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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Three Old Dusty Cadenhead Caol Ilas

Very much following in the footsteps of Ben Cops, here’s three old and delicious Caol Ila bottlings from WM Cadenhead.

I’ve been saving the 30 year old for my 30th birthday and now that the bottle’s open it’s time to revisit last year’s 29 year old and get stuck into a taster of this year’s 31 year old release (again, thank you to Mr Cops for this!).

All three are full term Bourbon cask matured and great examples of how lovely Caol Ila can be when well-aged.

Caol Ila 29

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 16.08.10Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottled: 2013, Distilled: 1984
ABV: 55.5%
Cask: Bourbon Hogshead
Bottler: WM Cadenhead
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Sweet smoke, cloudy apple juice, paprika, Easter Egg chocolate, damp wood, tangerine and fresh honeydew melon.

Palate: Very rich and oily. Bitter oranges, poached pears, more cloudy apple juice, with a gentle woody smoke rising through the fruit.

Finish: Becomes waxy and spicy, with a Brazil nut undertone. Extraordinarily long and satisfying. Like a deep-muscle massage for your mind. It unlocks something in the brain that leads to fits of grinning, like some kind of serene whisky Nirvana.

Verdict: I love this whisky so much. A really active cask (I think a first fill) has given this a lot of punchy flavour. The citrus smoke element of Caol Ila has moved from lemon notes in the younger bottlings to orange and melon flavours. Utterly glorious.

 

Caol Ila 30

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 16.08.24Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 1984
ABV: 56.2%
Cask: Bourbon Hogshead
Bottler: WM Cadenhead
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Fragrant lime skin, earthy moss, sawdust, wood lacquer, sherbet, vanilla, orange pith, candy brittle.

Palate: Gloriously sweet shopp-y. Salty toffee, liqourice torpedos and sour zingy sherbet with a whole lot of fruit on the side – melon rind, guava, strawberries and tangerines. After the fruit there’s drying sweet tobacco leaf and a little Cadbury’s Chocolate Buttons.

Finish: Oak and black pepper with wafts of soft wood smoke and black tea. That Brazil nut taste is there again, too.

Verdict: Different to the 29. Still fruity and smoky but there’s none of that cloudy apple juice or pickle juice character. Still wonderfully balanced between the fruit and zesty smoke. Elegant, juicy, delicious.

 

Caol Ila 31

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 08.55.02Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottled: 2015, Distilled: 1984
ABV: 54.3%
Cask: Bourbon Hogshead
Bottler: WM Cadenhead
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Spiced custard, wax crayons, marker pens, salty dust, marmalade, candied lemon and lime.

Palate: Zingy, sour and oaky with bitter pepper and more fresh citrus. Sherbet, chalky refresher sweets, green apples and redcurrants.

Finish: Mellows after the peppery bite of the palate leaving a long and lingering taste of ripe pears and smooth, buttery oak.

Verdict: I think this one’s got a lot more tanin from the wood but it settles down nicely to a lovely and unusual finish. The 29 and 30 had more going on in the middle but this is all about the long end.

Summary

Three fabulous whiskies here – really showing off both what Caol Ila can do over time, and what good cask selection you see from WM Cadenhead.

For me, the winner’s got to be the 29 – that juicy, punchy, fruity quality is rowdy compared to the more elegant dust of the 30 and 31 but it absolutely charms my palate.

The lesson? Taste old Caol Ila as often as you can – the chances are that you’ll be delighted.