There is a reason this one sits in so many ‘Top 5′ or ‘Top 10′ lists. This is unmistakably Highland Park and uncontestably smooth and sophisticated. If you weren’t a believer based on Highland Park’s younger vintages, I dare you to not be moved by this one. If ever there were a gateway malt, this would be it.
Age in whisky in a contentious subject. And well it should be. Too many years in a ‘live’ cask can easily lead to the oak dominating the whisky. Conversely, the natural mellowing that occurs can round out jagged edges as if the cask were a rock tumbler working a precious stone. There is a fine line here, and this line is the one we expect the distiller to walk.
Though 18 years is much like the bare threshold of maturity in Western thought, it is already approaching old age when it comes to whisky. The finished product becomes much more delicate at this point. Highland Park has time and again flaunted its rich and beautifully aged whiskies in the face of this idiom. The 25 year old is gorgeous. The 30 year old is awe-inspiring.
And the 18? Quite simply one of the best standard expressions on the market. It is unconventional in how its stark simplicity is actually a deep complexity. Spend some time wrapping your head around that one, but do so with a glass of this in hand.
The senses, both nose and taste, are seduced with creamy honey and rich peat smoke, before being led into the depths of this whisky. Dusty, spicy vanilla…mild cigar…rich sweet butter…a bouquet of soft fruit and barely seen floral notes. I even get a tiny hint of dill somewhere. Quirky and unique. The delivery is unbelievably smooth and calculated. Rich wood smoke teases, then mellows out with sweet caramel notes (and yes…this is a good thing).
What I wouldn’t give to have this at cask strength. Stunning and majestic.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt