Today we’re looking at a couple of releases from a distillery we've had mixed experiences with.
Highland Park Cask Strength Series #2
The second release in the Cask Strength series was created from sherry seasoned European and American oak casks, along with a small amount ex-bourbon casks. We had good things to say in our review on the first release, so let's hope this follows on well.
Treacle, dried mushrooms, forest floor, thyme, and light to medium peat on the nose. You can get some of the sherry influence here, but it's not overpowering, it's just providing a rich woody backbone to the dram. We're getting raisins, milk chocolate and a little toffee with a touch of salt. Despite the 64% ABV, we can get our nose deep into the glass without being assaulted by the alcohol which is a nice surprise.
Well that's something. It's incredibly rich, syrupy and warming on the palate, but the first sip did make us cough a little with the strength of the alcohol. Going back to it we're getting sultanas, cherries in liqueur, spicy ginger cake, cinnamon, red berries and granny smith apples. It has a really nice mouthfeel, coating the sides and roof of the mouth well, and following into a brown sugar, treacle toffee and dry oak finish that lasts quite a long time. The peat takes a supporting role to the sherry flavours here.
Nose (with water)
More of those rich sherry aromas, PX-like, appear, albeit less sweet and slightly drier than before. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg all in abundance, following onto a little vanilla essence and honey. It's a little more woody now, and we're finding some more smoke appearing with the addition of water.
Palate (with water)
Water brings out earthiness, heather, more honey, chili heat along with prunes in syrup, maple syrup and dry oak. The alcohol is still punchy (we only added a few drops of water), but it still has a nice balance. It retains the mouthfeel and length of finish, but with a touch more refined sugar and orchard fruits.
We make no secret that Highland Park isn't our favourite distillery, but we did enjoy the first batch of their cask strength series so had some hope for this one. We can say that this is as good, if not better than batch one. The sherry and alcohol are intense, but it maintains a surprising balance and overall has great flavour and body. For the price it's really good value if you're looking for something with a bit of light peat and a good hit of sherry.
Highland Park Alchemist 15yo 46%
Price: £55.00 at time of release.
This bottling was distilled in 1990, matured for 15 years before being bottled by the now closed Alchemist Beverage company in 2005. It Was bottled at 46% ABV. We couldn’t find details on the number of bottles released. We got our hands on a sample of this, no idea how much a bottle would be these days.
Buttered white bread, popcorn, yeast, freshly baked sponge cake with vanilla cream frosting, and a salty, coastal funk. There's a nice light sweetness, balanced with an earthy, dried mushroom-like aroma. There's some light leather and the faintest hint of peat. Really quite pleasant on the nose.
The vanilla sponge cake we got on the nose just got a drizzle of lemon syrup, and a little candied ginger sprinkled on top. The peat is more noticeable now, still light but bringing an earthy, vegetal flavour to the dram. It's quite dry and sour, following into very lightly toasted caramel with a sprinkling of sea salt flakes. The alcohol is quite noticeable, even at 46%, putting the dram out of balance a little bit. Going back to it we're getting a little more leather and wet oak.
Nose (with water)
We're getting some malt, barley sugars and lemon scented candles. We're getting some of that salty coastal air, but amplified from the pre-watered nose. Any hints of peat have all but disappeared, being replaced by more of a heather and honey aroma.
Palate (with water)
Sour plums, lemon rind, warehouse funk, The alcohol has been muted slightly, bringing it more into balance but there's a woody spice lingering on the back palate. There's a nice vanilla and oak-led sweetness coming through, but the palate is a little thin now. Going back, the spice is even more apparent, white pepper, ground coriander and turmeric. We're getting a touch of peat now, but it feels more like old books and dirt than smoke.
This is one of those drams where the nose doesn't match the palate. The nose was very pleasant, very balanced with a nice bit of sweetness, peat and earthy aromas, but the palate was too sharp, acidic, bitter and drying for us. Water helps a little, but it's still a little too spicy and unbalanced.
- 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.
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