...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Island of Orkney 12 year old 2006 Exclusive Malts, cask 342

Hey, how about it: A review of a bottle, and not a sample. Yay!

Firstly, I'm just going to call this a Highland Park because The Creative Whisky Company was likely contractually forced to jump through hoops and I'm not. It's Highland Park in French Oak. Sounds cool, right? It did (and still kinda does) to me, which is why I bought it blindly.

And now I'm going to give you my conclusions up front. I've struggled to get my brain around this whisky. There are times when I just don't like it. There are times when I just nose it for an hour, finding all new odd facets. For instance, sometimes this HP just smells like danishes and nothing else. Heavily-glazed cheese danishes. I shared the whisky with the Columbus Scotch Night crew and they all seemed to like it a lot. Now I'm past the bottle's midpoint and I just don't know.

Distillery: Highland Park
Ownership: The Edrington Group
Region: Isle of Orkney
Independent Bottler: The Creative Whisky Company
Range: Exclusive Malts
Age: 12 years (21 June 2006 - 2018?)
Maturation: French oak (maybe a hoggie)
Cask #: 342
Alcohol by Volume: 56.3%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

Its nose starts with an almost-Clynelish is-it/isn't-it-peated phenolic note, which floats away within 20 minutes. That scent is coated in a sugary orange peel / madeira candy shell. Drifting around that is salty ocean air, honeydew, toffee and — stay with me here — Slim Jims. Though I'm not getting the entire danish note this time, there's a lot of pastry glaze and buttery sour cream. A hint of maple syrup, too.

A new paragraph for the rest. The palate has some of the nose's notes, specifically oranges and salt. A burnt hay-like peat note. There's lots of dried oregano and ginger beer. Even more vanilla and whipped cream. It remains hot even after a half hour in the glass. It finishes with a ginger beer, cream soda, carob and oak spice.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Brought into slightly sharper focus, the nose leads with orange peel and pine sap. Hay, cinnamon and nutmeg. Kinda of a Dead Sea-like salty mud bath. And something milky. The whisky is at its most familiar in the diluted palate. Sweet, with gentle citrus and fresh cherry notes. Hints of dried herbs. Lots of vanilla and oak spice. It finishes very sweet and tannic. Vanilla and butterscotch are the main notes.

Hopefully my scattered notes give you an idea of my scrambled thoughts on this thing. I like French oak much more than American oak — Randy Brandy is going to give me hell for that — but I have that preference because I like toasted French oak. This cask almost seems like newly charred French oak. There's genuine aggression here. The Gaspar Noé of casks, perhaps?

It's certainly not boring. Nor can I call it flawed. I don't have an existential struggle with it, unlike my bottle of rum cask Ardmore 1991, but I'm never in a hurry to pour a glass for a casual sip. I'm going to give it the same rating as that Ardmore, just to assign a number to it. I'm pretty sure the whisky is laughing at me.

Availability - may still be available at some European retailers
Pricing - obtained it for ~$80 (w/shipping, w/o VAT) in a moderate order last October
Rating - 84 (but who knows, really)