About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

HIGHLAND PARK 2003 12YO - DISTILLERY BOTTLING FOR BRAUNSTEIN & FRIENDS

Its been a while since the last update here on The Malt Desk itself. As always other stuff (life) seems to interfere incl a 10 day trip to Scotland (Speyside & North Highlands) did provide for updates for The Malt Desk's Facebook page and Twitter (@themaltdesk)

But there has also been a streak of writers block much derived from some of the things happening with whisky at the moment but I will not get into that in this post...

In March this year, at the Danish Whisky Fair, plans were revealed to me that Highland Park try and return to their roots and start doing stuff like single cask bottlings for various markets again - something that had not been done much of over the past 5+ years... and on the 15th October this year, the first single cask for Denmark in a number of year was released as a part of Danish Distillery Braunstein's Whisky Fair. The bottle is a 2003 12yo heavily sherried release that immediately caught the attention of Highland Park fans - especially through the Highland Park Appreciation Society group on Facebook.

I decided to order the 2 bottles per person limit in pre-order and upon receiving the bottles, the online chatter about this bottling had really taken off with most asking how to get a full bottle as it had sold out over the release weekend or asking how to obtain a sample. Some had also tasted it at the Braunstein Whisky Fair and was raving about it, statements that spiked my curiosity further. After posting of my (so far closed) bottles bottles on Facebook, I had more and more people asking for my opinion on it - both in regular posts and in private messages which means there must be at least a few people out there that values my opinion ;-)

Anyway, its good to see Highland Park returning to releases like this. The only sad thing is that people are selling them off straight away for a profit...

Oh, wait I just did get into one of the things that's been keeping me away from the blog for a while...


So, let's take a look at this single cask Highland Park... 

I had a couple of friends try this one out as well and got a couple of interesting descriptions from them :)
The most descriptive one must be this from my friend MBO:
"This whisky is so massive that its the fluid embodiment of Brand Ambassador Martin Markvardsen, sweaty and reeking of masculinity in nothing but a kilt charging down onto the beaches from the cliffs of Yesnaby while wielding a two-handed viking broadsword, defending the Islands from whisky raiders"
My other friend MP was a bit more traditional:

"This whisky is such strong sherry influenced whisky, so strong it resembles red  balsamic vinegar and spicy oak juice and leaves little else to the drinker"


You can read my personal notes and thoughts below the picture...

The entrance to Highland Park Distillery, August 6th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Highland Park 2003/2016, 12yo, 58,3%, 1st fill European Sherry butt#5878, 648 bottles, Distillery Bottling for Braunstein & Friends, Denmark

Colour is dark mahogany
Lets hope it doesn't have any s-notes - regular readers will know I'm sensitive to that :O


Nose:
Huge on sherry and struck matches on the nose, turning towards reduced tomato glace - a little sweet peat smoke is surfacing, but its struggling to make its way through. There's some dark chocolate, charred oak and with water some café latte and mentholated notes. The peat smoke is also more noticeable now along with a fruity sweetness subdued by the strong sherry, charred and struck match notes. The reduced nose down to maybe 45% leaves little or no trace of unpleasentries.

Taste:
Again big on the sherry, red balsamic vinegar, charred wood chips and prune juice, grilled beetroot left too long on the bbq, dark old style sugar cane rhum and burnt molasses, spicy sherry oak notes, burnt grilled sausages, damp peat and something like inhaling the smoke from burning your organic garden waste. The finish is carried a long way by the sherry but then gets the dreaded pop-up of sulphur of the matchstick kind - like on the nose. 
It's certainly quite a massive release this one and in trying to come up with a conclusion to this one and it must be that, as my initial impressions followed through...

Closest comparison I'll make is that its a Highland Park 'Dark Originis' on steroids. That said, there's still something more in this one as in quite bit more sherried, there's more peat smoke and charred notes. Sadly there's still noticeable matchbox sulphur in here too. I know that a lot of people like this note and on top of that statistics also shows that close to 30% of all people can't even pick up the note.

I remember older bottlings of Highland Park not having this distinct note (reference here are the old OBs e.g. the 12 & 18) and when I argue this its because I also find it, very vaguely though, in the new releases of the OBs and vaguely probably because they've:

1.
 Been watered down to 40/43%

2. The amount of first fill casks going into these are obviously smaller than when dealing with a single cask bottling like the Braunstein & Friends-bottling 

I'm sadly left with the feeling that its just the style of sherry casks Highland Park get from their contracted bodega - or at least it was back in the day when this cask was laid to rest in 2003.

What I'm then left to ponder over is whether the 30% not able to taste these notes + those that like these notes is such a large part of the customer base that its not worth spending time and money trying to get rid of it??

All these things said (some less flattering) its still good whisky as you can water your way out of the matchstick sulphur in this - or at least down to an acceptable level. Luckily for me the matchstick kind isn't the type I'm overly sensitive to (its the rubbery kind) so Yes, I can drink this neat but the presence of matchstick sulphur just irritates me as this bottling could have been a belter without it!

Are you looking for a score? ok, I'll give you one...

86/100

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