This Highland Park was a bit hard to review. The rule of thumb is usually, when reviewing a Whisky I have a full bottle off: open a bottle, let it breathe a bit, try it several times and when it’s about half full, (or half empty), review it, A review not only based on the tasting experience when analysing and writing, but also from memory of the first half of the bottle. Well, this bottle has now only 20% left in it and from memory alone, I would have a hard time writing something up, not because I killed off most of my brain cells, no, more because this is a very particular Whisky, one that seems to have an attitude, grumpy if you will. One that needs all your attention, and if not, sod it; “I’m not opening up to you drinker!” “I will keep most of my secrets to myself!” I have no clue how this Whisky really is, after an evening on my couch watching something or reading, thus giving less attention to the Whisky it requires. This was not an instant gratification Malt and I might have told you it is a disappointing Malt. Only when I took it with me to a friends house for a dedicated evening of a lot of great Whiskies and music, thus giving it the attention the Whisky itself feels it deserves, it finally did shine. What a moody piece of work! I could pick a fight with this Highland Park, telling it to behave or grow up or just… (pardon my French).
Color: Light gold (not pale).
Nose: Creamy toffee. Bourbon hogshead alright. Fatty and big. Quite aromatic. Fruity with some nice smoke to it, as well as slightly nutty (oak). Soft bonfire and waxy oak. Right out of the gate it smells quite complex, with a lot of creamy, toffee and caramel notes, but also a lot of ripe yellow fruit notes and on top if this, the smoky bit. A very clean smelling Highland Park, big and aromatic, so clean and in a way also modern. Sweet smelling. Very ripe and sweet white peach. Dried apricots. Pineapple syrup. After a while the soft oak comes forward, smelling almost as if the wood was painted white on the outside, because of the tiny chemical aroma this Whisky has. The small chemical bit smells thus of white paint but also whiffs of moped (warm oil, exhaust fumes) and polyester (probably from inside the saddle of the moped), otherwise clean oak (it still matured in a hogshead) and a wee bit of horseradish and unlit tobacco. All of this is so minutely present, that it only adds to the complexity without putting you off. See how strangely complex this one is? This must be why it does need your full attention. Do you also see what is happening here, I give the damn thing the attention it wants and it gives me all these complex and wonderful big aroma’s in return, however if I carelessly sip it away…nothing much! What a piece of work this is. This one seems to be alive and having a personality. There is just too much (happening) in the nose, and it is just too complex for casual sipping, and if you don’t understand its components, it will tell you off. I guess this is one of those Malts not for novices (yet again). I’ll get back to that later.
Taste: (Heathery) sweet, waxy, nutty and woody and pretty smoky on entry, fatty smoke with again some minor hints of plastics and/or polyester. Creamy fruit, mixed with some woody bitterness that not always pops up. In fact all the chemical bits mentioned above are here, yet not causing any problems. The entry is fantastic. It is not entirely similar to the nose, but seems to build on it, extending it. It is chewy and stays moderately sweet. With enough wood and smoke (and peat) to balance this out. Its certainly prickly on my tongue. White pepper? Apart from the heathery sweetness of the initial taste, this could have been a Talisker. Amazing complexity and a wonderful balance. Also some green notes, like dried out leaves and garden waste in autumn (dry, so the pre-rot phase, although close to it). Since I found the pre-rot here, I now also detect it on the nose. These green notes I mentioned earlier, also show up in the nose, after it showed up in the taste. That’s the workings of your oral cavity for you! Warming, The finish is long, complex and warming, and the aftertaste is an extension of the finish. Great balance! After a while the finish shows some bitterness from the wood paired with some licorice and the tiniest hint of some soapiness on the back of my tongue. The amount of bitterness seems different from day to day and is definitely saying something about the taster and not entirely about the Whisky.
A wonderful piece of work. Complex and of very high quality. Ranking very, very high on the interesting Whiskies list as well. Amazing how this Whisky manages to takes some off-notes (The bitter, the soap, the paint, the polyester and the moped for instance) and turns them around into something nice in the balancing-out-department. You as a consumer better be a skilled and an experienced taster, if not, this most definitely is not for you. It will sense that and will try to piss you off, making you think this is a mediocre and not so nice Whisky. It is not. It’s amazing. It really is. If anything, it might be slightly too sweet in the beginning and slightly too bitter at the end. If you try this on a couch or a reclining seat, you will miss the point. You need to try it sitting upright on a chair at the table, alert, without being distracted, giving it a lot of time, and then, if you’re “lucky” (actually luck has nothing to do with it), and the planets align as well, you will finally get it, like I just did. This one will not stop giving. It’s special stuff, ’nuff said…