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Highland Park 18yo, 43%

HP

Highland Park is undoubtedly a renowned star in the whisky world, whose historical success relied on quality and marketing in that particular order. It’s fame started long ago: In the distillery store, they have available a part history part advertorial booklet called ‘A Good Foundation’. This name is taken from a 1924 advertisement from then owners James Grant and Company to ‘Secure now your reserves of new season’s make of North Country malts and lay A Good Foundation with Highland Park.’ 

A good foundation

 

From James Grant and co, Highland Park went on under the Highland Distillers group, which eventually merged into the Edrington Group in 1999, so today, it is a stablemate of The Macallan, The Glenrothes, Glenturret and Tamdhu. It’s ownership history is boring but it’s production methods are rather special for two reasons: 1. It remains one of the few distilleries to still use their own malting floors and 2.  has an industry leading wood policy.

Malting floors: Today the volume of malt used is so great, the malting floors only contributes 20% of the total malt. However this 20% is malted and dried with Orkney peat cut from Hobbister Moor to a ppm of 35-40, which when blended with the unpeated malt from the mainland, gives the final 7-8 ppm malt that will result in that slightly smoky heathery style of the distillery. About that peat – as the geography of Orkney differs from the Highlands and Islay, peat taken from Orkney must therefore have different constituent vegetation, who can say what actual effect that has on the malt but the distillery catchphrase remains ‘aromatic peat’.

Wood policy: Highland Park’s wood policy is fantastic. Edrington owns oak forests in the US and on the continent, which assures them a steady supply of casks regardless of market conditions. These are sent over (free!) to the Spaniards who age Sherry in them for between 1 – 3 years and then returned to Scotland to be filled with new make. In Highland Park’s case, this is essential as it determines the distillery character it is famous for: Highland Park, with very few exceptions like Freya, uses only Sherry wood, so the play here is on proportion of American Oak to European Oak and the amount of first fill or refill casks. This is perhaps the reason why most independent bottlers would choose to fill their Highland Park into ex bourbon barrels instead.

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Now the whisky itself, the 18 year old is one of those oft reviewed whiskies, being a benchmark whisky to many. So I hazard reader fatigue, but it’s always great coming back to old familiars, as you never know what scents you’ve recently ‘learnt’ that you might pick up.

Highland Park 18yo, 43% ~ 2011 bottling

HP-18yo-bottle-pack

(official photo)

 

Nose  Nose: First thing that pops out of the glass is is a delicate flowery smoke, ‘heathery’ as is often claimed, but that term means little locally. Also those rich sherry notes that is classic for Highland Park. Love this distillery character! A few moments more and it all arrives: cedarwood, new leather, dark chocolate, the rich but dry sweetness of preserved dark fruit, tiny bit of tar, and earthy compost. The wood is politely seasoned and chatty without being obnoxious, and contributes nice dose of allspice and a heady balm.

Taste  Palette: Raisins and prunes, fairly complex and not over sweet. Good grip on the tongue with these tannins. Deeper oak flavours – more dark spices than the nose, plus lashings of pepper, and develops on a little more phenolic smoke.

Finish  Finish: Spicy tingle, the insides of a sunmaid box, touch of smoke.

Score 80

 

Excellent 18 year old, and I should avoid comparisons with previous iterations of this bottling. For what Highland Park has is a long and highly regarded liquid history, and many might say the dumpy bottles were better. They are right, however unfairly, but times have moved on and given today’s production methods, I say this already stands above most competitors.

Also, Orkney is beautiful.

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This entry was posted on October 30, 2014 by in Highland Park and tagged .
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