Have you ever heard people say that the Original Highland Park Bottlings from the 1970ies and before are much better than most independent releases? I did. However, I refrained from telling these ‚experts‘ that all these ridiculously priced old bottlings being released these days are bought back by the distillery, mostly from Duncan & Taylor. Gerry Tosh (Global Marketing Manager at Highland Park) himself doesn’t make a secret out of this fact. But why save a fortune on a 1960ies HP-Sauce from Orkney by going for an independent release when you can get such beautiful decanters and boxes for your money 🙂 .
According to participants of the Orcadian Vintage tasting in Frankfurt, Gerry was very entertaining and straightforward. Her shared his opinions about the new releases openly. Among many interesting remarks he mentioned was, that you can use old HP bottlings as ‚weather-backcasts‘. The less peaty a dram is, the windier it must have been during the days when the malt was in the kiln, because in that period of time, wind could enter the malting floor/kiln area somehow and partly blow out the phenolic smoke. I can neither confirm nor contradict this as pure B.S. – it just sounded very interesting when a friend told me about his words. Please ask Gerry for the details.
We are not into weather history today, all I do is try this stunning whisky with its heavy price tag:
Highland Park ‚Orcadian Vintage‘ 1964 – 2009, 290 btl., 42,2% (from two refill-hogsheads, one American Oak, one European Oak ex-Sherry)
Comment: This one is the inaugural release of the series and comes with a heavy box with wood inlays and a silver amulet on the front (Viking design, yeah right, I forgot). Nice but … I guess such packaging is necessary to sell it for almost 4.000 squid.Let’s just judge the spirit. An amazing cristalline nose with beautiful balance awaits the chosen few to sip it. The mix of the two different casks is a success, because one gets the best of both worlds, Bourbon (exotic fruits like passion fruit, caramel) and Sherry Casks (wonderful dark aromas of excellent Sherry, dark wood, slight mustiness, etc.). It is all the way high-class with orange-liqueur, sourish notes of rhubarb pie, marshmallows, coffee, heather, Sauce Bolognese and a little peat smoke. On the side, there is a lovely competition between the freshness of cristalline dextrose, which is so typical for the 1964 vintage, and the slight mustiness from old and forgotten Sherry casks. Let’s taste this baby now: No ‚bad‘ woodiness, just a spot-on delivery of mahogani and fruit at first, then the aromas from above ride in gloriously. A whiff of mint joins the delicate nectar on the mid-palate, leading over to a complex finish that only an old whisky like this can deliver. Nothing is in your face here, all is just hinted at. I stand in awe, this piece of liquid art is among the best 50 drams I ever had. Worth a high price for sure, but not the one they charge – hence, not many whisky lovers will get the chance to drink it.