MoM Highland Park 1990

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 20.55.48Distillery: Highland Park
Bottled: 2014 Distilled: 1990
Age: 24 years old
Bottler: Master of Malt
ABV: 57.5%
Cask: Second-fill Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

I do like an interesting Highland Park!

The first time I tried his delicious Orcadian beverage was way back in the sands of time as a student. Since then, sadly, I’ve found that it’s easy to get the 12 year old anywhere but pretty much everything else in their range is hard to find or just too damn expensive.

But its scarcity and price do indicate one thing – its popularity. And with good reason. Highland Park to me always tastes like an older style of whisky – more subtle, mineral, savoury qualities on the palate without being a vanilla candle at one end of the scale, or a peat monster at the other. And they peat their own barley at the distillery, which I find always makes for a more interesting profile than barley smoked at an industrial maltings.

This particular single ex-bourbon cask held the spirit for 24 years. A good age for any whisky, I’m expecting some class here.

Nose: Grilled pineapple, grapefruit syrup, fragrant resin, nutmeg ice cream, honeydew melon. Beyond the fruit, a waft of sea salt flakes and dry wood smoke.

Palate: Pear skin, tart raspberry, grapefruit, oaky barrel spice, cinnamon, and savoury peat amidst a thick, soft mouthfeel and a gentle maltiness.

Finish: Salty oak with cashews and a touch of smoked cheese.

This is absolutely glorious. Coastal peat with a ton of fruit in perfect balance. Soft mouthfeel and very smooth at full cask strength. With water it opens up with even more fruit and smoke coming through. Without water it’s still masterful on the palate, belying the considerable 57.5% ABV of the spirit.

Forgive the cliché but it’s a “fruity dessert at a beach barbecue” kind of dram. Mmmmm, absolutely stellar.

Still available over at Master of Malt for £209.95. A little more than I’d like to pay for the vintage, but it is exceptionally good and a damn-sight cheaper than the official bottling of 25-year-old, plus it’s cask strength.

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Ardbeg Batch 5 (TBWC)

Distillery: Ardbeg
Bottler: Master of Malt
ABV: 47.5%
Bottles: 23
More Info: Master Of Malt

Oh my.

It’s always fun to sample an interesting Ardbeg. This time it’s another batch from the chaps at Master of Malt.

Their Boutique-y whiskies are from mystery casks bottled independently and adorned with clever cartoon labels, usually depicting an in-joke of the whisky world. Sadly they keep the details (including the age) to themselves, but the whisky in the bottle is usually of a high standard and full of character.

Much as I love them, this should be quite a departure from the current core Ardbeg expressions…

Nose: The smell fills the room! There’s that distinctive Ardbeg coal tar (though it’s a fair bit more restrained than in Ardbeg 10), rubber shoe soles, candle wax, lemon cough drops, eucalyptus, pineapple chunks, rock salt, and fresh boot polish. With time, more delicate notes of wild flowers and dry grass.

Palate: Sooty and sweet! Quite creamy, cereal-rich, and malty to start. Then bakery notes of gingerbread, spiced treacle, and malt loaf developing into soft fruit, dark coffee and chocolate fudge, all against a backdrop of gentle sticky peat.

Finish: Salty smoke and hazelnuts with dry liquorice root, damp wood and earthy peat.

This is fucking classy. Like a really excellent dessert course after a posh meal. A fine mix of smoke and dark, rich cake in a glass. Pretty much exactly what I wanted from this dram – all those lovely Ardbeg characteristics but toned down with subtlety and elegance and some fun bonus notes along the way.

I wish MoM would tell us more about this batch but that’s just not the way they roll when it comes to Boutique-y Whisky. It’s certainly tastes like it’s a decent age. I’m guessing it’s at least 18, though that’s pure speculation on my part…

If you’re an Ardbeg lover, I’m afraid all 23 bottles are now gone but there’s still some samples left as I write this. £19.45 isn’t such a bad price for a sample, and I’m sure you’d be asked to pay that for a glass of Haig club on a night out in London anyway.

Littlemill 21 (Master of Malt)

Distillery: Littlemill
Bottled: 2013, Distilled: 1991
Age: 21 years old
Bottles: 273
Bottler: Master of Malt
ABV: 52.4%
Cask: Refill Hogshead
More Info: WhiskyBase

My gosh, this is out of character for me! Not only am I drinking a Scotch whisky from the mainland, but it’s one from the Lowlands region. And not just any Lowlands Scotch, either – one from a long-gone distillery.

You don’t often come across Littlemill whisky. The distillery was actually set up in the 1700’s so had a long history of producing spirit in Dumbartonshire. It went through various hands over the years, before it was mothballed in the 1990’s and eventually dismantled. Then, in 2005 it was gutted by a fire. As a result, the building’s remains were levelled, and I’m told a housing development is now where it used to be.

When in production it had a single wash still (and spirit still) with a 750 litre output. Pretty small by modern standards. Small, but perfectly formed?

Let’s find out…

Nose: Oooh! Definitely a whiff of new shoes, followed by lemon sponge, mown grass, biscuits, ripe pineapple and mango pulp.

Palate: Soft and creamy with lemon essential oil, lychee, runny honey, malt biscuits, olive oil, leading to lovely tingly sherbet.

Finish: Lip-smacking with a hint of hazelnuts.

This is absolutely lovely stuff. Light, floral, grassy, citrus-zesty, and malty with a gentle peat influence. Really goes down very well indeed. What a shame it’s gone 😦

If you ever get a chance to try Littlemill then go for it. Bottlings aren’t as outrageously priced as Port Ellen and Brora but I’d imagine they’ll get prohibitively expensive over the years as stocks dwindle…

This sample came from Master of Malt, but it looks like I bagged the last one. Sorry!

Kilchoman 5 Year Old (Master of Malt)

Distillery: Kilchoman
Bottled: 2013, Distilled: 2008
Age: 5 years old
Bottles: 286
Bottler: Master of Malt
ABV: 59.6%
Cask: 1st-fill Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Faintly herbal with a coastal edge, like clifftop bushes. Acidic peat smoke giving way to sour-dough bread, butter, fresh oak, caramel, and custard creams.

Palate: Sweet vanilla caramel wraps bitter, peat smoke and charred wood, followed by unripe green fruit, sea-water, and floral notes.

Finish: Briny, with liquorice root.

That first-fill bourbon cask is really evident here – so much fresh oak, floral notes, and vanilla! That trade-mark Kilchoman smoke is quite dry and earthy so it’s a nice mix of savoury and sweet flavours.