Highland Park recently said that they can’t sustain the high strength of the current Highland Park 21 years old, because it was very popular and stocks at that alcohol level are limited (do they really have difficulty finding 20+ year old casks over 47,5% – hard to believe). They will be lowering the strength to 40%.
In fact, they say they had already changed the whisky that won the World Whisky Awards this year, although there’s actually no proof of that. Why doesn’t the WWA jury publish the full details of the winners, just to avoid these kind of problems?
Also, Highland Park doesn’t mention a price reduction for the 21yo, so the lower volume could easily be seen as a disguised price increase. Sad news!
In terms of flavour profile, this recent addition to the Highland Park range is quite closely related to the Highland Park 30 years old, sharing a slight emphasis on American oak in maturation (less sherry influence to release more of the smokiness). That’s why I’ve tasted them head-to-head, apart from the HP 18 yo and HP 25 yo.
The 21 years old is only available at travel retail. Unfortunately it has been difficult to find outside of the UK.
Highland Park 21yo (47,5%, OB 2007)
Nose: a bit quiet at first, but it became more expressive after a while. Lots of heather, more than in the 30y. Again quite fruity and sweet, but it has more body and seems to be more complex. More pear and more oak influence, apple pie, floral notes and even some cherry. A bit ‘darker’ or ‘dustier’ as well, with some well-defined notes of bonfire and roasted nuts. Toffee, chocolate and caramel. Some herbs. Lovely nose altogether. Mouth: vivid, spicy attack (ginger, nutmeg). Heather and honey again. Oily. Peat smoke in the distance. Creamy milk chocolate. Very rich. Warmer and less citrussy / gingery than the 30yo. Finish: long continuation of the taste. Starting with a sweet smokiness and getting drier in the end.
It’s a cracking dram, certainly worth looking for. Around € 80.
If you thought the Highland Park 40yo was old (and expensive), think twice. The distillery announced a new Highland Park 50yo, the oldest bottling ever. In fact, not many distilleries can claim such old whisky in their core range. Expected in a few months.
Other news: there’s a new Highland Park 1997 vintage, sherry matured and available only at German duty free shops. As far as I know, the first vintage in the new bottle design? Around € 45.
Highland Park 30yo used to be the oldest expression in the core range, until the (very expensive) 40yo became the new king about a year ago.
Highland Park 30yo (48,1%, OB 2007)
Nose: very floral and tropically fruity. Peaches, pears, really sweet and highly elegant. Some beeswax and slight estery, spirity notes. Heather and honey as well, which are Highland Park’s trademark notes. Some vanilla and nutmeg. The lightest hints of an extinct fire. Very nice although I’m missing some depth. Mouth: toffee, some lovely oranges wrapped in chocolate. Vanilla, cinnamon and ginger. Figs. Almonds. Honey. Finish: long finish on orange and grapefruit. Soft touch of smoke. Getting drier with a slightly metallic edge.
This dram has aged magnificently. Very mature, mellow and surprisingly crisp, floral and fresh. Around € 220.
The Highland Park 25, together with the 30yo and the recent 40yo, are the premium bottlings of the distillery. I’ve tasted this one head-to-head with the 18yo. The 25yo is certainly more expensive but I’ve heard mixed opinions about it.
Highland Park 25yo (48,1%, OB 2007)
Nose: definitely grassier and waxier than the 18yo. More resinous notes as well. The honey accents are still there, but less pronounced. More peat, less caramel. Walnuts. It’s difficult to say whether this is better or not, it seems a lot sharper and a bit more one-dimensional on the nose. Mouth: really muscular: more peat, more grass. The sweetness was traded for a waxiness and there’s a bunch of pepper. It’s bigger and less gentle, which is a good thing. Finish: very long with dominant spices and warm peat. Less smokey than the 18yo. Some marmelade at the very end.
This one is wilder than the 18yo. It’s less balanced and less all-round, but I presume it was meant to be like that. Since the 25yo is almost 3 times as expensive, the 18yo still offers the most for the money. On the other hand, once you’ve tasted the 25yo, the 18yo seems a bit soft and “easy”.
Highland Park is the northernmost distillery in Scotland. The entire range of expressions have been redesigned in 2006. The result is one of the most beautiful bottles in the industry. About 60% of the production is used for the core range; the other 40% are bottled as single casks or used for blending.
The 18yo can be seen as the corner stone of the Highland Park range. It unites the older richness of the 25yo and 30yo with the freshness and liveliness of the 12yo and 15yo. A highly regarded classic.
Highland Park 18yo (43%, OB 2007)
Nose: a bit of everything really. Honey, a bit of smoke, some grassy notes, apple, spices, toffee, butter…This is a true all-round whisky, it contains a lot of flavours in the right amount. Mouth: punchy attack, quite fruity and sweet. Hints of peat and smoke. Very rich. Finish: a bit of mocha and marzipan and something vaguely metallic. Salty notes (liquorice).
WhiskyNotes is 6 months old now, and still a few well-known brands never appeared (simply bad luck of course, every whisky deserves a review). Time to feature Orkney-based Highland Park, a distillery with many fans.
Highland Park had a major restyling in 2006, and the brand was supposed to become a top 10 single malt by 2011. They have already overtaken Lagavulin, but Talisker and Bowmore are still ahead.
Their core range consists of a 12 year old, an 18 year old, a 25, a 30 and recently a 40 year old. They are usually described as good all-rounders because they offer a bit of everything: sweetness, floral notes (especially heather), some smoke, coastal notes, usually some hints of sherry as well…
Let’s try some Highland Parks in the next couple of days.
Glendronach is not the best known distillery. It was mothballed in 1996, restarted in 2002, bought by Pernod Ricard in 2005 and put up for sale again in 2008. The distillery was bought by the owners of BenRiach, and we should spell GlenDronach now to make that clear (marketing dudes…).
The core range (12yo, 15yo and 18yo) was reworked and relaunched. Hence the name Revival for the 15 years old.
GlenDronach 15y ‘Revival’
(46%, OB 2009)
Nose: There certainly are sulphur notes in this bottling. The first thing I get are mushrooms, a dirt bin and some rubber. Now this is personal, some people like it, others don’t. I have difficulties with it, but let’s move on. Very clear oloroso sherry influence as well: raisins, balsamico vinegar, coffee, mint… Slightly herbal. Subtle smoke as well. Mouth: good mouthfeel. The sherry continues with raisins, dark chocolate, figs, prunes and (slightly bitter) coffee notes. Still a bit dirty if you ask me. Finish: spicier on cloves. Quite long.
I suppose this is going to get a low score in next year’s Whisky Bible. I find it difficult to really appreciate it, although there is some lovely old-style sherry at work here. I can imagine some people adore this for its “off-road” character. Around € 50.