Friday, 2 January 2015

A Shot in the Park

Highland Park 30yo - 48.1%

What the hell

I, Johnnie Stumbler, am an old woman when it comes to buying whisky. Actually, that's not fair. I'm doing old women everywhere a disservice by lumping them into the same category as me. I'm truly awful. I will spend hours upon hours researching a particular bottle, reading the marketing blurb, the online vendor blurb and the blogger blurb and weighing up every other bottle available before actually making a purchase. It's why I never got a bottle of the Devil's Punchbowl or Devil's Cask and why my collection of Ardbeg is woeful; by the time I've convinced myself I want one, the bloody things have sold out.

You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when I found myself walking out of a well known Inverary whisky shop, giddy with excitement, clutching a 30yo bottle of Highland Park. As is often the case with pricy impulse buys, the excitement soon fades and concern pops up in its place. Should I have done it? Was it worth the money? (Hugely debatable across the whisky world these days) Will it taste good?
Admittedly, as impulse buys go, you could do a lot worse than a Highland Park. The 21 and Dark Origins aside, I've found the core range to be of excellent quality and, until quite recently, reasonable value (the price of this bottling has gone up by £170 in 17 months). It's no secret that I consider the Highland Park 40 to be one of the finest whiskies I've ever tried. How does this one measure up?

Wow! Wonderfully rich. Sherry all over with freshly-polished wood, chocolate orange and wisps of smoke. Time to breathe brings marzipan, black cherries, sea spray and a whiff of dry peat.

A little tart at first with the wood tannins taking centre-stage. Once the mouth acclimatises, the richness comes through with Morello cherries, stewed plums. beeswax and a decent whack of salt. A little time gives dark chocolate, a flash of peat and more wood to complete the picture.

Textbook Highland Park. Long and drying with a smoky, salty finale. Mouthwatering and moreish.

A multi-layered sherry bomb. Superb structure, engineered delivery and exhibits the level of balance for which Highland Park is famous. It doesn't quite reach the dizzying heights of the 40yo but very few whiskies do.

Grade: A
Eye-wateringly expensive these days, taking it firmly out of the realms of impulse, but a taste sensation nonetheless. When these guys get it right, they get it very right.

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