So, there I was, standing in the Cadenhead shop picking up my bottle of Banff without a taster being available (the 4th bottle remnants having being snapped up), but enjoying the chat from the experienced staff - always refreshing to interact with whisky retailers who know their stuff.
A wee tour of the current Cadenhead bottlings and new arrivals ensued. Of particular note I was informed was a Highland Park 25 Year Old; a bit of a sherry beast. Fair enough, I had toured the distillery recently and enjoyed tasting their core range (the 12 to 40 year olds) and appreciated the mix of bourbon versus sherry. Now here was a chance to taste a 100% sherry release. Ok, I'm on my lunch break but a little taster would be welcome, why not?
Literally an explosion of flavours, which I will demonstrate below. Generally, my own experiences with sherry casks is hit and miss, so I am very wary when faced with sherry whisky. Highland Park place great emphasis on the quality of their casks and this bottling confirms the essence of such an approach. As I write this in July, if you were to ask me my favourite whisky of 2013 so far, then this is the one. After splashing out on the Banff release I had to restrain myself and went for a 20cl cask ends bottling. I wish more retailers would offer this service as for £28.50 I'm more empowered to take chances and purchase more whisky than picking up a 70cl bottle in this case for £90. Plus it results in more experiences for me and more Taste reviews here. Although right now, with the remnants of the finish on my palate - I'd love to have a 70cl to prolong the experience!
Regular readers will know I don't do scoring - how can you mark one whisky 86 and another 88? To me it is all about enjoyment and the experience. Communicating this is the difficulty and what makes tasting whisky so much fun. Through this journey you will know when you have an average whisky in your hand, those moments when you have an excellent example and even rarer still; something exceptional. I find older whiskes can carry off high alcohol content with robust flavours and a prolonged finish without the alcohol burn, compared to their younger siblings. This Highland Park is a mean 55.7% and quite often than means water (or ice if you prefer it), yet neither is really required.
Distillery: Highland Park
Cask Type: Sherry butt
Cask Numbers: Unknown, single cask?
Additional: No chill-filtration or artificial colouring
Price: Full bottle £90, a Cadenheads store might have a cask end 20cl bottling for £28.50
Colour: Muscovado sugar, sesame oil and a from a personal perspective it reminds of Newcastle Brown Ale from my younger days!
Nose: Those principle sherry notes and common companions such as raisin, Szechuan pepper, caramel, toffee, orange, brown sugar are joined by well worn leather, black cardamon, ginger, newly laid rubber and Danish oil.
Mouth: I'm sure you're expecting to read sherry given it's monster status. This is more than a one trick pony and confirms my shop tasting that this is a seriously good whisky. Cherry, dark chocolate, Christmas cake with a dazzling array of fruit and booze. Rounded off by a prolonged, gentle and refined finish.
Overall: This is one of the most intricately layered whiskies I've tasted recently. One that rewards those who spend more time with it. The nosing was still opening up new avenues after 10 minutes - setting the anticipation extremely high for the tasting.
Labels: 25 year old, cadenhead, highland park, sherry butt, whisky