Some more Highland Park today for my 300th Scotch review! It’s the older ones. I realised thpough that I totally lied when I said I haven’t reviewed any yesterday, because I have. I reviewed the 21 year old, which would fit in nicely here before the 25, which is what we’ll start with today.
All of these are samples for the miniature pack I got, or samples I bought from Master of Malt.
Highland Park 25 48.1%
Nose: Wow, old and sophisticated. Intense liquorice, liquorice allsorts, very dry oak, bitter orange marmalade, Seville orange, orange oil, grapefruit pith and peel, spicy European oak, a perfumed note, dried heather, fresh car leather, old oloroso Sherry, some cherry. Over time more of the sweet and heathery notes take over with some tobacco and a little smoke.
Water: More fresh and citrusy again. Lime and orange juice,
Taste: Soft arrival, quickly building sweetness, Sherry, beautiful orange and fresh cherry combo, some spicy oak coming through, European oak, very oily and full, grapefruit flesh, liquorice, clove, lemon, lime and orange citrus, old Sherry oak, more spices develop, ginger. Great development.
Water: More citrusy, grapefruit, orange juice acidic, lime juice, various citrus peels, very acidic and going quite oaky actually. A bit out of balance.
Finish: Long length. Fresh, mouth watering, citrus, orange, spice, quite a bit of oak.
Very fresh and citrusy, retains it’s citrus-y flavours while having the older Sherry notes present too, just a little out of balance at times, especially the finish (Yes, I know. I’m fussy)
Let’s do an indie before we get to the 30’s.
Highland Park 1985 Mackillop's Choice 51.6%
Nose: Refill style. Fruity and intense, natural with sweety shop. Strawberry laces, Percy pigs (M&S sell ‘em in the UK), orange, mango, watermelon, a little grapefruit. Huge oak presence in the background, a LOT of oak- Lots of liquorice, some clove. A small smoky note- Sooty liquorice root.
Water: Softer, less sweety shop and more liquorice and oak. White grape, elderflower, a little mango still.
Taste: Sweet hit then recedes then a gradual development. Quite sweet with tropical fruit- mango, oak is there, again a LOT of it- Dry old oak, dry liquorice, oaky spice- ginger, clove and white pepper and a lot of tannins, then watermelon juice, a little dusty yeast note. Ash into the finish.
Water: Creamier then more sharp old oak and the yeast note (a little mango) becomes more apparent and harsher, especially into the finish. After a bit of time the oak takes over the yeast and sharp tannins and spices prevail.
Finish: Medium/Long length. Liquorice root and watermelon gradually die away. With water it goes a bit weird with a kind of white wine-y yeast and sharp oaky spice.
Like the 15 year old with a tonne more oak! An absolute liquorice bomb. Distilled 1985, bottled 2014. 29 years old, cask 370.
Doesn't swim well! Think this is a little over (Euro) oaked, could have been bottled a few years earlier.
Here we go, older. I’ve always wanted to compare the two bottlings of the 30yo, one at the higher strength and the new one at lower strength.
Highland Park 30 (New) 45.7%
Nose: Sweeter and fresher than the old 30yo. Old oak, old Sherry, worn leather, sweet black cherry, black cherry jam, vanilla pod, marzipan, dried orange peel, sweet orange marmalade.
Taste: Sweet arrival with lots of black cherry, marzipan, old Sherry, heather, spicy oak with ginger and liquorice, amazing, oily, fat and full, complex sweetness, orange oil, old oils and incredible balance, softer into the finish.
Finish: Long length. Marzipan, vanilla sweetness, black cherry, some oak. More subtle and soft.
Overall, sweeter and more straightforward than the old 30yo, but less complex. More 1st fill Sherry maybe?
Highland Park 30 (Old) 48.1%
Nose: Much more austere, dry and oaky than the new 30yo. An old school style. A lot of oak, very dry, black cherry gateaux, black cherry syrup, complex herbs and herbal notes, thyme, basil, dried lavender, dried flowers, homemade paper, garden shed, old tools, 90% dark chocolate, good quality black coffee, a great dark bitterness.
Really rewards taking time with it.
Water: Much fresher with some citrus coming out, orange citrus, earthy with some heathery smoke.
Taste: Amazing arrival on sweeter sherry, perfect balance, some smoke, old heather, dried lavender, pressed flowers, complex spice and oak building, ginger and liquorice, black cherry, orange oil, syrupy and oily, leather and tobacco come through with some outdoorsy smoke, chewy and just keeps evolving on the dark cherry theme with perfect balance.
Water: Oaky arrival, complex oak, dry and austere, more earthy and smoky, lots more heather, black cherry still there, spicy oak with ginger and black pepper.
Finish: Long length. More smoke, some complex spice, heather, oak, sherry and more black cherry.
More smoke and more complex than the old 30yo. Amazing stuff, incredibly elegant arrival.
And the big finale! 40 year old Highland Park.
Highland Park 40 48.3%
Colour: Dark Amber
Nose: Old. It speaks of a different time. Powerful, emotional and truly superb. A huge influence of the oak and time, spicy with a quite powerful black pepper, sea salt, smoke still there, put out campfire, dunnage, great chocolate-y-ness with lovely dark chocolate and chocolate cake, dried black cherry, oily liquorice, old oils and herbs.
Coming back a second time there's a fantastic earthy note, just wow. 93 for the nose.
Water: More chocolatey and earthy. An earthy smoke, roasted coffee beans.
Taste: Powerful arrival, huge oak and perfect sweetness, dried cherry, blistering oak, old smoke, very spicy black pepper and sea salt, stays and stays with building complex spice, then some more sweetness and herbal notes, leather, tobacco, dried heather, burnt heather, pressed flowers, layers of chocolate, strong black coffee here too, more complex oak. Lovely chewy mouthfeel especially towards the finish.
Water: Spicy, intense, loads of black pepper, then recedes to leave sweet sherry, fresh orange, orange oil, very complex sweetness, heathery smoke, much more earthy into the finish.
Finish: Long/Very Long length. Old dried cherry, tobacco, very soft old Sherry, then oily liquorice, oily smoke and soft black pepper.
Words can't really do it justice. Noses just wonderfully, maybe the best nose I've had on a whisky, and if the taste was on par it would be my first 93, but of course, after 40 years there’s a lot of oak on the palate.
So, Highland Park is a great distillery, despite being reasonably available.
The old stuff is amazing, but the big question is: Is it worth the money?
Highland Park prices have risen very steeply the last few years. When Ian Buxton went crazy and put a load of HP’s in 101 whiskies, he said that Highland Park 40 was £800, now you’re lucky to find it under £2000 if not more. The 30yo was £250 a while ago, now most of them are going for £400. It’s had an effect on the other bottlings too, even the 18yo I bought in Tesco for £74 is now £100 everywhere (if they have it at all).
In some cases, yes, they are worth it. The 21 is maybe the best value for the older stuff, but the 18 is was great at the price I got it for. The 12 is great value for money when it’s on deal too.
Thanks for reading! Here’s to the next 100!!
Scotch review #300
Full Disclosure Disclaimer: I currently work as a Brand Ambassador for Penderyn Distillery. The views expressed here are purely my own and do not reflect the views of Penderyn Distillery or The Welsh Whisky Company. I try to maintain as much objectivity as I can but feel free to take my reviews with as big a pinch of salt as you like. Furthermore, I have never accepted free samples from anyone in the whisky industry, but have bought bottles or samples with my money, bringing a different set of biases. Also, my rating scale is NOT based on a Parker type wine scoring scale or a school/college/university % or A-F grade score. I apologise for any seemly low or 'bad' scores given with my system and am sorry I can't say only nice things. Please keep in mind that I am ethically compromised and am unable to produce 100% unbiased reviews.
Network Average: 74.6
Best Score: 92
Worst Score: 44
60-64 Just About OK
65-69 Ok to Good
75-79 Very Good