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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)


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.


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