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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)


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.


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