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 25 yo (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 18 yo (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.
Nose: quite powerful and typically Speyside. Honey, heather. Slightly floral, even some varnish. Spicy oak. Oranges. Vanilla. There’s also a peppery / minty edge to it. Nice and immediately demonstrative, which is impressive for a whisky that spent almost 40 years in a wooden cask. The oak influence is clearly noticeable in the spices but never overpowering. Mouth: more vanilla and oranges. Some nutmeg, pepper and honey. Citrus. Hints of a creamy banana milkshake. Big oak now (still within the normal limits of its age). Finish: slightly drying, again lots of oak influence. Hints of peaches and chocolate.
A really vivid Glenrothes, even at this age.
Very tasty with good spices. Other 1960’s Glenrothes releases by Duncan Taylor can be found for +/- € 160. This one is sold out.
This is currently the oldest release in the new Port Askaig range, although a ‘Special release’ 30 year old will be added towards the end of 2009. Bottled at Imperial 80 proof (today’s 45,8% vol). It is available through The Whisky Exchange and through local importers in most of the European countries, Japan and Taiwan.
There has been some discussion about the bottle design, because it seems to be based on the Ardbeg Corryvreckan bottle, with embossed text and an off-white label. Personally I don’t mind, I don’t think you would accidently buy the Port Askaig if you were looking for an Ardbeg.
Port Askaig 25y (45,8%, Whisky Exchange 2009)
Nose: much more fragrant and delicate than the cask strength. Less phenols and coal smoke, but more fruit. Beautiful citrus notes (orange blossom water), sweet melon and yellow apple. Some blueberries and waxy notes. Ashes and smoke in the distance. Hints of lemon. Mouth: sweet and malty. Very mellow. More lemon. More spicy oak influence as well (nutmeg). Nice vanilla. Towards the finish, lovely notes of cocoa and mocha. With a drop of water, it gets fruitier and the oranges and berries get noticeable again. Finish: good length. This is where the fruit fades and the peat smoke appears. Getting drier and peppered.
Very good and really elegant. The flavour profile is quite different from the Port Askaig Cask Strength. Less maritime and less straightforward. Around € 85. Highly recommended.
Port Askaig is a small town in the north-west of Islay. Sukhinder Singh, chairman of The Whisky Exchange, now has its own range of single malt whisky under this name.
I’ve tried this one alongside the Caol Ila 12 year-old, because there’s a good chance both are made at the same distillery and share approximaterly the same age. Too bad I didn’t have the Coal Ila Cask Strength to compare.
Port Askaig ‘Cask Strength’
(57,1%, Whisky Exchange 2009)
Nose: smokey and phenolic, but at the same time rather sweet. Coals on syrup? Less notes of apple or diesel than the Caol Ila 12. Hints of bandages. A bit grassy, hints of wet stones. Some lemon. Mouth: at first, relatively shy considering the alcohol volume. There’s sweet barley with some honey. Then the peat arrives and the whole gets more intense and hotter. Finish: lingering on smoke. Sweet aftertaste. Hints of coffee (which I always like). Loses some points for getting a bit cardboardy in the very end.
There is a new kid on the block: Port Askaig, a brand from Specialty Drinks (a sister company of The Whisky Exchange). A few weeks ago, the first three expressions were launched: a 17 year-old, a 25 year-old and a younger cask strength version. Update: now there’s a 30 year-old as well.
They are single Islay malts, which means they’re produced at the same distillery on Islay. There are no official clues about the name of the distillery, but it should be easy because there’s only one distillery really close to the village of Port Askaig…
There’s a good review of the 17yo on Tim’s TWE blog, so I’ll be reviewing the other versions for now, starting tomorrow with the Port Askaig Cask Strength.