Highland Park Thor

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Distillery/Brand: Highland Park | Region: Islands | ABV: 52.1% | Color: Gold
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
I remember when the Thor came out. I scoffed. I saw the fancy packaging (and believe me when I say fancy I mean Norse boat fancy), the really high price (high for a 16 year old, that is) and I said ‘whatever, dude’.

Another marketing gimmick, I thought to my self. So sick of these distilleries packaging youngish spirit in fancy boxes and selling them for so much. So as a matter of principle I decided not to even bother.

Then I started reading some reviews and they were all good. I mean really good. I relented. I said fine, I’ll get one. But when I tried looking I couldn’t find a single bottle. The only ones I saw were sitting on auction blocks put up by smart investors. And they were more than four times the original price!

Well, now I was definitely not going to bother.

So it was a nice surprise to see an open bottle sitting on a friends’ shelf which I duly took down to see what all the fuss was all about.

The first of four in the Valhalla collection this sherry matured liquid is served up at 52.1% and is one of 23,000 bottles sold worldwide. My sample was from a bottle two-thirds over and would have benefited from some oxidization.

Nose: Clove. Sherry. Mango. A very unusual oak. I think the oxidization may have taken away some of the malty notes. I’ve notice HPs lose their brine/malty aroma after a while. Red berries. Cherry cola. Cinnamon. Red licorice. Touch of iodine. Pinch of salt. A very balanced and unique nose.

Palate: Crisp sherry. Chocolate. Black peppers. Cola. Cherries. Brown sugar. Grapes. Dark citrus. Hint of nuts. A lovely delivery. Very smooth and very confident.

Finish: Long. Oily. Juice with a touch of spice.

Such a lovely expression! Crisp and confident. I’m kicking my self for not picking it up when I had the chance.

Rating: 93

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Bunnahabhain 25 Year Old XXV

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Distillery/Brand: Bunnahabhain | Region: Islay | ABV: 46.3% | Color: Old Sauternes
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
Bunnahabhain represent the lighter side of peat on Islay. That’s because the distilleries water is piped down from streams on the Margdale Hills and is considered less peaty than most water used for distilling on Islay.

Bunnahabhain also hold the distinction of being one of the few distilleries founded in the ‘whisky boom’ of the 1920s and to still be around today.

I’ve had a few Bunnas in my time (the 12, 18, Darch Ur, Toiteach and now the 25) and find that they carry a similar thread in both the nose and palate. Must be those consistently good sherry casks they employ.

This 25-year-old release runs to just 400 bottles and comes presented in an Alder wooden box lined with Hessian and closed with solid brass fittings.

Nose: Robust sherry. Quite dry on the nose. Chocolate fudge. Moist dates. Sandalwood. Dark honey. Nice oak. Wisp of smoke. Salty Nuts. An absolutely gorgeous nose that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Palate: Medium bodied. Orange fudge. Ginger. Cinnamon. Butterscotch toffees. The oak dries a touch mid-palate. Nougat. And the moist dates are back. I expected it to be a lot more creamier, though.

Finish: Satisfyingly long. Cinnamon. Chocolate.

There’s a lovely maturity to this spirit and the flavors work seamlessly together. Add to this the great presentation box and you almost don’t mind shelling out 200GBP for it.

Rating: 93

Highland Park 18 Years

HighlandPark 18

Distillery/Brand: Highland Park | Region: Island | ABV: 43% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 93

Review
I’ve done a review before of the Highland Park 18 but that was back when I didn’t know my peat from a kiln. I’d like to think I’ve come a long way from then. However, what’s true is that I loved it back then and I love it still.

Highland Park routinely use Oloroso Sherry casks to mature their spirit but what gives their spirits it’s unique profile is the peat that they use. Orcadian peat, sourced locally, is predominately compressed herbacious plants and heather (unlike peat from farther south, which is partially formed with tree matter and/or seaweed). The peat character is mild, however, as only 20% of the mashbill comes from Highland Park’s own floor maltings (and of that, only half is peated). The rest is unpeated malt imported from the Scottish mainland

This little dance between heavily sherried casks and lightly peated spirit is what sets their expressions apart from the others.

Nose: The sherry is perfectly balanced against a back drop of green leaves and a touch of delicate peaty smoke. It’s a bit tinny to start off with but that tapers off as you let it breathe a touch. Subtle hints of cereal and juniper berries amid a crush of red grapes. Brilliantly balanced.

Palate: That delicate smoke is back and with it a fine salty creme caramel. Then a cinnamon dusted fennel with an underlying of chocolate spread.

Finish: Long with lovely black pepper and smoked chocolate.

There is probably not a lot that can be said about this malt that has already been said but it certainly needs to be reiterated.

Rating: 93

Springbank 12 Year Cask Strength

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Distillery/Brand: Springbank
Region: Campbeltown
ABV: 55.3%
Color: Young Sauternes

Nose: 22
Taste: 24
Finish: 24
Balance: 23

Review
Those of you who know me know that I have an irrational attachment to anything that comes out of Campbeltown. Not because I’m an expert on Campbeltown expressions; far from it. It simply has some sort of mystical allure that I can’t define.

So be it.

The spirit is a blend of 60% first fill sherry hogsheads and 40% re-fill sherry butts and served up at a lip smacking 55.3% and is from a December 2011 bottling.

Nose: My initial impression was of strong rubber flip flops which made me suspect the influence of sulphur. However, a bit of air and patience takes care of that quite well. The nose is quite thick with treacle marmalade and black peppercorns. The sherry is quite dry with a touch of cinnamon smoke.

Palate: Gorgeous delivery! An intense dark spice and cocoa powder rub on a basket of oranges. The chocolate treacle is back and gives it a lovely bitter sweet edge.

Finish: Spectacular! Long and intense with oily chocolate, wood and black peppers.

This is pretty much one of my favorite malts to come out of Campbeltown. What a class act this distillery is.

Rating: 93