Tag Archives: highlands

Highland Park Fire Review

Distiller: Highland Park. Region: Highlands/Islands. ABV: 45.2%. Age: 15 years. Price: $300.

I’m always a sucker for a good whisk(e)y story, especially when it comes from a distillery I’ve loved for pretty much my entire whisky drinking life. Highland Park, on the remote Orkney Islands of Scotland (long a bucket list destination), has delved fully into the Viking heritage of that part of the British Isles with a series of special bottlings.

Several months ago, I sampled their Ice, named after the mythical Viking Ice Giants. More recently, the distillery was gracious enough to send a sample of the next release in this vein, the Highland Park Fire Edition.

A limited release of 28,000 bottles, the Fire is intended to honor the Fire Giants, foremost of whom was Surtr, who, in mythology, destroyed the world in Ragnarok. So, the main question: is this whisky worthy of a world-destroying giant?

In two words: Hell. Yes. Unlike most of the distillery’s products, the 15-year-old Fire was barreled not in the traditional sherry casks, but in a 100% refill port wine-seasoned cask. Now, mind you, I’ve always enjoyed the Highland Park, but the port has opened worlds to me.

The nose has hints of cinnamon, as you’d expect from the bottle, but also lovely and nutty dark chocolate, a flowing and mellow vanilla, and something reminiscent of the tail end of a hog roast. The palate just sings. More pronounced vanilla, to be sure, but I adored the rich roasted coffee, along with orange rind, very slight plantain, and tobacco akin to a Cuban cigar I once enjoyed. The finish is perfectly sustained. It teeters on the brink of fiery, but never tilts harsh. Instead, what you get is an ending you’ll want to savor until the last elements are fully gone.

Now, at this price and limited availability, there’s no way that it can be a staple, but if you can find a bottle, grab it. It’s an infinitely rewarding whisky and one I plan to savor for years to come.

Slàinte, friends, and grab the sublime when you find it. – TM

Highland Park graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Highland Park Dark Origins Review

Distiller: Highland Park. Region: Highland/Islands. ABV: 46.8%. No age statement. Price: $80.

The Dark Origins is a velvety no-age-statement dram from Highland Park that doubles the sherry cask influence of the standard 12, and is meant to replace the 15-year-old in the near future.

The release is matured 80% in first-fill sherry casks, 20% refill sherry. Needless to say, the sherry is strong with this one.

There’s light honeyed smoke on the nose, plus stewed and candied fruits. The palate adds loads of bitter orange, plus more oak tannins than the Highland Park usually brings. Dark chocolate and lingering smoke on the finish.

It’s a more substantial and interesting dram than the 12-year-old Highland Park, but it struck me as a bit unbalanced overall. It’s not cheap for an NAS, but sherry fans will want to check it out. I’ll be revisiting this one myself, but in the meantime I’ll be pouring myself another A’Bunadh.

Sláinte, friends! -BO

Oban Distiller’s Edition Review

Distiller: Oban. Region: Highlands. ABV: 43%. Age: 14-15 years. Price: $90-120.

Oban is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, but a popular single malt in the U.S.–with the joke/not-joke reason being that people aren’t afraid to try to pronounce it.

It’s got plenty more going for it. The standard Oban 14 is an excellent example of richness, balance, and approachability, and easy one to recommend to just about anybody.

Oban’s annual Distiller’s Editions up the game in a great way. The standard 14-year-old is given a very welcome finish in Montilla Fino for an additional 6-18 months.

I first had this excellent 2013 Edition at that year’s WhiskyFest Chicago, and greeted it like an old friend when I recently got to revisit it. The nose is hugely, bewitchingly aromatic, with hothouse flowers, ginger, and allspice. The palate has lots of buttery, biscuity malt, together with the spice from the palate. The finish brings dried fruit rinds and white pepper.

Lovely mouthfeel, and it holds its own at 43% ABV…though a cask strength of this would really be something.

Slàinte, friends! – BO

Tomatin 14 Port Finish Review

Distiller: Tomatin. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. Age: 14 years. Price: $55.

Tomatin is a fine and under-appreciated Highlands distillery that’s taken a big step toward being properly recognized with a major packaging overhaul in 2016. (For a look at the unflattering old packaging, see our review of the excellent Tomatin 18.)

I like the new look for three reasons: 1) good design makes my eyes happy, 2) what’s in the bottle lives up to the new good looks, and 3) Tomatin’s always been a value buy, and will continue to be–they’re not hiking prices to go with the redesign. That’s reason to celebrate.

The distillery was kind enough to share tastes of the 12-year-old, the no-age-statement Dualchas, and this 14-year-old Port Finish. They’re all worth daily drinkers, but this 14 is my favorite of the bunch.

The core malt is aged for 13 years in the traditional ex-bourbon barrels, then finished for a year in tawny port pipes. That finish imparts to the welcome Tomatin core of malt and oak spice a layer of wild blackberry. The palate adds dark chocolate notes–think chocolate lava cake with fresh wild strawberries. The finish has ripe fruit and lingering spice.

The overall experience is dark and lovely. It’s a great alternative for sherry lovers any day of the week, neck-and-neck with the 18-year-old as my favorite Tomatin yet.

Sláinte, friends! – BO

A Tomatin representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Glenmorangie 10 Review

Distiller: Glenmorangie. Region: Highlands. ABV: 43%. Age: 10 years old. Price: $30-40.

Earlier this year, J.T. Rickhouse has the great good fortune of getting to attend a once-in-a-lifetime tasting of the $50,000 Glenmorangie 1970s Collection on behalf of the Axis.

During the event, J.T. got to put some questions to the great Dr. Bill Lumsden, head of distilling and whisky creation at Glenmorangie. One of them was what was Dr. Bill’s personal favorite from the Highland distillery’s lineup. Interestingly, it wasn’t one of the ultra-rare 1970s bottles, nor the stunning 18-year-old or Signet. It was the good old, everyday 10-year-old Original.

There are plenty of Glenmorangies I like, but there’s no denying that the 10-year-old is one of the great values in single malt whisky.

The nose has apple, vanilla, and golden raisins, with a hint of cedar and grape must. The palate has golden malt, honeysuckle, baked pear. Lemon pound cake with vanilla frosting and a dusting of cocoa powder. The finish is shortish but satisfying, with raw honey and that pleasant sourish sweetness left at the bottom of a good glass of Chardonnay.

It’s an excellent introduction to single malt scotch–one I’d unquestioningly recommend over the equivalent entry-level Glenfiddich or Glenlivet–a rock-solid daily dram, and one of those old standbys you can come back to with a new appreciation after a long odyssey through sherry bombs and peat monsters.

Well done, Dr. Bill! – BO

Buy Glenmorangie single malt online at Mash + Grape

A company representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Old Pulteney 17 Review

Distillery: Old Pulteney. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. Price: $85.

I’ve long been a fan of the Old Pulteney. Maybe it’s the Winslow Homer fan in me, or the fond memories I have of my grandfather’s Old Spice, but from the design on the bottle to the taste of the dram, the whisky has always spoken to me of life on the sea and making a living with your hands. So when the good folks at this Highland distillery offered to send us a sample of the current Old Pulteney 17-year-old, I was thrilled. And I gotta tell you, the dram does not disappoint.

There’s a woodsy nose to it, with scents of honey, dried apricots, and maybe a touch of dark chocolate. The palate is immensely fun. The oak from the nose serves as the base of the palate, over which you get splashes of butterscotch, blackberries, and more of that lovely honey. All the elements dance together without ever getting in each other’s way. And the finish, man the finish. It’s sustained without overstaying its welcome–and the whole time it lingered, I kept thinking about the next sip.

It’s a terrific whisky, and at this price, it’s a must-have. Here’s to people doing their jobs well. Cheers, friends! – TM

A company representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.