There is a saying that says ‘all good things come in small packages’. This is indeed true for the malt I am about to review today. A single Cask Highland Park, aged for 12 years, and bottled at CS in 350ml bottles. A small bottle, but what a killer malt inside. Now before we dive into the notes of this baby, some info about HP (in case you don’t know this awesome distillery yet)
Highland Park (HP) distillery needs no introductions. It’s one of the most highly acclaimed distilleries, producing excellent whisky at the highest standards of quality and stability of their core range. I am very surprised at myself for not reviewing any of their expressions until now, since HP is one of my all time favorites (the 18 year old is a top whisky and an old favorite of mine).
Located at Kirkwall, Orkney, it’s the most northern distillery in Scotland. founded in 1798, Its name comes from the high altitude the distillery is located on, compared to the lower surroundings. HP also does its own malting, and uses peat from the nearby moor in order to dry the malted barley and to give it the distinctive “heathery” peaty character. The heathery nature of the barley originates from the usage of heather mixed with the peat, and from the local peat at Orkney that has some heathery characteristics.
The HP core range includes the entry level 12 year old (which is very popular and very well priced), the 15 and of course the much acclaimed 18 year old. Older core expressions include the 21 year old (limited to travel retail, and recently bottled with lower ABV at 40% due to demand and limited stocks of aged casks) , the 25 ,30 and 40 year old (at a whopping £899). For an excellent review of the HP core range refer to the scotch hobbyist excellent posts here and here.
I am planning on reviewing their core range in future posts, but this time I will reviewing an independent bottling rather than an OB by HP.
Single cask bottlings are very special, you get a unique profile of the spirit which no other cask shares. Single casks bottling produce very few bottles, and it’s a great privilege to be able to drink some of the better ones. Now, don’t get me wrong, some casks can be nasty and produce bad malt, most single casks bottling are worthy of their price in gold. This is very true of the next dram I am about to review.
As much as I love the HP bottlings (which are usually bottled at 40%-43% ABV), there is nothing like tasting the spirit in its original cask strength. The additional ABV does add to the impact and character of the whisky, and what can be better than tasting a single cask whisky at cask strength?
Now, it’s tasting notes time…
Highland Park 12 year old, Bottled at Cask Strength (58.9%) for Maxxium Netherlands, Cask #974.
Color: Beautiful Amber (No Caramel here, no sir!)
Nose: without water – Sweet mixed dry fruit. (Sultanas,dates,prunes,raisins). Milk chocolate (have you ever smelled ‘Kinder’ brand chocolate? That’s right. So sweet and rich. This nose is much sweeter than the 12 year old / Hjarta I have sampled so many times. Wow. I love this nose. The peat is almost undetectable. The sweetness is overwhelming. With the addition of water the sweetness on the nose intensifies.
Palate: What a powerful impact this malt has (due to the very high ABV), very impressive. On the palate I get sweet molasses, those dry fruits are back bigtime. Some dark chocolate notes are now replacing the sweet chocolate notes we got earlier on the nose. Some major tickling on the tongue.
Finish: Long comforting ending on espresso coffee, and dark chocolate. Very distant smoke notes, but hardly detectible.
Comparison to the 12 Year old OB:
This bottling is rather different from the “regular” 12 year old OB. It is much sweeter and richer on the nose, i guess this could be attributed to the sherry cask which held the spirit. we must also take into consideration that the 12 OB is a vatting of many casks, some are first fill, and some are re-fill sherry casks, which are vatted together in order to maintain consistency from batch to batch.
It’s unfair to compare the body and palate due to the much higher ABV (58.9% vs. 40% of the OB), but certainly this Cask shines above the the OB.
What is interesting is that the Peat Smoke is less evident in the Maxxium bottling than it is on the OB. Not that the OB is a smoke monster or anything, but the Maxxium is more subtle in that respect. I am not saying it’s better, but it’s different.
All in all, the Maxxium is much more Sherried and viscous , but in a good way. If you like the 12 OB, you are going to LOVE this one.
Summing it up:
This single Cask is a gem. i find it a very comforting dram, suitable for a chilly evening, or after a good meal. Sadly i got only a sample of this one from my good friend Josh (Yossi) of the Jewish Single Malt blog, but would definitely opt to get hold of a full (mini) bottle. This SC bottling is not cheap (around 50 EUR per bottle – 350ml mind you!) , and costs 4x as much as the resonably priced HP 12, but Hey, you get an amazing malt, at Cask Strength and a unique opportunity to sample a single cask which can not be repeated or duplicated again even if we wished for it ;). In my book, that’s a good bargain. The bottles can be found at WhiskyAuction.com (where i borrowed the pics from).