This summer Malt Nuts celebrated the club reaching its 1,000 single malt benchmark in two separate tastings... Unfortunately I missed Part 1 in which they tasted bunch of different Ardbeg expressions but could manage to attend Part 2 on Monday, July 2nd. This one was all about different Highland Park bottlings and we ended up tasting 14 different expressions including two late additions to the line-up brought by Highland Park's brand ambassador that evening.
Although the night wasn't the first Malt Nuts tasting I attended it is the first one I will be posting about... I always feel like I need more time to spend with the whiskies in my glass and to scribble down tasting notes but this time I believe I managed to put enough words in my notebook to share on the blog. They will be in a slightly different format, more like a shorthand version this time...
Malt Nuts format is based on flights being tasted blind. Every flight consists of different expressions grouped and arranged in advance and we don't know what we are tasting till after we are done with each flight and discuss and talk about them. The bottles are revealed right after each individual flight and then we move on to the next one. So, like I mentioned before this Highland Park tasting had 14 different expressions grouped in four different flights. Only the first flight (1A and 1B) was not tasted blind but the rest were. Hope you enjoy the post...
1A - Highland Park The Light (52.9%):
Nose: Dry hay, strawberries, pineapples and jonquils.
Palate: Yellow grapefruit slices, Concorde pears, fresh mint, straw and rock salt.
Finish: Long with white pepper notes. A little bitter.
Overall: Very similar to Full Volume in terms of being matured in ex-bourbon casks but richer, fruitier and more floral. Is it worth the big price jump? That I am not sure of...
1B - Highland Park The Dark (52.9%):
Nose: Prunes, Zante currants, balsamic vinegar and leather upholstery.
Palate: Black peppercorns, beef stew and vintage furniture. Fireplace ash and roasted barley.
Finish: Long with mold and campfire.
Overall: This is a stunner... I never thought that I would prefer a sherry cask aged Highland Park over a bourbon cask aged one but here it is. The Dark is definitely a much more complex and layered release than The Light. They sure knocked it out of the park with this one.
Nose: Gummy bears, Altoids wintergreen mints and dried papaya slices.
Palate: Fresh spearmint leaves, guava nectar and menthol cigarettes.
Finish: Medium with fresh mint leaves.
Overall: It is hard to believe that it is a 24 year old whisky. That much time in a cask should add more layers and flavors to the spirit.
Highland Park 18yo (old squat bottle) (43.0%):
Nose: Touch of sulphur, black tea, olive oil and BBQ.
Palate: Rubber bands and little sulphur. Sweet... Milk chocolate.
Finish: Medium with tannins, ash and oak.
Overall: Quite nice... Less polished and less delicate than the current official 18yo offering from the distillery.
Nose: Strawberries, red gummy bears and raspberry jam. Raspberry ice tea.
Palate: Sweet... Strawberry jam and cherry coke.
Finish: Medium to long with maraschino cherries.
Overall: Very good cask...
Nose: Touch of sulphur, mint drops and club soda. Not too many things to mention here.
Palate: Rock candy, pebble stones and young alcohol burn. Tastes like a five year old whisky, odd...
Finish: Long but mostly with alcohol burn and lemon zest.
Overall: I wonder what kind of a cask they used for this. It doesn't make any sense unless the cask was a 3rd or 4th fill... The spirit is incredibly raw and immature. I was shocked at the end to learn that the whisky in the bottle was 21 year old.
3C - SMWS Cask 4.190 22yo (53.9%):
Nose: Quite mute again... Lemon twist and honey syrup.
Palate: Straw, green wood and light caramel.
Finish: Long. Bitter, peppery and spirity.
Overall: We realized after the reveal that 4.171 and 4.190 were sister casks but this one is bottled a year after. Again not an enjoyable whisky but definitely better than 4.171.
Nose: Bitter greens, dandelion leaves and honeydew slices.
Palate: Peat, ash and caramel drops.
Finish: Long... All the notes on the palate are present till they gently fade out.
Overall: At the end of the night this was my favorite expression, great whisky. Grassy, green and peaty with barn and farm notes. Loved it..!
Nose: Vanilla, peach ice tea and sunflower seeds.
Palate: Peach and apricots. Peat smoke and buckskin.
Finish: Long and syrupy with smoke and burnt caramel.
Overall: Fruity and delicate. Great cask...
4B - The Ultimate Highland Park 22yo (46.0%):
Nose: Latex gloves, band aids. Granny Smith apples and soccer ball.
Palate: Black tea, gentle smoke and char. Iodine tincture...
Finish: Long and peppery.
Overall: Lively and energetic despite being a 22 year old whisky. Not spirity or immature but excitingly vibrant.
Highland Park 26yo (46.0%):
Nose: Little sulphur, fresh dill and fennel. Liking this nose quite a lot...
Palate: Sulphur, peat, stewed fruits and leather upholstery.
Finish: Long... Sulphur and peat.
Overall: Although I could nose and taste sulphur pretty strong in this I enjoyed the dill notes on the nose so much I couldn't help myself scoring this whisky very high. Would love to own a bottle...
Highland Park 19yo (51.9%):
Nose: Party balloons, gunpowder and peat.
Palate: Dark chocolate, peat and nutmeg.
Finish: Long with spicy hot chocolate and red pepper.
Overall: Not fancy or loaded with extremes but a very balanced whisky nobody can complain about.
4E - Highland Park Single Cask "Helluland" 13yo (61.3%):
Nose: Oops... Sulphur all over... Thousand year eggs, new car tires and BBQ smoke.
Palate: Lots of sulphur again, ash and beef stew.
Finish: Long but I wish it was shorter. Not enjoyable at all... Sulphur and cooked prunes.
Overall: This was a downer for sure... Although airing helped at the end a little it is still extremely sulphury. Not for me...
Nose: OMG..! And I thought 4E was sulphury... Struck matches, animal carcasses and spoiled milk. Yuck...
Palate: Sulphur all over the palate. Hard to detect anything else. Maybe hard boiled eggs forgotten in the fridge for a long time...
Finish: Why it is so long..? A long torture of decaying organic matter, city sewage, struck matches and rotten eggs.
Overall: I wish I was with them when they were deciding which casks to bottle for this release... I wonder who chose this cask and most importantly how the hell the others agreed with him..? I am serious, how can you bottle a cask like this..? I am so glad that I didn't purchase one a couple of months ago when I had the chance to do so...
Thanks to all Malt Nuts for a monumental tasting..! It was amazingly satisfying, educational and so much fun. Cannot wait for the next tasting... Stay tuned...