...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Highland Park 19 years old 1991 Signatory UCF, cask 15115

I'm going to sprinkle some regular whisk(e)y reviews amongst the Japan bar writeups. There are plenty more of the latter coming. Of the former, I'm going to stick to Bourbon and Rye Day Friday. Otherwise I will be reviewing Highland Park single malts. Because Highland Park is yummy. Usually. Also, this blog has an odd lack of Highland Park reviews.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away (early 2012 and Los Angeles), I was stuck trying to choose between Highland Park 18yo and a 19 year old HP by Signatory. HP18 was $89.99 (really) and the Signatory was $84.99 on the K&L Wine Merchants website. So I called the K&L help line and was connected to some guy named David Driscoll. I asked the man, later known as DD to some, known as a genius to others, known as various expletives to others still, what the difference was between the two HPs. He said they had their similarities, but the sherry cask influence would read much higher on the Signatory. I was a big sherried whisky fan at the time, so I chose the Signatory version.

This bottle then sat in my whisky cabinet for four years, continually getting pushed to the back. With a cross-country move approaching, I decided to open a bunch of my bottles for whisky events in 2016. Upon finally trying this Highland Park, I wondered why the hell I'd waited so long. Thankfully I saved a good sized sample of it before the bottle was emptied at the events. And here's the long awaited review.

I got yer data right here:
click to embiggen
nudge, nudge, wink, wink

The color is a dark gold, so no this was probably not a refill cask. The nose has a dark side (leather, manure, burnt plastic and mushrooms) and light side (apricot jam and raspberry fruit leather) tied neatly together with well-integrated sulphur and ground mustard seed. If that sounds like rubbish to you, then this whisky is probably not for you. A surprising hit of peat (both mossy and ashy) on the palate. Orange marmalade, honey and barbecued prunes? Then there's the darker side, again. Sulphur and a spry peppery nip. It takes on a smokier edge with time, also picking up a mineral note. Orange marmalade and lemon candy meet minerals and grass in the finish. A combo of tannins and sulphur make it puckery at times.

WITH WATER (~35%abv)
Ah, that early burst of manure in the nose. Then comes the sherry cask's dried fruits. The sulphur has been toned down. Some salty air and moss. A new bag of gummi bears. The palate is peated orange marmalade with limes, honey and brown sugar. Some smoky residue lingers on into the finish, where there are also tart limes and a whiff of burnt tobacco.

This is the sort of dirty whisky that divides folks. If you can't take farmy or peppery sulphur notes then avert your nose. But for others, and you know who you are, this is good.

Mr. Driscoll was correct about the sherry cask's prominence, but this is also one of the peatiest Highland Parks I've had. It almost leans a little closer to Mull than Orkney at times. Or maybe some particularly filthy Benromach. It's the violence in the finish that keeps me from declaring the whisky a near perfect representative of the type.

But I'll stop the dirty talk, because it's the whisky's fruit notes that lend it balance and dimension. Water brings out the fruit out further, and mellows the darker side, bringing it closer to a more familiar Highland Park style.

Availability - 
Happy hunting!

Pricing - It was $84.99 in 2012. It won't be $84.99 now.
Rating - 89 (for specific palates only)


  1. As a regular customer to K&L in Redwood City, I would just like to say I'm impressed you got to talk with Driscoll since he seems to be absent most times I'm shopping. Though those trips to Scotland, Vegas, and France seem to take up a lot of his time...

    1. Keep in mind this happened in 2012, like thirteen whisky eons ago.

    2. I like the idea of whisky eons. 2012 was actually a good year for me since it's the only year/time I got a bottle of George T. Stagg.

      Incidentally, I recently bought a Signatory Highland Park 15 year that was all ex-bourbon cask.

    3. Please let me know what you think of that HP. Indie HPs are suddenly scarce and I saw a couple of those ~15yo HP Sigs last year.

    4. My only issue with it was the 46% ABV. I know Signatory wanted more bottles out of the release but this would have been more interesting at cask strength. It's definitely an ex-bourbon cask that I found very similar to official (and discontinued) HP 15 (citrus notes from American oak).

    5. Interesting. I'm sure the official 15 can be found for less here or there. These HP UCF Signatories seem to be going for around $100 now.

  2. Apparently, at some point in the mythical past you sent me a sample from this bottle. I found it last night. And right behind that sample I noticed a full, closed bottle of this very whisky which I must not have known I already owned when we did that swap. I'm hopeful that if I keep going I'll discover that I actually own the Highland Park distillery.

    Anyway, I'll probably review this one soon as well.

    1. Well, that might explain why they named you Edrington, Mr. Group.