Highland Park 18 Years Old 1995 – 4.194 Lip-smacking and mouth-puckering

Single malt scotch whisky

53.3% ABV, £71.70 for 70cl

Score: 87/100

SMWS

What they say:

Cask No. 4.194

The nose picked up wood and leather (fireside bellows, old suitcase, wicker baskets, seasoned oak furniture, burnt sticks) along with caramelized sugar, smoky bacon, orange oil and nuts. We also found a seashore element (distant beach bonfire, crab shells, sand, mackerel) – this became more evident and fresher with water – sea breezes and sou’westers; toffee, aromatic herbs and stewed plums completed the picture. The palate was mouth-puckering and lip-smacking – treacle toffee, ginger, clove, liquorice, dark chocolate, pork ribs and salted pretzels – sweet, salty and sinewy. Water brought out oiled wood, aniseed, toasted marshmallows, oaky vanilla and parma violets – very tasty indeed.

Drinking tip: To warm you after skinny dipping

Date Distilled: 30 November 1995 Colour: Ginger gold Age: 18 years Flavour : Oily & coastal Cask Type: Refill ex-bourbon hogshead Whisky Region: Highland Island

Outturn: 60 bottles

SMWS4.194

What I say:

In November I was invited along to the pre-tasting of the Christmas releases at SMWS Queen Street, luckily for me the 2014 Christmas bottle releases from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society had some absolute corkers in it! One of these was this 18 year old expression from SMWS distillery #4, Highland Park. I have had a little love-hate relationship with Highland Park ever since I sampled their 12 year old. I was completely turned-on to Highland Park however when a chance encounter occurred between myself and a very sherried HP expression (called ~ A cigar and a leather armchair, or something similar) at the SMWS a few years ago – leading me to seek out the Highland Park Drakkar ~ 40% (Travel Retail Exclusive) expression as soon as it was released. Anyhow – the unusual story about this expression is it is from an ex-bourbon hogshead (250 litres at fill) yet only 60 bottles at 53.3% cask strength were yielded at the outurn. These data suggest either an extremely active cask or leakage somewhere amongst those 18 years? Either way as soon as I tasted this I knew I was buying a bottle!

Colour:

Amber gold, medium/light tears

Nose:

Sea salt and balsamic vinegar thick-cut potato crisps, pickled onions on chip-shop fish and chips, malty, marmite, cereal barley draff, bran, Weetabix, sweet heather honey, toffee oak, caramel, tobacco leaf and cigar boxes

Taste:

Salt and sour, some toffee oak, chewing tobacco leaf, savoury, honey-smoked ham, malty and meaty, quite floral too with heather flowers and a little vegetal damp moss

Finish:

Long, heather fire/brush smoke, cinnamon spices and briny salt.

Overall:

Wow, what a powerful dram. Typifies Highland Park beautifully. Initially I was apprehensive at the salt & vinegar start – but that was just the beginning of something very special. I absolutely love this dram, it’s not perfect and still has some rugged (rather than rough) edges. This is the sort of stuff Captain Haddock should drink!