REVIEW: HIGHLAND PARK SINGLE CASK SERIES
A few weeks back I received a lovely package from Highland Park, via Forte Mare and Eric at Scotch and Time, asking for me to give my thoughts on some of the Highland Park Single Cask offerings. I’ve been a big fan of Highland Park from the beginning of my journey, with my deserted island whisky (sadly now discontinued) hailing from that beautiful distillery in Orkney. I’ve been fortunate enough to taste through many of their expressions, from introductory expressions to accessible ones, to those that are more on the rare side. Many of them I have absolutely loved, and enjoy keeping on my shelves, and some others have left me feeling a bit unimpressed. And guess what?! That’s okay! No distillery is perfect. I don't expect to love everything I taste, from any one distillery! Whisky is such a personal experience for each of us, and it’s one of the many factors that makes this whole community so great! We all have different opinions, and we all are lucky enough to be able to share them freely. I went into these knowing whatever the outcome was, I’d share it with you all honestly, and unbiased, as I do with any other whisky that fills my glass!
Highland Park Single Cask whiskies are limited per region of release, with theses particular ones hailing from different parts of the United States. They are all single cask, cask strength, non chill filtered with zero color additives. All three were matured in sherry seasoned oak casks, handpicked by Gordon Motion, their Master Whisky Maker. Once they are gone, they are gone forever and will never be replicated, which makes for an exciting bottle to have on your shelf to enjoy over the years, and adds to the exclusivity of these bottles. Also, these offerings are a bit like the Kinder Eggs of whisky. You don't know which kind of surprise you're going to get, as each is unique and unlike the cask next to it. They can be a bit of a gamble, and not for everyone, but again, that just adds to the excitement of it all!
Now lets get to the whisky! The below reviews were all tasted from a Glencairn glass, with zero water or ice added.
NOR’EASTER: Northeast Exclusive: Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York via participating retailers while stocks last.
Refill Sherry Butt // 15 Yr. // 56.9%
NOSE: Hello Sherry! You get those right upfront with some smoky puffs not far behind. Little waves of citrus appear.
PALATE: this sat on my palate a little bitterly, almost like grapefruit rinds. It’s definitely the driest of the three, but was also the smokiest the three! The sherry notes coat your entire mouth, but not enough to mask those bitter rind notes!
FINISH: finishes similar to the palate, dry and bitter on the back of my tongue, with a medium tight mouth squeeze.
OVERALL: this was my least favorite of the three, as it just seemed very one dimensional, with those bitter notes being really overwhelming.
HELLULAND: Total Wine Exclusive
Refill Sherry Puncheon // 13 Yr // 61.3%
NOSE: light, no smokiness, waves of applesauce and stewed pears. Smells almost like a crème brûlée taste!
PALATE: this is really lovely, full of apple cake notes with sweet heat behind it. It’s super smooth and gives a really tight mouth squeeze! It shows more layers of flavor, with creamy notes of desserts with those warm fruit bubbles popping up and coating your palate.
FINISH: sweet stewed fruit notes with a tight tingle, and a medium finish that leaves you feeling quite satisfied!
OVERALL: this was my favorite of the three. The sherry notes didn't mask any flavors, or seem too upfront, they just complimented the other notes. It has good overall depth to it, which I really enjoyed. I’m learning that puncheon casks add some unique flavors I really enjoy!
GOTHAM CITY: New York Exclusive
Refill Sherry Butt // 15 Yr. // 59.6%
NOSE: this was the most pleasant on the nose! Sugary sweet! Very grape/wine forward with little butterscotch surprises! It stood out the most on the nose out of the three.
PALATE: the heat of this dissolves evenly and lusciously over your tongue, leaving a really great mouthfeel. It has a slight smokiness. Tropical fruits emerge, think grilled pineapple on the beach, leaving you feeling warm and happy!
FINISH: medium mouth squeeze, sits on the tip of your tongue! Some of the sherry notes remind you at the end that they are there, and want to be loved.
OVERALL: this one was really lovely and was close to being the winner. It has a rich and velvety feel to it, one that I would enjoy drinking quite often. I think I didnt put this in first place because it was a bit too familiar for me, but again, really really good!
In short, these whiskies were quite good. Out of the three, there was one that didn't sit well with my taste buds, but that doesn't discourage me or make me any less excited about trying more whiskies from Highland Park. Like I said in the beginning, I have been a fan of their whiskies from the start, from basic expressions to other single cask bottlings, and I will continue to believe in what they can accomplish. I know there have been a few "rumblings" so to speak, about the quality of their recent expressions, but I genuinely believe that they are listening, and that they are working hard to put out some fantastic whiskies. I know I'll be here, glass in hand.
The Small Print:
Massive thanks to Eric at Scotch and Time, and to Forte Mare for getting these to me safely. Also, to Highland Park for allowing me to try these. These samples were sent to me free of charge. All reviews and photos are my own.