A few months ago HP issued a very exciting press release about a new expression to be called “Earl Magnus”. As a HP devotee (I love their 12,18,Hjarta and recently reviewed and amazing Single Cask bottling for Maxxium, NL) i was thrilled and ordered my bottle the same day LFW stocked it. As it happens, i was not the only one waiting eagerly for this special release and the entire LFW stock was finished the same day (lucky for me to have not waited like i usually do, debating whether to get or not get this bottle).
For those of you who are not familiar with the ‘Earl Magnus’ Expression which caused a bit of a stir back then, a few background details about this one.
Earl Magnus is a 15 year old Highland Park with the addition of some casks from the early 1990s to add even greater depth and a firmer structure and bottled at 52.6% Abv. It takes its name from the most famous of the Viking Earls of Orkney, in whose memory the stunning cathedral in Kirkwall was built (less than a mile from the distillery) and stands as a testament to the craftsmanship of medieval master masons. Another rather special aspect is the bottle HP used for this expression. It’s a replica of ‘old style’ whisky bottles used in previous centuries: uneven,containing bubbles and a little tipsy with a little cork covered in melted wax. very very retro. I like!
The bottle itself comes in a marvelous wooden box (HP likes those fancy boxes for limited editions – for example the Hjarta ‘coffin’), but sadly i was not able to get the wooden box. Israeli customs requite special forms on every shipment that is over 2 Kg. Had i opted to send the box too, i would have paid about 150 pounds sterling in customs which is just unbelievable for a 85 quid bottle. Israeli Customs – the worst in the world. i swear. But even without the wooden box, the bottle is sexy as hell with this lovely label and shape. wicked!
Limited as it is, there are only 5,976 bottles worldwide, and one is here in Israel, in my bar. i am a happy man. But, and a big but i have not opened this bottle until, yes last week. Surprised? so am i. Usually i can not wait more than a few hours form the moment the bottle is bought or picked up from the post office, until the first dram is poured. I must taste them ASAP. I have too many open bottles as it is, and i should not open all i guess , but it’s hard. It’s like Moses coming so close to the promised land and not getting in… This time , the bottle looked so sexy and nice, and i didn’t want to open it immediately, then i waited for an occasion to open it, and time flew. Last week, to celebrate something i open it after all. Was it worth the waiting?
If you are looking for more information about this expression and history facts and figures about ‘Earl Magnus’ i do urge you to read Jeff’s excellent and well written post, with amazing pics of unboxing this whisky.
The official tasting notes by Max MacFarlane, Whisky Maker at HP are as follows:
Appearance: Golden honey, clear and bright.
Nose: Cedar wood and lemon. Mango chunks with hints of ginger and cinnamon bark.
Palate: Vanilla, balanced smokiness, milk chocolate and crystallized ginger.
Finish: Medium sweet with lingering spiciness.
Now for my own tasting notes, are they similar? let’s see…
HP ‘Earl Magnus’ 15 yo, 52.6% ABV
Nose : Honey lemon meringue some marshmallow. Oak spices on the background.With water the oaky Notes are more evident. This is far more lemony than the 12,Hjarta and 18 i’ve tasted recently. (and more like the 15 year old, well it’s 15 year old too, hm…) Less of the sherry notes are there, It’s like a HP stripped out of it’s sherry, i didn’t expect that! .Smoke is also there but more distant, to be revealed more bluntly in the palate.
Palate : Oily. Big drying palate. Citrusy. The Smoke then enters the mouth coating it with a greater intesnity than i had expected which is rather nice. Some earthy peat with damp soil. Spice. Pepper. Ginger. very complex.Yumm. Indeed a great palate. Not a classic HP palate at all.
Finish :Long on smoke, oat bread and a spicy tingle. Some bitterness, and wee smoke.
So, what’s the bottom line?
No argument this is a class A dram, complex, balanced, and not what i initially expected. Do i like it better than the Hjarta or the beloved 18? Nope. It’s very different from those, and i have to agree with my friend Jason of the Guid Scotch Drink, that had you given me this for a blind tasting, i would have never guessed it a HP…
I love the HP sherry influence, and this was missing in this dram. As great as it is, i would prefer the Hjarta if special releases are conernced and if i am looking for some nice Cask Strenth HP.
All in all, a very enjoyable yet, not very representative of the HP style, but worth it. I am happy with this purchase. After all.