...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Concluding the Highland Park cluster

This cluster wore me out. The comparisons were enlightening, and (even more importantly) I am not sick of Highland Park. This was also a good way to battle my significant Whisky Attention Deficit Disorder. But, still, the cluster structure feels a bit rigid. There's no room for improv nor inspiration. And I did miss all the other things. 

I'm going to recap and retire this cluster with some snippets of info. Since I have a decent sample size on hand, I'm going to analyze the data set using my always-consistent made-up scores!

Total Highland Parks - 28
Mean - 85.39
Median - 86
Mode - 90

Categories:

There was no easy way to split this group by age, especially since seven of the whiskies were 18 years old. Had I split them at the 20 year mark, the distance between the average score of the two categories would have widened. Even if I'd dropped the highest and lowest score for each column, the difference would have remained the same. Older Highland Park scored better.


It's a dead heat! The bourbon casks had the highest (91) and lowest (70) ratings in the set. But the key is that 70-point Old Malt Cask. For these numbers, I guessed it was from a bourbon cask, as it had many bourbon notes on the nose. Were it a sherry cask, then the bourbon cask set would have been slightly stronger. (Also, this group does not include the unaged HP.)


Another near tie. The OB scores had a tighter range and a smaller standard deviation than the indies. One could chalk that up to the variety between single casks.



The 1984 OMC wrecked the average for the '70s & '80s. Without that whisky, that group's average was nearly 89. With that one in the mix, the average scores between decades aren't that dissimilar, which is good news for those of us who can only afford 21st century Highland Park.


The official bottlings that fell below 50%abv were MUCH better than those above 50%abv, and that's what pushed the lightest category into first place. The violent style of the young sherry bombs resulted in the third column's low scores.



I get High-land Park with a little help from my friends.


Twenty-eight different whiskies averaging out to a B grade qualifies as a very nice thing. That this happened with Highland Park is not a big surprise. The distillery's whiskies vary style — a little more sherry influence here, more smoke there, some ocean, some farm, bit of fruit, etc. — but the usual result is at least very good, and I think the HPs in this cluster bear that out.

One more round of thank yous go out to my friends who donated samples to this effort! As you can see in that last table, those whiskies made a difference. Now I'm going to take a break from clusters for a short while in order to catch up on all the other things.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Highland Park 26 year old 1977 Hart Brothers

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

I feel like I'm limping across the finish line for this cluster. Part of the exhaustion is due to life and all the things. Part of it is 28 Highland Parks, with only a pair of brief breaks. Part of it is oh my god it's only Tuesday as I type this?

This cluster comes to a close with, no, not a Cadenhead dumpy nor one of those official single cask monsters from the early 1970s, but a Hart Brothers 1977 that passed through a sherry cask's innards at some point. What, you expected something sexy? What makes this blog sexy is its lack of sexiness. Yeah, that's the ticket.

The good news about this one is that, unlike the 1978, the Bros didn't water it down to 43%abv. They let it live at 46%abv. Perhaps they had a change in philosophy between 1996 and 2004.

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Finest Collection
Age: 26 years old (November 1977 - September 2004)
Maturation: "Sherry finish"
Outturn: ????
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(from a bottle split)

NOSE

Those nose is woody, but nicely so. Slightly toasted and kinda musty, like someone I know. But there's also plenty of ocean brine, fried plantains and roasted nuts. Maybe a hint of caramel to go with those plantains. After 30-ish minutes, a good combo of lime, burlap and coastal smoke arrives. The whisky changes a bit when reduced to 43%abv, with lemon, melon and basil up front; coal smoke in the back. Very mild overall.

Smoke, cayenne pepper, lemon and milk chocolate lead off the palate. The tannins roll right up to the too-much line without crossing it. With time in the glass, the whisky develops a slight medicinal note, which goes well with a solid mix of lemon candy and cayenne. The palate gets sweeter at 43%abv, while losing the citrus and gaining salt and bitterness.

The finish carries a moderate sweetness up front, from its citrus and honey, and a little bit of white pepper and acidity in the background. Diluted to 43%abv, the whisky finishes woodier, just holding onto the sweet citrus.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This Highland Park feels old school. It's not just the slightly creaky cask(s), nor its somewhat dusty quality; rather the sherry finish doesn't feel slathered on top, instead it's part of the whole. It's also a good thing the whisky was given those three extra alcohol points because it was collapsing as I reduced it, and may not have stood up to 17 years in a bottle. It's a good whisky, not tremendous, but a well made drink I'd be happy to pour at any time.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88 (neat only)

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Highland Park 27 year old 1984 The Whisky Agency

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

Monday's '84 Highland Park was......not what I had expected. But I carry on. Sometimes I really carry on. Ask my family or anyone I've ever worked with. You see, I have opinions about things. And so does the man in charge of the My Annoying Opinions blog. He generously provided me with today's sample from a bottle he opened for his _ _ birthday. You know what I opened for my last birthday? MALÖRT. Which I shared with Randy Brandy. Actually this sounds like a good sample swap...


Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: The Whisky Agency
Range: Bugs. Seriously, Bugs. Beautiful labels.
Age: 27 years old (1984 - 2011)
Maturation: Bourbon hogshead
Outturn: 222 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.5%
(Many thank yous to My Annoying Opinions!)

NOTES

The nose leads with ocean, cocoa, toasty oak and toasted nuts. Lemons and oranges. Wait, now I'm getting limes. And fresh basil leaf. Smoke arrives at the 45-minute mark, adding another great dimension. The elements merge well once the whisky is reduced to 46%abv. It gains some baking spices, but I find mostly nuts, malt and ocean, with a hint of grapefruit.

The palate has a stone fruit and salt combination that elicited from my face a sound, a wordless monosyllabic utterance that may have made passers-by turn their heads (and barf). A flawless balance of stones, sweetness, tartness and wood smoke arrives at the twenty minute mark, and remains for nearly an hour. Ocean notes and bitter herbs appear later, as does a white peach. At 46%abv, some more oak appears, but peaches and fresh apricots remain.

Its long finish holds dried leaves and dried grass, lemons, white peaches and a whiff of smoke. At 46%abv, the finish is simpler, a little earthier and sweeter perhaps.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Upon sniffing the whisky, I knew my recent streak of uninspiring whiskies was over. Yet I didn't think it was going to leap into 90-point territory. But then I actually tasted it, and yes it's excellent, especially when neat. The TWA folks dumped this cask at a great point, just as everything was in balance. If 25+ year old bourbon cask HPs were in my price range, this style is exactly what I'd seek out. Thank you, Mr. Opinions!

Availability - Secondary market?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90

Monday, September 13, 2021

Highland Park 16 year old 1984 Old Malt Cask

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

It's time to wrap up this cluster. There will (probably) be a flurry of three posts in three days because Yom Kippur arrives on Thursday. My hope is to provide a thoughtful recap of the cluster on Friday.

Today's HP was distilled in 1984. I only vaguely remember 1984. But then again, I only vaguely remember 2019. Anyway, Douglas Laing has bottled at least ten Highland Parks from the 1984 vintage, but this was the first. With its 750mL listing in Whiskybase, the whisky appears to have been bottled for the USA. It's great to know we were getting OMCs back then. Too bad I was shooting vodka with Coors Light chasers in those days. Too bad, indeed.

I'm kinda spilling the beans with this picture.

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: Douglas Laing
Range: Old Malt Cask
Age: 16 years old (May 1984 - July 2000)
Maturation: "Cask" (woo, that narrows it down)
Outturn: 270 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

For the first 30 minutes, the nose offers mothballs, metal, chalk, seaweed and apples. After that it takes a turn towards bourbon, with caramel, bananas and barrel char. Once the whisky is reduced to 43%abv, the nose turns simple, blendy, with hints of minerals, smoke and ocean.

The palate. SOAP. And also soap. Awkward Old Bottle Effect swoops around malt, sweet apples, bitterness and hints of oranges. The soap retreats a bit at 43%abv, only to be replaced by cardboard and tannins. It's a little sweeter, with more smoke and a touch of lemon.

It finishes with sweet citrus, OBE, cardboard and soap. At 43%abv, there's lemon, metal and cardboard.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This bottle was freshly opened when it was split up less than a year ago, so this isn't a case of a dusty going weird when met with years of oxygen. I also switched glasses twice. So it's the whisky.

There's a slight sample size issue when it comes to the Whiskybase community's opinion for this Highland Park. There are two ratings: a 91, and a 60. My take falls between the two, though closer to the latter. The palate is dramatically flawed with its soap, cardboard and heavy oaky bitterness. And though I tend to like Old Bottle Effect, it doesn't work well with any of the other characteristics in the palate. The nose doesn't do much to save it either, other than bringing the score up out of the 60s. I sincerely hope the last two HPs are better than this.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 70

Friday, September 10, 2021

Ben Nevis 32 year old 1971 Blackadder, cask 1626

Anniversary Week turned out a little wonky, so I've switched out today's planned pour for something that will either be weird or wonderful — frankly, I'll be happy with weird at this point — or both: a '71 Ben Nevis. I chose a diluted 26yo Ben Nevis as its sparring partner because I'm living large, y'all. Here it goes...

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Blackadder
Age: 32 years old (23 March 1971 - September 2003)
Maturation: oak hogshead
Cask #: 1626
Outturn: 296 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 45%
(sample from a bottle split)

NOTES

Ah, good news. The whisky got its Weird on, right at the start. The nose has its saline, toasted seaweed, elephant dung side. But it also has its malty, Yoo-hoo, raisin bran side. Fresh cut fennel and apricot jam keep their distance in the background.

The palate is a bit odd, but also rather flat. Worcestershire sauce, prunes and black pepper start things off. Some armagnac eau de vie, bitter chocolate and rubber move forward. Bananas and pumpernickel sit in the middle. At the 45 minute mark it shifts to a one-note bitterness.

It finishes with bitter chocolate. black pepper, rubber, sea salt and red grapes, with just a hint of cabbage in the back.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

It was indeed a little weird. But. None of the nose's interesting aspects carried into the palate. I'm not sure if this was a tired ex-sherry hoggie, or it was too aggressively diluted by bottler, but I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for the whisky to shift gears, and when it finally did that gear turned out only to be a generic oaky bitterness. I could have also done without the whole salty rubber thing. Ultimately this resulted in the consumption of more of the 26yo competitor. Oh well, it's time to switch back to the Highland Park cluster!

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ????
Rating - 81 (the nose kept this score up)

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Ten Years of Whisky Reviews + Balvenie 12 year old DoubleWood (2019)

I had already been dishing out #SingleMaltReports on Twitter for a few weeks before I posted my first whisky review here on September 8, 2011 (with admirably concise notes, I must say). The blog had been used for observations on film, music, sports, and the writing life before that; sort of a site for offline friends and Facebook "friends".

Diving for Pearls entered into the whisky blog game just as the single malt craze was blossoming. Since then I've watched age-stated and NAS whiskies rise and fall, formerly independent whisky writers do the industry's bidding as that same industry abandoned most of its loyal consumers for a newer, wealthier crowd, while producing products that appeal to my palate less and less with time.

While I do chase the occasional dusty, and resupply my cabinet with everyday sippers, I have not dished out funds for a fancy new release or new single cask since the pre-Covid era. Instead I've been joining bottle splits, which make up the majority of the reviews, or spending my money on other things. That's due to the two factors referenced above. I'm not interested in the worldwide focus on cask technology, nor do I care to pay the current prices for moderately-aged single cask scotch whiskies. Plus, my god, we whisky people have SO MANY BOTTLES already.

I've considered shutting the blog down, or at least pausing it, on a few occasions when personal matters became overwhelming, or when I went though a period of uninspiring tastings. But I never did stop. Writing this blog has led me to offline friendships, a few published reviews, some independent paid gigs, and a flood of dopamine.

I don't know how many more years this will continue. At this point the blog has returned to a tasting journal of mostly irrelevant whiskies — and the occasional Killing Whisky History video and Randy Brandy cameo — which suits me right now. To all those who are still reading, from the seasoned Boomers, to m-m-m-m-my whisky generation to the monied newbs: Thank you. Thank you for reading my words, for being my captive audience for a few minutes a few times a week. Your support means more than you will ever know.


Now to the whisky. Ten years ago today, my first review was of Balvenie 12 year old Doublewood, a regular presence in my tiny whisky cabinet back then. It's been at least six years since I've tasted Doublewood, so this will be a reintroduction between the two of us. Can we still be friends?

Distillery: Balvenie
Ownership: William Grant & Sons
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: American oak casks then Spanish oak sherry casks
Bottling year: 2019
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered: Yep
Colorant added: Yep
(from my bottle)

NOTES

Pear, honey and cassia lead off the nose and stay there for a while. After 20ish minutes, the golden raisins, apple juice and kiwis appear. Hints of prunes, flowers and kirsch stay in the background.

The palate is hotter than expected, yet has a watery mouthfeel. It's more sour than tart, but thankfully it doesn't get too sweet once the brown sugar arrives. Oranges and vanilla sit in the middle, a touch of molasses in the back.

Lumber, lemons and vanilla finish off the first few sips. Later sips gain dried apricots and just a little sweetness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Ten years ago I said Balvenie 12 year old DoubleWood "makes a great gateway Scotch." I cannot disagree with that now. But in previous decades this specific bottling's quality would have been topped by many 12 year old blends. There's not much going on in the glass(es). I'm not crazy about the oak in the finish nor the very thin texture, but the whisky never gets cloying nor too vanilla-ed. Water and ice bring out a little more raisiny fortified wine and bitterness. The second half of this bottle may find its way into highballs and cocktails because I can't summon up the interest to sip it neatly any further. I will move on.

Availability - Wide!
Pricing - $55 - $85 (what?)
Rating - 79

Monday, September 6, 2021

Banff 35 year old 1975 Duncan Taylor Rarest of the Rare, cask 3350

This week will mark the Highland Park cluster's last interruption. Wednesday will bring a surprising but mathematically correct anniversary, so please excuse this brief diversion. The cluster will restart a week from today.

I've always been a big fan of Banff. When it's good, it's as great as most of the beloved dead distilleries. When it's done wrong, well, I haven't had one of those yet. This is my last Banff sample. I don't foresee taking part in any future Banff bottle splits, because even those have become hella pricey. So let us (the royal 'us') close out the Banff experience with the longest-aged Banff I've ever Banffed, a 35yo from DT's warehouses.


Distillery: Banff
Ownership: DCL (proto-Diageo)
Independent Bottler: Duncan Taylor
Range: Rarest of the Rare
Region: Speyside (Deveron)
Age: 35 years old (November 1975 - March 2011)
Maturation: ???
Cask #: 3350
Outturn: 289 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 45.4%
(sample from a bottle split)

NOTES

The nose is loaded with coal, coal stoves, chimneys, hot charcoal. There's some steel wool and saline in the background. But it's not all industry. Mango and guava juices ride up front with the coal. Yuzu, honey and shortbread biscuits drift across the periphery.

Sadly, the palate does not continue the narrative initiated by the nose. The first two sips begin respectably, with salt, bitter herbs, weed, copper, sweet oranges and nectarines. But then things go tannic. Very tannic. It becomes difficult to see beyond the oak. Perhaps some metal and citrus remain.

It has a mild finish. A little smoky and salty, with a bit of orange candy. But then the tannins move in.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This Banff's pinot grigio color gave me some high hopes, expectations that were bolstered by the nose. But then the palate revealed that this cask was as tired as I was at age 35. (I had my first newborn then, so that was my excuse.) Perhaps the whisky overstayed its welcome for a decade or so, or maybe this was always going to be a difficult cask. Taking the outturn and ABV into consideration, this was either a hoggie that abandoned its alcohol, or a wonky refill sherry butt, leaking everything. The spirit is still there in the nose, so a solid cask plus great management could have resulted in something gorgeous. But that was not the whisky's fate.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ????
Rating - 82

Friday, September 3, 2021

Killing Whisky History, Episode 36: King's Ransom, bottled 1957-1960

Killing Whisky History returns with Mafia whisky!

The episode has a slightly new look, but keeps the same format. So don't worry, you can still watch me drink in between the talking.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Highland Park 25 year old, 48.1%abv edition

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

Over the span of two decades, Highland Park gradually diluted their 25 year old release from 53.5%abv to 45.7%abv. I've tried the 50.7% and 48.1% bottlings on a few occasions, and always liked them more than the 30yo. Before I review my sample below, I'd like to encourage anyone who has open bottles of those whiskies to share or split 'em, because they need to be tried by newbies and experienced drinkers alike. The whiskies are not standard sherry bombs.

I think this particular sample of the 48.1% comes from around the 2006-2007 era when the bottle shape changed, and the ABV dropped a couple points.

Some of the blogger's photos are getting as desperate
as Sy Snootles.
Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Age: minimum 25 years old
Bottled: 2006-2007?
Maturation: likely a mix of Oloroso casks
Alcohol by Volume: 48.1%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

A nexus of dirty stones, ocean air and mild smoke leads the nose. Beneath that, one may find guava, apricot and yellow peaches. Beneath that are hints of toffee pudding and damp basements.

The bold palate has the nose's mix of stones, smoke and salt, while also taking on dunnage and musty casks (with minimal tannins). Smoked chipotles gradually turn into fresh Serranos. It also has a dragonfruit note, which I'm only referencing because I ate a dragonfruit this week. There's a good balance of mild bitterness and mild sweetness throughout.

Tart fruits roll forward in the finish joining with chile oils, making it quite zesty. Hints of dunnage and Oloroso here and there. Sweet oranges appear after the final sips.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

These 25+ year old sherry cask Highland Parks I've reviewed are all excellent, and any one of them could top the others depending on the mood or environment, so I'm just parsing minutiae at this point. In regards to this official 25yo Highland Park, I'm in agreement with My Annoying Opinions, Whiskyfun and Whiskynotes, the lively whisky packs a wallop into every sip. Any moneyed individual looking for Smooth will make whiskyfaces when trying this. Kudos to HP (15 years ago) for offering a fighter at this age range.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - €350-€450
Rating - 90

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Birthday Booze: Highland Park 33 year old 1978

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

Alas, I conclude the hybrid birthday/cluster situation with an official 1978, with an unknown outturn, created for Travel Retail back in 2011. The cask type was not disclosed, but I'll tell you right here: it's sherry. Monday's 1978 was good, but a little weak. I have higher hopes for this one.

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Age: 33 years old (1978-2011)
Maturation: probably sherry cask(s)
Outturn: ????
Exclusive to: Travel Retail
Alcohol by Volume: 47.8%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

Black walnuts, incense, nutmeg and ancient oak fill the nose at the start. Hints of honey and candied pecans float at the periphery. After 30+ minutes, vibrant notes of charred orange peel, kelp and maple sugar arrive. It's reminiscent of old woody (think L'Encantada) Armagnac.

On the palate, it's a black walnut liqueur aged in a bold sherry butt. Layers of wood spice, toasted bitter nuts and sandalwood fill the mid- and foreground. Pipe smoke, grapefruit and Cointreau appear here and there at the edges.

Musty oak, cigars, salt and a hint of grapefruit finish it up.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This is 90% cask, but I like it, especially the nose, which treads close to old sherry cask Yamazaki. Had the palate's background notes of citrus and pipe smoke been louder and the wood quieter, then I'd be trying to figure out how many points higher than 90 the whisky would score. But an old whisky's palate, and especially the finish, often reveal the naked truth about the cask. This whisky's conclusion was good, but limited, a bit shorter than I'd expected. There's still something grand about the whisky, as one can feel its age throughout. But it's starting to get creaky around the joints, as if it were 43 years old.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - over €1000
Rating - 89

Monday, August 30, 2021

Birthday Booze: Highland Park 18 year old 1978 Hart Brothers

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

Look at that: Birthday Booze + Highland Park Cluster all in one. I wish I could say that I'd planned it just like this many months ago, but......yeah let's just pretend.

I've tried a number of whiskies from the Hart Brothers, but for some reason I have never reviewed one here. [Update: This is not true. I reviewed a Hart Brothers whisky, an HP no less, in 2018.] So I'll start (and end?) my Hart Bros reviews with a tough one to top, an 18yo HP from 1978. Though Hart currently focuses on cask strength bottlings, with some 46%abv releases mixed in, the bottlers used to offer up 43%abv whiskies in previous decades, back when Gordon & MacPhail was doing the same.

Because this was (probably) a bourbon cask release, I didn't pair it up with an official 18yo. Instead it was matched up with my newly beloved 21yo G&M single cask bottling reduced to 43%abv. How would the 1978 fare in comparison?

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Finest Collection
Distillation year: 1978
Age: minimum 18 years old
Maturation: ??
Outturn: ????
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

This is the citronella-est whisky I've ever nosed. There's also plenty of lemon zest and whole wheat bread up front. Fresh herbs and light smoke merge in the middle. Anise and a slight grassiness fill the background.

Orange zest fills the palate, with fresh herbs just underneath. Toasted grains and mild sweetness appear next. Cigar smoke and dusty leather show up after 20+ minutes.

Lemon candy, lemon juice, sea salt and cigar smoke form the simple but decent length finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This would be a very good everyday drinker. There are no missteps and each element works together with moderate depth. It's all very friendly and the whisky disappears quickly. But as always, this drinker wonders what this whisky would have been like at 46%abv or higher. Still, the diluted 21yo has much more complexity and character at 43%abv, so water isn't the only thing to blame for this 1978's muted shine.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86

Friday, August 27, 2021

Birthday Booze: Speyside Region 43 year old 1973 The Whisky Agency

I don't know why I chose a pair of 43 year old whiskies, because I'm only turning 23 this week. Heh heh. Heh. Ugh.

Monday's 43yo was a strange lovely thing, a Cognac cask-matured Glenfarclas. Today's whisky is a "Speyside Region". Whiskybase lists it as a "blended malt", while the bottle label just says "Malt" (neither single nor blended). It may or may not be from Glenfarclas, it may or may not be from a fino cask. I'll drink the thing no matter what, but these games aren't very fun.

This whisky is quite beloved by many of those who have consumed it, including Ruben and Serge, who both gave it a 93-point score. I tried a 41yo 1975 fino cask "Speyside Region" two years ago and was underwhelmed. Perhaps it was just me, as my score is tied for the lowest on that 41yo's Whiskybase page, but that experience will keep my enthusiasm for this 43yo in check, unless the whisky changes my mind. Please change my mind, whisky.

Distillery: Glen Fart Glass?
Region: Speyside (maybe)
Independent Bottler: The Whisky Agency
Age: 43 years old (1973 - 2017)
Maturation: a butt of some sort
Outturn: 568 bottles
Exclusive to: The Whisky Exchange
Alcohol by Volume: 47.4%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

This is definitely not a sherry bomb. Instead the nose begins with brine, mango, basil and graceful old oak. It gets fruitier with time, but I can't pin down the exotic fruit. There are some white nectarines and blueberry pies involved, though. Some citronella around the edges. A dash of Pecorino Romano as well.

Woo, it has some fight left in it. Citrus peels, cinnamon sticks and tons of very dark chocolate on the palate. It balances a peppery burst with baking spices (dried ginger and whole cloves), while an autumnal forest floor note gradually builds with time.

It finishes with eucalyptus, yuzu, honey, dried ginger and cloves.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This was much better than the 41yo "Speyside Region", or at least I think it was, per my notes of the 41. I did try it side by side with the Cognac cask 'Farclas, and I loved them both. The official Farclas came out on top due to its dazzling unique style, but this 43yo Mystery Meat is excellent. Its success is due to the cask —as it usually is with spirits of a certain age — which I'm inclined to believe was indeed a fino sherry butt, and possibly not a first fill at that. Happy Friday, everyone!

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - Oh my goodness
Rating - 90

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Randy Brandy drinks Malört

Kravitz thinks he's getting his revenge by subjecting me, Randy Brandy, to Malört. But the joke's on him. I'm going to take this review seriously.

What is Malört?

I actually have no idea, so you should watch this official video for more information. (Yeah that's right, I used a hyperlink. And italics.) All I know is that Chicagoans view Malört with a mixture of pride and utter embarrassment, as they do with their baseball teams, pizza, and Democrat mayors.

The Packaging

Gotta admire the graphic design going on with this six-shooter. The predominant yellow-green mucus, contrasting with the red almost-a-Nazi-emblem eagle.


Each mini has the classy plastic bottle and cap combo used for decades by failed brands that wind up in the 99¢ bin. And what is this? WHAT. IS. THIS.


Why is this legal? There's more alcohol in my cirrhosis medication.

Let's see what else these marketing geniuses put on the box.


Only "two-fisted drinkers"? What about one-fisted drinkers? Like all the people who lost an arm in a Malort fight?

Or a Malort fire?

Or a Malort fuck. Definitely a Malort fuck. I think you’re obligated to lose a limb in a Malort fuck.

Oops, I forgot to put the omelet over the Ö. (Kravitz, don't edit those omelets back in.)

The actual Malört part

COLOR - So the liquid has color to it. Is it supposed to have color? It's just ethanol and "botanicals". So where's that yellowish shade, like rusty water, coming fr......oh, that makes sense.

NOSE - It smells like hand sanitizers which smell like shit vodka which smell like hand sanitizers. Also ammonia.

PALATE - Wwwwwwwhat. Why. Why would anyone.

It's all chemical fires, copper wires, and junkyard tires. And hatred. Pure, radiant hatred. It's so hateful, Malört should review me.

FINISH - Vomiting after taking psilocybin or peyote may assist with the process (allegedly). But when taking Malört, vomiting won't help you because Malört tastes like bile. Early morning empty stomach dry heave bile, with the same yellowish tint, the color of impending death or cyborg piss. But I repeat myself.

Further thoughts

I'm going to go find some strychnine to get this flavor out of my mouth. Someone told me I'd taste grapefruit in Malört. Yeah, maybe if the grapefruit was raped by Mr. Clean. I'll drink anything once. Okay twice. Now Kravitz, you can have the other four shotskis of this Socialist poison back. A little Skål for your skull, you asshole. There better be an apology awaiting me. And some cognac.

RATING: Ö

Monday, August 23, 2021

Birthday Booze: Glenfarclas 43 year old Cognac Cask matured

I interrupt your regularly scheduled Highland Park cluster program with birthday booze! Sorry, folks, it's an annual thing. There will be both curios and sensible choices this year. Today's whisky fits into both categories.

Bottled in May of 2010, thus distilled in 1967 or earlier, this Glenfarclas comes with a label that doesn't specify whether the whisky spent its entire life in cognac casks or just a smaller portion of its maturation time (though it may be related to this bottling). Having now completed the tasting, I'm going to posit that it very well may have been the former. It is unlike any whisky or brandy I've tried.

Distillery: Glenfarclas
Ownership: J&G Grant
Region: Speyside (Central)
Age: minimum 43 years old (1967? - 14 May 2010)
Maturation: Cognac casks
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 40.7%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

It's a lovely, earthy, old hybrid spirit in the nose. At first, it's papaya, toffee, toasted walnuts and toasted oak. Then it picks up notes of Sauternes and dried cheese. (No I'm not going to say "rancio".) Then dried rosemary and coriander. After an hour it's funky honey and a worn out dollar bill.

The palate begins with gentle old oak, honeycomb and ripple of lime zest. Then, for almost twenty minutes, it is liquid honey. At the 43-ish minute mark, it shifts gears, taking on black licorice, dark chocolate and menthol, with hints of cigarettes, apricots and loquats in the background. The figs arrive, floating around in then honey after an hour.

It has a long full finish with the figs and honey arriving after the first sips, 30 minutes in. Bitter chocolate-covered pennies and sweet oranges appear later on.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I wonder if the whisky world will ever see anything like this again. If so, it would have to come from a relatively independent distillery like Glenfarclas. Hopefully someone tries it, because the resulting quality of this experiment was very high.

Like the ultra-aged G&M Glen Grants, this Glenfarclas registers gloriously rich even at 40.7%abv. It was almost profanely honeyed in the mouth; then fruits (figs and -quats), ancient oak and a puff of smoke join in, making each small sip fascinating. But that's nothing compared to the nose, where it was a glass-bound but puckish changeling, destined to sprout wings and fly away if I let it sit any longer.

Which is to say, I kinda liked the stuff.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - About 3x-4x its original price. Time machine, people!
Rating - 92

Friday, August 20, 2021

Highland Park 28 year old 1988 Cadenhead Small Batch

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

Welcome to the 1980s, the decade that never ever goes away! I'm going to duck in and out of the '80s over the rest of the cluster. I'm hoping that's a good thing when it comes to Highland Park single malts.

The 1988 Highland Park vintage releases have been well received by the much-read and much-supplied online reviewers. A few of these '88 HPs made it to The States, though all I know about them is that their color was dark and their prices high, and often the latter is linked to the former. I won't deny that I dreamed of someday trying one. And now look at me living my dreams! This whisky was sold in the US, is of a color that would tickle the fancy of many, and was priced somewhere between $300 and $400. As if I could restrain my expectations...

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Small Batch (as in one cask)
Age: 28 years old (1988 - 2016)
Maturation: sherry butt
Outturn: 480 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 55.5%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

Yeah, it does what it says on the label. The nose starts off with salty peated toffee pudding, then chocolate melting in the double boiler. Then there's the white fungus growing all over Cadenhead's dunnages, followed by a bit of meat, and a hint of burlap. The peat stands up to the hefty cask throughout. Reducing it to 46%abv brings out plenty of new characteristics. There's whole cloves, fruity cinnamon, barbecue smoke, toasted seaweed, and cherry pie (filling and crust!). There's even a hint of watermelon Jolly Rancher in the background.

This whisky reminds me that I have not had many 25+ year old sherried whiskies recently. Nuts, briny peat and mild cigar start off the palate. Fresh berries and black cherry soda (essences, not the sugar) arrive later, followed by fresh in-season black plums. At 46%abv the big smoke stands up to the big sherry cask, and they align nicely. Oranges, serrano chiles and yellow nectarines fill out the background.

The peat continues to build into the finish. A charcoal barbecue at the park. Machine shop. Plums and sea salt. At 46%abv the finish holds onto that mix of chiles, sweet fruit and muscular smoke.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Now if Highland Park's contemporary single casks were like this......they'd be $1000. But this is great. The cask is loud, but it's a honey. And the smoke is impressively fierce at this age. This style would probably appeal to Glendronach "single cask" and old Macallan fans, if they're not afraid of smoke. I don't foresee ever spending this sort of cash on a bottle (don't look at what the 1988s go for on The Secondary), but if I did it would have to meet this standard at minimum. If you picked up a bottle when it first came out, please enjoy your indulgence and spread the love.

Availability - Not in the primary market
Pricing - It's not real money, right?
Rating - 90

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Highland Park 22 year old 1990 AD Rattray, cask 577

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

Let's bid the '90s adieu with today's sherry butt from the AD Rattray folks. I'm not sure what my expectations are for this whisky. ADR has had awful sherry casks and excellent sherry casks. This particular liquid has a moderate gold tint (ignore the terrible pic below), so perhaps it wasn't a dead butt, and perhaps it won't be ultra-tannic. Perhaps I'll just be moderately geeked for this.

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: A.D. Rattray
Age: 22 years old (3 December 1990 - 17 April 2013)
Maturation: sherry butt
Cask number577
Outturn: 565 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58.1%
(from a purchased sample)

NOTES

The nose has so much burn that I have to leave it alone for 30 minutes. After that I find toasted nuts and Corn Nuts. Ocean and caramel. Hints of flower blossoms and Chambord. There's also some butterscotch and apricot, but one has to plow through the heat to find it. Diluted to 46%abv, the whisky is more navigable. Green apples, dried apricots and vanilla pudding up front, toasted oak in the back.

The palate is very hot and very salty. Limes, raspberries and cayenne pepper fill in the midground. Winey tannins in the background. Again, it's more accessible at 46%abv. It's still peppery, salty and tart, but there are some new sweeter apple notes. It's more dusty than smoky.

My notes for the finish match those of the palate. At 46%abv, it's all black pepper and sweet apples.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This one underwhelmed, especially compared to the Highland Parks that precede and follow it in this cluster. It reads like a second- or third-fill butt that was not re-seasoned like many "refill" sherry butts today. It's reminiscent of those brutal green glass Cadenheads from days of yore, not in terms of quality, but in terms of burn. Once diluted, it's more comfy, but never more than that, reading like something that could have gone into a batch of Famous Grouse. For a different angle. see the Whiskybase community's enthusiasm.

Availability - Long gone
Pricing - ???
Rating - 82 (diluted only)

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Highland Park 21 year old 1992 Gordon & MacPhail (my bottle)

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

I had to open up something for this cluster, and this bottle had "FFS, Open Me" written all over it. I found this thing sitting on a shelf six years after it arrived in the US, at its original price. It wasn't cheap, but it also wasn't much more expensive than the rebranded official 18yo "Viking Pride". That's a win, nowadays. It's from a refill American hogsheads, which was the main reason I was able to find it at all. Scotch taters ain't climbin' over each other for a hoggie.


Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Cask Strength
Age: 21 years old (2 September 1992 - 14 January 2014)
Maturation: Refill American Hogshead
Alcohol by Volume: 56.1%
(from my bottle, from the top third)

NOTES

The nose begins with so much fruit: guava, grapefruit and apricots. Then soil, wet sand and kelp. A little bit of dunnage in the background. Horseshit. I mean, actual horse poop. Diluted to 46%abv, the nose is positively loaded with stone fruits and tropical fruits. Gravel, citronella and ground cloves in the middle. Almond extract and dunnage in the background.

Oh my, the palate has the nose's guavas and grapefruits. And mango! And yuzu (you knew that was coming)! The fruits merge with minerals, hay, toasted sunflower seeds and almonds. At 46%abv, the palate is slightly peater and tarter, more of a fighter. A swirl of sweet mango and tart guava juices in the background.

Perfect balance of sweet and tart fruits in the finish. Then there's gravel, crisp smoke and a farmy hint. It gets smoker once reduced to 46%abv, with plenty of tart limes and yuzus to back it up.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Was this one of those secret casks we weren't supposed to talk about? Well, it's been seven years, so...

This is fabulous. This is the American oak cask to beat for the whole HP cluster. It's exactly what I hope for when trying a non-sherried Highland Park. The nose has all the good things working together in unison, then somehow the palate mirrors it. It's probably the guava-est whisky I've ever had.

How much did I like it? Well, I consumed it so enthusiastically during the tasting that I had to delay this post for a day. I wanted to write about it with a clearer head, but here I am raving about a whisky coming from my own cabinet.

Availability - USA, though it might be sold out
Pricing - $180-$250
Rating - 91

Friday, August 13, 2021

Undisclosed Orkney Distillery 21 year old 1999 Infrequent Flyers, cask 5743

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

I tend not to review whiskies that were solely aged in Pedro Ximenez casks because that style does not appeal to my palate. So what I have here today is a whisky doubly aged in Pedro Ximenez casks. Yes, this is a single cask (a debatable phrase to begin with) that was aged first in a PX cask, and then aged for a second period of time in a second PX cask. As in Yo Dawg I Heard You Like......etc.

It's also maroon colored. So all I have to say is

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: Alistair Walker Whisky Company
Range: Infrequent Flyers
Age: 21 years old (1999 - 2020)
Maturation: PX Sherry Puncheon, then PX Sherry Finish
Cask number5743
Outturn: 674 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.0%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

I find nothing but prune juice and Worcestershire sauce on the nose for the first ten minutes or so. Smoky ham and grape jam follow next. Then milk chocolate, rosewater and pickle brine. Once the whisky is diluted to 43%abv, the nose turns both meaty and sugary, and slightly farty. Ocean brine, copper and bubblegum linger in the background.

Meanwhile, the palate isn't too sweet. It has a decent HP peatiness, notes of ginger beer and table red wine perch in the middle, hints of grilled brined poultry and herbal bitterness in the background. At 43%abv, it's salty and smoky with tart berries up front, savoriness and sweetness in the back.

The finish is sweeter than the palate. It also has both tart and bitter citrus notes and a little bit grape jam. The smoke seems to have vanished. When reduced to 43%abv, it gets ashy and savory.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

At least this was an experience. The nose was even loonier than The Dark, making me worried about about the palate. But the palate turned out to be straight-laced in comparison. It was savory and gamey rather than grape jammy, if you'll allow the words. The smoke integrated well, and the finish wasn't half bad. I would even considering sipping it again. But maybe not a third time. And that's about as high of a compliment as you'll find me paying a PXed whisky. 

Availability - Probably sold out
Pricing - €150-€210 (I think)
Rating - 84

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Undisclosed Orkney Distillery 20 year old 1999 Infrequent Flyers, cask A324-4

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

I was going to start this post with a paragraph-long diatribe about how disappointing this cluster has been, but then I went back and actually looked at the reviews and realized I had nothing to be disappointed about. What did I really expect from those three 64+%abv sherried creatures? Meanwhile, this series has already included three 89-90 point whiskies, and the cluster as a whole averages well above this blog's mean score. So I should save my complaints for something more important, like my terrible electric cooktop. It's terrible.

Started by Alistair Walker (formerly of Tobermory, Benriach, and Glendronach distilleries) in 2018, the Infrequent Flyers range has rolled at least forty single casks into the market in just over two years. Like most indie bottlers, Walker has been burdened by the whole "Undisclosed Distillery" situation; with about 18% of AWWC's whiskybase listings showing that U-word on their labels. I will be reviewing two of the Orkneys, one today, one on Friday.

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: Alistair Walker Whisky Company
Range: Infrequent Flyers
Age: 20 years old (1999 - October 2019)
Maturation: Hogshead
Cask numberA324 #4
Outturn: 303 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.1%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

At the start, this cask shows it's related to Monday's HP, with Frosted Flakes and toasted grains and nuts on the nose. But then it turns directly to a salt+pepper+ocean note that reads Talisker-esque. More character appears with time: roses, citronella, cotton candy, white peaches and stroopwafel. Dropping the abv to 43% neither damages nor improves matters. The roses, white peaches and stroopwafel remain. Some kiwis show up, as does a hint of incense smoke.

Dried oregano and tangy lemons appear first in the palate, followed by peppercorns, barley and moderate smoke. Hints of wort and ultra-bitter IPA hide in the background. Again, nothing changes much once the whisky is reduced to 43%abv. There's a little more smoke and dried herbs, and perhaps a hint of metal, but otherwise it's the same.

Black pepper, herbal bitterness and a slight yeasty worty note make up most of the finish, with a lemony smoke aftertaste. At 43%abv, this finish matches the palate, aside from a little bit of tart stone fruit.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

When tried side-by-side with Monday's 18yo Orkney, this 20yo won out. This one actually read younger, not like a dead cask, but rather closer to the spirit, a thing I like. As noted above, it felt like Talisker's cousin with its coastal peppery style. If the palate had some of the nose's fruits, I'd be drooling all over my keyboard. Without those fruits, this whisky stalls at the Quite Solid Stuff stage. It's a decent altitude, but Highland Park can frequently fly much higher.

See what I did there? Yeah, I know, amazing.

Availability - Pretty close to selling through in Europe
Pricing - €135-€190
Rating - 85

Monday, August 9, 2021

Stones of Stenness 18 year old 1999 Single Cask Nation, cask 453

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

This week brings three we-can't-call-it-Highland-Park Highland Parks distilled in 1999. I think all the cluster's HPs after this week were deemed satisfactory enough to carry the distillery's name, or were bottled before this no-name foolishness began.

Today's bourbon barrel-aged Highland Park was bottled by Single Cask Nation. Since they couldn't call it Highland Park, the fellas named it after an ancient Orkney henge, Stones of Stenness, not to be confused with the Stones of Dennis.

Stone placement is ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting by a simple majority.

Now onto another farcical aquatic ceremony.

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: Single Cask Nation
Age: 18 years old (November 1999 - May 2018)
Maturation: bourbon barrel
Cask number453
Outturn: 186 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 54.8%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

The nose begins pleasantly. Grains and nuts. Apple pie, Frosted Flakes and a snuffed cigar. After 20+ minutes, it gains a briny peat note, and some peach peels. Reducing it down to 43%abv, brings out more fruit, specifically peach juice and dried apricots. No smoke, maybe some almond extract. Reminds me of Glenburgie.

Black pepper dominates the palate, with barley and herbal bitterness somewhere in the middle. Lime popsicles and ash in the background. Sadly, the palate does not get fruiter when diluted to 43%abv. Instead it gets bitterer and tarter, with a metallic note in the background.

There's more smoke in the finish, less pepper, more lime popsicles. At 43%abv, it's bitterer, smokier and drying.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

The nose engages at full and reduced strength, holding onto its vibrancy even after 45 minutes. It was a cool, retro choice not to finish this whisky in a juicy second cask, instead releasing it as is. But (I can't believe I'm saying this), I don't think a secondary maturation would have hurt it. The palate needs a boost. It could have used some of the nose's fruits and nuts, or maybe a few years in a moderate sherry cask, or even a rich bourbon cask. I'm not sure that more time in this particular barrel would have added anything positive. Still, kudos to SCN for bottling a nude Highland Park.

Availability - Sold out?
Pricing - $190-$210 (wat?)
Rating - 82

Friday, August 6, 2021

Highland Park 20 year old 1999 Duncan Taylor, cask 501101

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

My lone dip into the '90s during the first half of the Highland Park cluster was a successful one, my favorite single cask of the cluster so far, an 18yo bourbon barrel from G&M. Now I'm going back to that decade for the next six reviews, four of which are for the same vintage: 1999.

I had thought this Duncan Taylor was from a hoggie, but the bottle count tells otherwise. 708 750mL bottles is quite an outturn for one vessel. That's 531 liters of liquid, after 20 years of maturation. So that's bigger than a butt. Perhaps it was a puncheon. Duncan Taylor's usual "Aged in Oak Casks", remains deeply unhelpful, so let's go with "Giant Sherry Cask", unless they seasoned a gorda with bourbon.

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: Duncan Taylor
Range: Dimensions
Age: 20 years old (June 1999 - August 2019)
Maturation: ???
Cask number: 501101
Outturn: 708 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53%
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

The nose shows more oak than sherry, specifically a layer of toasted oak right on the top. Yuzu candy and ocean/brine float through the midground, with hints of roses and pilsner in the back. It leans more towards earth and stones than smoke. It develops notes of brown sugar and walnuts with time. Once reduced to 46%abv it takes on a lovelier funkier fruit note, like that of stone fruits getting overripe on the kitchen counter in summer. The brine, yuzu and earth notes remain, while a malty note shows up later on.

The palate begins with smoke, sugar, almonds, pecans and tart oranges. After 30 minutes, it takes an almost dire turn towards an aggressive woody bitterness. Woody smoke and tart berries in the background. It improves when diluted to 46%abv, picking up more tangy citrus and Juicy Fruit gum. The bitterness and smoke calm down.

It finishes tart, bitter, peppery and smoky. It gets tangier and saltier at 46%abv, and much less bitter.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This Highland Park puzzled when neat. The nose was great, the palate/finish was not. Something seemed to have gone awkward with the (likely very) refill cask and its very pale whisky. Dropping it to 46%abv fixed many of the issues. It still nosed much better than it tasted, but at least it was a solid drink when diluted. It's not an HP I'd hustle after, but I can see how (at 43%abv) it could fit into a batch of the official 18 year old.

Availability - Possibly still available
Pricing - $170-$200
Rating - 84 (diluted only, probably in the 70s when neat)

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Assessing the Highland Park cluster at the halfway point

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

"Distillery character" is a term tossed about by writers who know what they're talking about, and writers who don't. As My Annoying Opinions detailed six(!) years ago, the term is fluid, a construction, and certainly not clear cut. Styles at some distilleries, like those who focus on sherried whiskies (Macallan, Glendronach, Glenfarclas, Dalmore, etc.), seem to be driven by cask sourcing and management programs, rather than what comes out of the stills. Some shift with ownership changes, like Ledaig/Tobermory and Bowmore. Others seem to be running away from a once famous style, like Ardbeg (towards dog and pony shows) and Laphroaig (towards......?). Then there's Glenmorangie, where Bill Lumsden is the distillery character.

That brings me to Highland Park. Back when the official releases centered around the 12yo, 15yo (R.I.P.) and 18yo, I thought I had a sense of HP's style: soft peat and citrus peels merging flawlessly with mild sherry casks. Today's its character is......Nordic? In the process of tossing out dozens of releases, the distillery seems to pushing for branding more than consistency. It doesn't seem to have hurt their sales (though who's rushing out to buy their NASes?), so I doubt they'll switch tracks any time soon.

If (or when) I reference HP's distillery style during this cluster, I'm referencing something close to the spirit. Not the naked new make, but rather a whisky not overwhelmed by its maturation vessel. That's my preference in general, which is why this cluster isn't just a bunch of Orkney sherry bombs.

Out of the six high-strength sherry cask Highland Parks I've tried during this cluster so far, I'd only buy one, with cask violence being the main issue with the others. Meanwhile, I'd be happy to chase after three out of the four bourbon cask HPs thus far. That trio mixes fruit, earth, minerals, salt and a little smoke just right. But my favorite of the first 15 Highland Parks may be the official 18yo that was bottled back in 2010. It's kind of perfect, with that style I thought I'd find more often during this cluster, a style that may not actually exist.

As with the Port Charlotte cluster, my expectations have been blown to bits, though much earlier in this cluster. There aren't as many through-lines connecting the whiskies as I'd thought there would be. I'll keep my whisky antennae up for the style I thought I'd find, as well as the good stuff I actually did experience in the bourbon casks. But the second half of the cluster leads to older things, whiskies that have drawn character from the cask over more years than the younglings from the first half. I'll have to say goodbye to the spirit and indulge instead in my adventures in time. I'm willing to make that sacrifice.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Highland Park The Dark 17 year old

(Highland Park cluster homepage)

Yeah, so maybe I did say I wouldn't review any of the semi-recent gimmicky Highland Parks, but I couldn't pass up an official high-strength teenage sherry cask concoction. It's a pretty big batch too — 28000 bottles worth — so I'd love to find out what sort of HP Mean they arrived at.

So here it is, The Dork. Oh my bad, The Dark. With a name like that, one would expect something coffee-colored like the brutal official single casks, but instead the whisky has a copper hue. That's a good omen.

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Location: Orkney
Maturation: sherry-seasoned European oak casks
Age: 17 years
Release year: ca. 2017
Outturn: 28,000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.9%
(Thanks to Dr. Springbank for the sample!)

NOTES

The nose is all over the place. Peated Twizzlers, spicy cigars, A&W root beer, Dr. Brown's cream soda, moss, mango juice and almond cookies. It is expressive.

The palate's first beat is fruity and floral, but then the second beat is all aggro casks, bitter and heavy. It does find a crazy middle ground: bitter, smoky, sweet, sorta floral, sorta musty.

It finishes with cigars and cream soda. Hints of bitterness, sweetness, mustiness and citrus linger around the edges.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

How on earth did they end up with this result with such a sizable batch? Did they just have a weirdo parcel of 50-100 casks of 2000 distillate, and needed to find them a home? Were blenders involved at any point? And, again, Highland Park is perfectly okay attaching their name to THIS, but not scores of lovely indie single casks?

All of that being said, I like this whisky more than I should. It's strange and messy enough to be of interest. A bit extreme and never boring, The Dark is also quite drinkable. Were it half its price, I'd encourage people to try it. Not because it's from Highland Park (I can't find any Highland Park in this Highland Park), rather because it's a silly thing, and we need silly things.

Availability - It's still around, four years later
Pricing - $250-$400 (USA), $225-$350 (Europe)
Rating - 83