Just a little duo of releases from The Whisky Exchange today. They’re exclusives, rather than special bottlings, which is to say not part of the family of companies and brands that is Speciality Drinks Ltd. The brands include things like the fabulous Elements of Islay Range, the delicious
Caol Ila Port Askaig whiskies and other bits and pieces. All of which are rather good.
Recently I tried a few whiskies from one of their other ranges – the Single Malts of Scotland – and found them to be rather disappointing, especially in comparison with what else they release. But as I say, it’s two special releases today and the last one of these I tasted from The Whisky Exchange was a corking GlenDronach, so I’m looking forward to them.
Highland Park 1999 – 16 Years Old, Gordon & MacPhail
Cask #4260. First-fill Bourbon Barrel. Bottled at 56.6% ABV. The Highland Park 1999 costs £80 a bottle. Quite funny, in a way that this is a Highland Park whisky, bottled by independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail, and sold exclusively by another party, The Whisky Exchange.
Colour: yellow gold.
On the nose: refreshing! And unusual. Baked ham and a dollop of mango and pineapple. A huge malt presence, Bran Flakes, and there’s a snifter of peat, but not much and it’s so bound with the maltiness that you’d almost never notice. That meaty, baked ham returns.
In the mouth: vanilla, a lot of it, with light honey and mead. Baked apples by the bucket load, with a drizzle of golden syrup on top. Ginger. Cinnamon. Very warming. Charred meats or burnt toast. Just a little bit of bitter tannin to rein this in. Lots of attitude and a bit unbalanced, but characterful! I really like it though – it’s simple but bold.
Aberlour 16 Years Old
First-fill Sherry Cask #4638. Bottled at 53.5% ABV.
On the nose: Classic, almost clichéd(?) sherry bomb. If you’re a sherry cask lover (and I am) then let it settle for a good while; and there’s am amazing mellowness about the whole thing, a lovely dreaminess. A gorgeous thick, heady plum jam intro, with a ton of raspberries, redcurrants and blackberries. Just the right amount of tartness versus the sweetness. Maple syrup. Only after all of that insane jam fades can you pick apart the classic dried fruits and a hint of mustiness, bordering on sandalwood. It kind of reminds me of a couple of Karuizawas that I’ve had in the past
In the mouth: more redcurrant than raspberry. The tartness, the woodiness, comes to the fore. It’s a hot whisky. Tomato ketchup – with a hint of tabasco! Raisins. Tiramisu. A slight feint-like leather quality. It died on me a bit, in that it was not quite as lovely as the nose suggested, but still very good. I think it’s that the nose promised something really viscous and voluptuous, but what’s delivered is a lightness to medium textured whisky. (Or maybe I just like GlenDronach too much.)
Both good, both interesting, both with character. I suspect I’d appreciate the Aberlour more in colder weather – that’s when the sherried whiskies really do start to excel in my mind – but it probably has the edge. Unfortunately, it’s also sold out… Which means that you’ll have to pick one up from an online auction – and no doubt it will appear at one soon. It originally cost £100, so expect to pay just a little more if you do.