We take a visit to Orkney, looking at two Highland Parks from two well respected independent bottlers, Cadenheads and Dramfool.
Dramfool 54th Release High Parkland (Highland Park) 16yo
This release spent 14 years in a bourbon hogshead before a 2 year finishing period in an ex-Oloroso hogshead which had previously matured Dramfool’s Cola Ali 6 release. The cask yielded 312 bottles.
We're finding a big hit of salt as we take our first sniff, alongside freshly cut hay and sand from a beach in the midday sun. There's a florality here, honeysuckle and something that reminds us a little of deodorant. There's a light peat here, it’s mellow yet it fills the glass the more you go back to it. The alcohol is definitely here, slightly too powerful for us and we feel it's masking some of the more delicate aromas we could be getting. Air reveals bakers yeast and shortbread biscuits.
An unexpected mixture of sweet and sour bursts out as you take your first sip, following quickly into a more prominent, log burning-esque peat smoke. The dram has a really impressive texture, it's almost like thick, viscous custard in the mouth. The finish is long, with zingy lime and cranberry flavours lingering on. Now, we have to admit that this contends relatively well with the powerful ABV of the dram, but we're finding an overly warming sensation in our chests after a few sips. Air brings custard cream biscuits, apple brandy, sweet vanilla oak and Manuka honey with flakey sea salt mixed in.
Nose (with water)
Water releases an earthy, foostiness that was undetectable before. The powerful alcohol notes have been brought into balance, and we're finding a more harmonious nose with salt water, a little truffle oil, wet cardboard and green apple.
Palate (with water)
Again, water helps to tame the beast, and we're finding sherbet, sour mix, raspberry puree, burnt logs, apple juice and lime peel. The smoke has amplified as well, and shows most prominently on the finish. The mouthfeel has lost a little texture, but it's still very good and the finish retains its length.
We make no secret that we're not the biggest Highland Park fans, but we're always willing to alter our opinion and this Dramfool release helps towards that. It is overly alcoholic, but water helps to smooth out those rough edges, and the dram is packed with flavour. The finishing period in the ex-Caol Ila cask gives a different peat profile from what we're used to with Highland Park, but it works relatively well. For us we'll settle on 7.5/10, but this is very good quality whisky that Highland Park fans may enjoy more than us.
Cadenhead Highland Park 28yo
Bottled exclusively for Cadenhead's Whisky Shop Milan, this 28yo spent its life maturing in a refill sherry butt. 396 bottles were released and a few are still available.
A relatively closed off nose, with mild antiseptic, bitter oak, cloves and over-roasted hazelnuts. We're getting a lot of peppery alcohol on the nose, malt, salt and flint. There's a lot of spirit influence here, and a lack of cask, especially for the age. Being completely honest, we're not particularly enjoying this nose.
Earthy, salty, a little vanilla sweetness and malt vinegar. We're finding honey, heather, the usual hallmarks of Highland Park, alongside a light island peat. Air reveals chocolate covered foam bananas, a little white wine acidity, black pepper spice and golden syrup. The mouthfeel is good, not thin, but not really anything to excite us. The finish has a medium length, mostly of wood spice and spirit. We expected a more rounded whisky for the age, but we've not found it.
Nose (with water)
Water brings a creaminess to the nose, but we're still finding it very closed off. There's some maritime influence, wet pebbles and some tropical fruit aromas poking through, but overall it feels muted. We do find the nose better with water, and the alcohol punch is now hidden away.
Palate (with water)
Brighter now, passionfruit, lemon tart, shortbread biscuit, but thinner than we'd like and the finish tapers off quickly. There's much more balance now, but there's a lingering spice throughout which is slightly jarring. There's banana essence, dark chocolate and maldon sea salt flakes coming through on subsequent sips.
If we didn't know beforehand, we'd place this around the 12-15 year old mark. Overall we find the dram disappointing, there's flavour and aroma here but we're not blown away by any of it. At the price we just can't recommend it, so we're giving this a 6/10.
- 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
- 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
- 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
- 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
- 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
- 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
- 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
- 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
- 2 - Pour it out
- 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.
Interested in trying drams like these? We've created the Two Whisky Bros Dram Club to help you get access to high quality, rare whisky by the dram.