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.

Friday, 30 November 2018

HIGHLAND PARK 1989 29YO - GORDON & MACPHAIL CONNOISSEURS CHOICE

After a detour to Speyside during my last review, we're now back on Orkney with that very highly marketed Viking Pride/Honour/Raven/Axe wielding distillery, Highland Park.

For this review we're staying with Gordon & MacPhails revamped Connoisseurs Choice series, relaunched as a part of the 50th anniversary of the first release of the series.

Highland Park has long been a favourite of mine and was one of the first whisky with just a little peat I started drinking back in my baby whisky years just after the turn of the Millenia. The distillery's got a very dedicated following on Facebook in the group 'Highland Park Appreciation Society' and now seems to be releasing single cask expression every other week. - How dare you? Think of how you're ruining the economy of those poor collectors!!??!! ;-)

Releasing single casks on a regular basis is one thing that has changed, but I also think something else has changed, sadly... and thats the casks they're using at HP - and probably also at Macallan, another Edrington great that uses predominantly sherry casks.

Now, I'm very sensitive to sulphur and seem to, in all the single casks I've tried since they started to come out, detected a variating degree of sulphury notes as well an vinegary edge to the sherry and to be honest I'm very sad to see this. This is probably due to a shortage of proper sherry casks these days, but still I feel its taking a wrong turn...

I know Edrington has long term contracts with a cooperage in Spain and promotes their wood policy (Highland Park - Spanish Wood Story on Youtube) and this is just me (and a few other critical voices) and many others doesn't seem to pick up on this. Whether they just can't taste it or they don't want to alienate themselves with the brand. I think the question here is if the cooperage is cutting corners with the quality of the sherry used for the maturation or if the sherry used for seasoning doesn't manage to draw out the unwanted very woody notes that comes from the fresh cask?? Certainly, the HP devotees in the before mentioned Facebook group doesn't seem to either mind or be able to taste this - some even praises this style :-O

Now, before you flame me for this statement, mind you, this is my taste (and a few others I've seen mentions of online) so lets leave it at that - I just feel sad that HP as I know it has pretty much disappeared over the last decade or so - as even the 12 and 18 standard bottlings are now showing traces of this, IMO...

In February 2019, I'll be revisiting Highland Park after a tasting I've put together with Distillery bottlings vs. Independent bottling, much more on how I think Highland Park is doing after that.

Right, rant over...

Let's get back to speaking of independent Highland Parks and this one from Gordon & MacPhail, who by the way, usually supply their own casks to be filled with new make spirit.

Stills at Highland Park, August 6th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Highland Park 1989 29yo 57% (07.03.1989/18.09.2018) Refill sherry butt#1087, 611 bottles, Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice

Nose:
Quite a sweet sherry coating dominates this, I think... Underneath though, there's plenty of charred oak, some mushroom earthy notes, honey glazed meat, dark overripe fruit and a floral note trying to come through... Pretty much standard Highland Park, right? Maybe expect for the heavily charred oak.

Taste:
The no-water experience on the palate was a bit of a let-down! However... Just Add Water!

This one comes alive indeed with water. I getting into the territory of the old Original Bottling of HP 25, just amplified a bit due to the higher alcohol strength - We are, however, not quite there...

I get most of the classic HP traits as we did on the nose - the honey, the floral and dark fruit notes, charred and peaty notes, but the cask both the sherry and oak here is taking this one over a bit - especially the charred note reminds me a bit much of a BBQ event where the BBQ master is more busy drinking beer than tending to the grill ;-)

Like I said, give this one a teaspoon of water if you've poured yourself a 25-30ml dram and watch a little magic happen! Everything is amplified and your sherried Highland Park comes out - proper sherry - not the vinegar sherry style the newer Original Highland Parks carry these days! it'll lift not only the spirit in the glass but also your own experience of this HP!

87/100!

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