Official sample provided by The Whisky Exchange.

Mar 102015
 

Together with the old sherry Glenlossie, this Highland Park was the high point in this very special tasting.

Photo Credit: tripadvisor.nl

Photo Credit: tripadvisor.nl

Of all independent bottlers, Gordon and MacPhail have a singular approach to wood management: They bring their own casks to distilleries, and have them filled there. Thus, they are probably the  independent bottler most involved in the process. You can also see that approach in the new Benromach 10 year old expressions coming out, winning high praise for both the 10 year old and the 100 proof.

This is the earliest distilled whisky of the bunch in this expression, and together with the four Gordon and MacPhail expressions I tasted in the “changing of the guard” masterclass, there are five 1950s G&M whiskys tasted at the Whisky Show. This particular bottle was taken from Sukinder’s own collection so it has no official price (but was estimated at £1500).

Photo Credit: blog.thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: blog.thewhiskyexchange.com

Gordon and MacPhail Highland Park 1955, 30 Year Old, Bottled in 1985 for Intertrade (53.2% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Light bronze, slow legs with a ring that remains around the glass.

Nose: Gentle sherry, very old nose, mossy and earthy with apricot jam. Water brings out a sweeter nose with dried fruit, Dutch sweet condensed milk and heather honey. The water teases out more of the Highland Park.

Palate: Here’s where the peat shows up with a sweet smokiness with pepper and fruit on a barbecue. The palate is very unlike the gentle nose. Water changes the sweetness to a metallic sweetness.

Linger: Very peppery with notes of mint (like after brushing your teeth) and sweet notes linger on the tongue.

Conclusion

Wow, this is one complex dram.

We’d expect Highland Park to age well, but this expression has more than just the age in it. It plays with your senses, raising one expectation then delivering something else. Stunning!