Highland Park 18 Years Old (43%, OB, 2015)
Island single malt scotch whisky
43% ABV, £99
What they say:
Considered by many whisky writers across the globe as the ‘industry’s favourite whisky’, Highland Park 18 year old is a masterclass of balance, complexity and refinement. Lingering layers of sweet honeyed malt, meet characterful dried fruit notes, marzipan and golden syrup, all wrapped up in swathes of our distinctive, subtle floral peat smoke. A whisky, which reveals more layers with every glass you enjoy.
Natural colour, burnished gold, clear and bright
Rich, mature oak, top note of aromatic smoke
Rich, full flavour, honey and peat
Soft, round and long
What I say:
Sampled at the Edinburgh Whisky Stramash 2015.
Normally I don’t write tasting notes of whiskies sampled at festivals or events such as the Stramash as very rapidly your obligatory engraved free glencairn is contaminated with everything poured into it! That said I still attempt to sample whisky at these events in a reasonably organised fashion, starting with young/simple/NAS expressions then working in older / more sherried and finally – only into the last hour of the festival will I hit the phenolic/peaty/Islay type drams.
This year (2015) at the Stramash I was slightly disappointed with the lack of variety of whisky available on many of the stands and also the measly quantities that some stands were pouring at incredibly slow rates, with their insistence to explain to me how whisky was made in great (unwanted) detail starting with barley and water and Scotland and (god damn it man just pour the fecking drop!).
My pick of the festival was the Bacardi Last Great Malts snug in which we were treated to copious amounts of the Aultmore and Craigellachie ranges, however in the Stramash open displays Highland Park / Edrington Group stand took top honours with this 18 Year Old Highland Park expression. Having plenty of spare time, I decided to stop and give this dram the credit it deserved and spent some time with it. So here is what I thought:
Light amber gold with copper highlights (9/20), thick slow moving and oily tears
Instantly reminiscent of open Scottish moorland with floral heather in full bloom, teak-oiled old oak wood and some beeswax and furniture polish crept in for that antique shop experience, next a seriously malty cereal barley develops with plenty of richly honeyed-sweetness and finally ethereal floral violets and parma violets as the nose tailed off with heather brush fire smoke
Both silky smooth and mouth-coatingly waxy, creamy highland toffee, sweet heather-blossom honey with plenty of spiced cinnamon and some white pepper adding a comfortable warmness, that barley malt adds a chewy cereal element and depth to the body whilst gentle smoke of a mixed heather-brush and highland peat stove lingered
Long, with plenty of spiced toffee, cinnamon and nutmeg adding to the sweetness
I really loved this expression, from the first sniff to the long-lingering finish. An absolute beauty of a dram, well constructed, nothing in excess – this is not a loud and shouty or punch-in-the-face powerful type of dram but rather a much more refined, contemplative and complex affair. Yes there is some serious wood-ageing in here but it is balanced exquisitely against a subtle maltiness and peatiness and bound together with toffee and heather honey.