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Monday, July 26, 2021

Highland Park 13 year old 2004 SMWS 4.249

(Highland Park cluster homepage)  

I return, momentarily, to the high strength sherried Highland Park fad, with a botting from SMWS. It's sort of a cousin of the swollen duo I reviewed two weeks ago, except this time the HP is from a refill oloroso butt. The review will be conducted backwards again, with the highest dilution first and the uncut version last, that way I don't torch my face too early.

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 13 years (31 May 2004 - 2018)
Maturation: refill Oloroso sherry butt
Cask#: 4.249
Outturn: 592 bottles
Cask "name": The mermaid marmalade
Alcohol by Volume: 64.6%
(from a bottle split)


The nose is remarkably hot for the abv. I get burnt bark and burnt leaves, then ocean air, vanilla and toffee. The palate starts with ash, charred veg, charred meat, burnt nuts and bitter oak. After 30 minutes some plum candy appears, lifting the palate a bit. It finishes with smoke, salt, maybe some limes and a lot of the burnt stuff.

Not great, Bob! It's fierce, but it's also one of the more carcinogenic-tasting things I've ever sipped. Perhaps the mermaid scalded the hell out of the fruits?

DILUTED TO 57%abv (100 UK proof)

At first the nose is all seashells, cinnamon, hay and a whiff of peat smoke......but mostly the burnt stuff, again. It gains notes of rope and dried currants after 30+ minutes. Meanwhile, the palate is more interesting than the nose. It's more herbal and quite smoky. There's some anise and smoked almonds. Lots of salt throughout. It finishes with heat, hay, dark chocolate and tangy smoke.

It's much better here on the palate, but the nose still has that scorched planet note that would work if anything offset it or balanced it out. But nothing does. Yet it does drink much better than the 43%abv version.


There's a considerable ocean/coastal presence in the nose. Is that supposed to be "The mermaid"? But there's also dark chocolate that fades into brownies, with time. Then some farmy peat and grape jam. The palate is hot, tangy, salty and as aggressive as one would expect. Some dried herbs and bitter veg drift through the background, but not much else. The finish is hot, tangy and loaded with ground black pepper.

Great nose! The palate......needs some water?


This is what I like to call Late-Imperialist Whisky; it tries to conquer through nothing but lumbering violence. Actually, I just made that term up. Steal it if it works!

This style of whisky was definitely not designed with my sort of palate in mind. So there will be folks who find it A-MAY-ZING, but I find it kinda hot-meh. (I'm quite the wordsmith tonight.) I think it's at its best in the full strength nose, but the palate works better with a little bit of water. But be careful with that water, because things may get ugly. The coastal notes in the nose help keep this Highland Park's score out of the 70s.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - originally £61
Rating - 81