Posts from the ‘Highland Park’ Category

Phil’s Favorite Single Malt Scotches – Other Regions

I know it’s a long title, but this is not primarily a Scotch blog, so I have separated my favorite Scotches into four categories: Islay, Highlands, Speyside, and everything else. If this were a Scotch blog, each region would receive its proper due, and perhaps in ten years, I’ll do that. So, stay tuned.

As with my other favorite lists, price was not considered in my selection of these drams, just how much I enjoyed the stuff in the bottle. So, onwards and upwards, my friends. The nominees for my favorite Scotches outside Islay, Highlands, and Speyside are as follows.

Name: Arran Single Cask 1997 Vintage
Region: Islands (Isle of Arran)
Age: 16 Years, 11 Months
Proof: 106.4 (53.2% abv)
Price: $100-125/750ml
Notes: This whisky was a limited release from a single Sherry butt, bottled at its full cask strength. The whisky provided all the big sherry notes you would expect from such a whisky, but it also showed great complexity with dried orange peels and spices such as cinnamon and cardamom. This was a one-time release of only 562 bottles, so it’s unlikely that this particular whisky is still around, but if you ever stumble across a teenage sherried Arran whisky, it’s worth giving it a whirl.

Name: Highland Park 12 Year-Old
Region: Islands (Orkney)
Age: 12 Years
Proof: 86 (43% abv)
Price: $45-50/750ml
Notes: Highland Park is a wonderful distillery that has created many brilliant drams over the years, but even with the quality of Highland Park range as a whole, I keep coming back to the beautiful malt that started it all. The 12 year-old is matured mostly in refill Sherry butts, and it presents a lovely balance between sweet citrus fruits and heather in the spring time, all enhanced by a slow wafting smoke that ties the whisky all together. Highland Park 12 year-old is widely available, and one of the best value buys in any liquor store anywhere in my humble opinion.

Name: Springbank 15 Year-Old
Region: Campbeltown
Age: 15 Years
Proof: 92 (46% abv)
Price: $90-100/750ml
Notes: This is an immensely complex whisky, a mix of salty, savory peat notes accented with malted barley, fresh cut hay, and orange peels. Springbank makes many fine whiskies, but I am partial to this inculcation because it is young enough to still make out the distillery character, and aged enough to have refinement and complexity. This whisky is mostly available in higher end stores and online retailers, but it is hardly impossible to find. The downside is that it is an expensive pour for its age.

Name: Talisker 10 Year-Old
Region: Islands (Isle of Skye)
Age: 10 Years
Proof: 91.6 (45.8%)
Price: $60-70/750ml
Notes: This distillery has produced many iterations of Talisker, but I keep coming back to the standard ten year-old because the way the whisky opens up with a little water. Enjoyed neat, Talisker elicits black pepper, wet baking peat, and a slight twinge of orchard fruits. With a bit of water, the spicy and peaty notes calm down to a wafting on the breeze, while rich orchard fruits and creamy vanilla notes arise to drive the whisky. This whisky is widely available, and although it is a little expensive for decade old whisky, the juice in the bottle is worth every penny.

Name: Talisker 18 Year-Old
Region: Islands (Isle of Skye)
Age: 18 Years
Proof: 91.6 (45.8%)
Price: $100-125/750ml
Notes: This edition of Talisker has many of the familiar notes of the 10 year-old base malt, but in a somewhat different arrangement. The spicy, peppery notes are toned down a bit in the older whisky, allowing for sweeter notes like honey and caramelized peppers to play a greater role. There are also some prominent woody notes present here that do not appear in the younger malt. This is a complex dram, a great benchmark for 18 year-old peated whiskies. This is definitely available in a lot of higher end liquor stores, and it always makes a great gift.

Highland Park 15 Year-Old Scotch Review

If you’re drinking in wintertime, why not drink whisky from the Scottish distillery closest to the Arctic Circle?  If you think Santa is not a frequent guest at the Highland Park visitor’s centre, then you know very little about the man in red.  All of this to say that today’s thoughts pertain to Highland Park 15 year-old.  Unfortunately, as I am writing this, Highland Park 15 is no longer being bottled by the distillery, as it has been replaced with the NAS Dark Origins release (I have yet to get my hands on a bottle of Dark Origins, but I will review it as soon as I do).  HP15 is aged primarily in American Oak ex-Sherry casks, and most of those casks are refill casks.  This has a profound impact on the whisky, as we shall see.  Highland Park 15 year-old is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv).

Trust me, the cookies and cocoa are all smoke and mirrors – Santa is a single malt man.

The entrance to this whisky is a great deal smokier than the 12 yr.  The nose has some lemon, lime, burning figs, wood smoke, burning diesel, and toasted coconut.  The palate is sweet and bitter, sugared limes, figs, dates, burning raisins, wood smoke, and earthy peat.  The finish starts in with bitterroot, peat, and a rolling smoke.  There is a slight twinge of heather in the finish, balancing the smoke.

The different casking in the 15 year compared to the 12 year allows the subtle smokiness of Highland Park to show itself a bit more, as well as bringing some mild citrus notes through this one.  It’s a different expression from the 12 year, not just the same whisky with 3 more years under its belt, and an expression I like every bit as much as the beloved HP12.  My grade: B+.  Price: $90-100/750ml.  Like I said, this whisky can still be found floating around liquor shops, especially here in the United States, but they will not be here forever, an unfortunate truth of life.

Highland Park 12 Year Scotch Review

Well, if you’ve been watching the weather channel, you know that Boston is getting ready for a blizzard.  To me, that says, “Hey Phil, review some great bargain whiskey.”  So, today I am reviewing one of my favorite value Scotches – Highland Park 12 year.  It also gives me a great chance to illustrate one of my classic teaching points about whisk(e)y.  Highland Park 12yr

The other day, Mary Kate Long (self-proclaimed coolest person in the world), was trying some Highland Park at my house.  I had said that I usually catch a citrus note that I usually describe as mango, pineapple, or apricot.  However, when MK tastes the Highland Park, she said she didn’t taste any pineapple at all.  In fact, she was very angry that Highland Park did not taste like pineapple to her.  My point in the story is that everybody’s taste buds are different.  When you taste a whisk(e)y, the flavors are general, not as specific as I describe them in my reviews.  However, I like to be eclectic, so I like to point out the specific things that the flavors remind me of.  So, everybody will get different memories out of whiskey.  That’s the fun of it!

So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on Highland Park 12 yr (it is aged in ex-Sherry casks and bottled at 86 proof).  The nose on this whisky is pretty sweet.  I sniff dense notes of heather, honey, pineapple, citrus vanilla, and a light whiff of smoke.  The palate is medium-bodied with a rich, sherried backbone.  Dried mangoes, apricots, apples, and pears all roll across the front of the palate.  This is seductive stuff.  The finish is medium-long with a healthy dose of smoke, and a warming fruitiness.  The citrus sweetness works through the smoke a little bit after a few minutes.

Overall, this is a fantastic single malt Scotch.  It is deliciously drinkable, soft, and seductive.  It appeals to the Scotch beginner and the Scotch connoisseur.  If you ever want to make a Scotch drinker happy without breaking the bank, snag a bottle of Highland Park 12 yr.  My grade: B+.  Price: $40-45/750ml.  This one is a great place to start if you are looking into a Scotch that balances sweetness with some subtle smokiness, not to mention the awesome price point.