Highland Park Vintages – The 1991 21 year 40% Official Bottling

Once upon a time, Highland Park was a ‘gateway’ whisky for me… more specifically the 18 year which opened my palate and senses to the character and complexity of a decent dram.

Shift ahead a few years to a period where Highland Park made to the switch to vintages and no age statement “Heroes”, “Warriors” and “Legends”… with the 1998 and Einar disappointing while the Thor surprising and pleasing.

Enter the 21 year old that is known by its vintage 1991. Introduced to travel retail in 2012, the thinking was as each vintage ran out, it would be replaced by the equivalent next vintage i.e. this one replaced the 1990 vintage and the expectation was by 2013 the 1992 would be released and so forth.

Except a funny thing happened along the way… for Highland Park, after a few years the vintage approach didn’t “stick”… quietly without fanfare the duty free shelves holding vintage whiskies were slowly replaced by age statements.

Which means our patient whisky host had managed to keep one of the few 21 year olds from the vintage marketing “experiment”.

As we opened this bottle that had sat patiently waiting its turn for nearly 6 years, talk turned to our varied experiences with Highland Park – good, bad, brilliant and much in between.

And this bottle? Read on to see what we thought…

Highland Park 1991 40%

  • Nose – Grassy, pine, spruce, sea grass or a seaweed salad, light citrus coming from behind, lemon flower bouquet, light fruity, inviting comforting nose, short bread, butter biscuits, vanilla and a hint of cloves
  • Palate – Islands, light leathery peat, very smooth and round, had some substance, chewy mouthfeel, creamy and buttery, yet a slight citrus twist in there too which added a refreshing element
  • Finish – Subtle nuanced finished, cinnamon spice

We really enjoyed it – very yum! And more importantly, had all those elements many of us once enjoyed in a Highland Park – character, complexity and just a darn good dram.

Even more remarkable is that it was full flavoured at only 40%. While none of us were tempted to add a splash of water, these days anything lower than 46% tends to come across as a bit “watery” – not so with this Highland Park.

We set it aside for some time and the revisit just confirmed it is a lovely whisky and a clear winner for most.

However when it came time to pair with cigars, this would not be my pick… I’d prefer to simply enjoy it on its own.

What would this set you back? It was last seen for about £120 on auction.

In our latest greatest adult evening, what all did we try?

Want even more Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

21 years – Aberfeldy, The Glenrothes, Highland Park 1991

Sometimes you just want to go classic, returning to the days of age statements… or at least an aged dram known by vintage!

That is exactly what we did with our evening trio of “21s” – each whisky was matured for 21 years, an increasing rarity with ever increasing prices in the world of whisky.

In our latest greatest “adult” evening, what all did we try?

Want to know more? Just check out the links above and read on….

Want even more Whisky Lady posts? Follow this blog on:

Whisky Lady – February 2018

Time for the monthly round-up of malty adventures and more! February was a quieter month with just two whisky tasting sessions, providing an opportunity to share impressions from WhiskyLive Singapore.

Photo: Rashmi Dhawani

As the Whisky Ladies had joined the gents for a round of independent blends, we decided to have a completely random evening of “Contributor’s Choice” at the close of January:

This was followed by our original club being overwhelmed by the inventive packaging while being undwhelmed by the whisky:

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar gents are becoming rather regular in their sessions – no mean feat consider most members can be more easily be found loitering in London, Dubai, Munich, Singapore and various US and other airports. What did we explore? A Compass Box Quartet!

Photo: Keshav Prakash

What a remarkable trio! As I could not make it to the session, the samples reached home to enable us to compare our guest writer Nikkhil Shirodkar’s notes with the group with my independent impressions of our Kavalan Solist Cask Night:

I also kicked off the first batch of a series sharing fleeting impressions from Whisky Live Singapore 2017:

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

Beyond the tasting group meetings, there was an impromptu gin evening with a few friends

Curious to know more? Check out recent Whisky Lady’s monthly missives:

You can also find even more Whisky bits ‘n bobs on:

Orkney Island’s God of Thunder “Thor” 16 year 52.1%

The last in our evenings explorations was actually the start of Highland Park’s Valhalla series with Thor, God of Thunder. Cue visions of Vikings, the sound of swords and shields clashing, wind whipping through wild hair as a longship gathers speed with crashing waves.  In keeping with the theme, it is packaged in a wooden frame styled after the prow of a viking longboat.

And the crazy thing? Clearly the Valhalla quartet (Thor, Loki, Freya, Odin) captured some collectors imagination. The Thor alone has auctioned for £490!

None of this we knew before we tried it, sampling blind to see what we thought of the whisky irrespective of origins.

Highland Park Thor 16 year 52.1%

  • Nose – Initially sharp, soap, then roasted pineapple, black liquorice, not so many layers yet something unique, teasingly uncommon, fruit, floral, talcum powder, one even suggest fahrenheit perfume! Then shifted into green pears, baked apple pie…. After the 1st sip, all the interesting elements disappeared, shifting into burnt sugar and walnut shells
  • Palate – Lovely on the palate, a tingly spice with pepper, sweet cloves, allspice, like a masala chai, just a hint of smoke, well finished with character yet surprisingly thin, like it is skirting on the surface, lacking depth, body and those critical mid-notes
  • Finish – Again a lovely finish with a hint of spice
  • Water – Really opens it up, adds the missing ‘mid’ level to the palate, tempers and rounds out the spice allowing the gentle smoke to join in harmony. With water the whisky now feels complete with a good mouthful, a bit of rubber and other elements joined which gave more depth to the ram. From our perspective, a bit of water is a “must add” for this whisky to truly reveal its character.

We began to speculate and debate…

  • We could tell this clearly wasn’t a ‘green’ young whisky though not very old either – hence guesses in the 16 year range were thrown about.
  • We also thought it began in an ex-bourbon cask the had a sherry finish thing going on…
  • From a strength perspective, we thought perhaps 46 – 48%

What mattered most is some really like it – finding it the kind of whisky that welcomes you home after a long journey. There was some debate whether the nose or palate was the best part.

With the reveal, we discovered we were spot on with the age, off with the strength and hard to tell for the casks as the details are not disclosed.

However the real surprise? The price. £490/$685. Yikes! There is nothing about this whisky that pushes it into that territory. For our original group, this must be one of the most expensive bottles shared.

And yet this is what clever packaging, keeping an edition “limited’ (i.e. 23,000), released in 2012 followed by others to create a quartet, managed to accomplish – transporting a rather nice whisky into the ridiculous range.

Are we glad we tried it? Absolutely! However for our merry Mumbai malt aficionados, our explorations and adventures will continue… in a more affordable vein!

What else did we try in our explorations (and distraction with packaging)?

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Explorers – Shackleton, Tobermory, Highland Park Thor

One of the reasons we love tasting blind is we can explore a whisky without being influenced by previous experience with the distillery or marketing paraphernalia. For our February 2018 session, this came in handy… as the theme of the evening ending up being the whisky packaging!

What all did we try?

Did I mention the marketing? Just wait to see the booklets, photos, special boxes and more!

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Douglas Laing’s Island Blend Rock Oyster Cask Strength 57.4%

Our Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malts explorations continued with the Island blend… this time from the Cask Strength edition.

Rock Oyster Cask Strength 57.4%

  • Nose – Had a similar yoghurt quality, yet with more character and oomph! than the Timorous Beastie, zest of lemon rind, barley, young, mild yet fruity – particularly melon, some smoked sweet bacon or other sweet meats, agave then quite a bit of brine
  • Palate – Nice spice, sweet, skirting on the surface, amazingly balanced, nothing harsh, a hint of pipe tobacco, honey, cherry bokum pickle, ginger, briney
  • Finish – Nice long finish, salted caramel, cinnamon, sawdust, for some too salty on the finish for many
  • Water – Opens up more, removes the edge, salty, adds a dash of cayenne, paprika, makes it smoother

There was a sense that this is from a similar ‘family’ as the Timorous Beastie however also had its unique variation, like siblings.

Many found Rock Oyster just like one would expect from the name, salty raw oysters, the feel of being on a boat, the distinctive pervasive smell of barnacles, a tidal pool of salty whisky.

At cask strength, it is also very deceptive, giving no hint of the power behind its smooth briney swish.

There was a clear divide between those who enjoy salty whiskies and those who do not care for this maritime style.

Here’s what they have to say:

Introducing Douglas Laing’s Rock Oyster Cask Strength; the super-charged partner to the original Rock Oyster bottled at 57.4% ABV. Containing the finest Malt Whiskies from Scotland’s Whisky Islands, including those distilled on Islay, Arran, Orkney and Jura, this Limited Edition delivers a massive amplification of all those coastal qualities from the original Rock Oyster.

Tasting notes:

Anticipate a blast of sea air on the nose and a tempestuously oceanic storm on the palate. Rock Oyster Cask Strength delivers a big peat hit full of Islay phenols, iodine and coal dust, with a shake of pepper softening to a distinct honey sweetness from the Arran casks. The Isle of Jura brings waves of citrus and barley to the mix, and Orkney fetches up some salt from the deep.

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

What were the whisky blends explored?

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Highland Park Einar 40%

Einar is part of Highland Park’s warrior series – created for duty free with a figure from Orkney’s Viking history.

Highland Park Einar 40%

  • Nose – Peat?? Sweet but not overly sweet, grain, fairly reticent with soft vanilla, hint of smoke
  • Palate – Soft peaty, very accessible, lures you in
  • Finish – Increasing peat then dissipates
  • Water – Adding water makes it taste less like water, with a spicier palate

Overall it was easy to drink, enough sweet and light peat to be Highland Park, but for us, it clearly fell into the category of Duty Free No Age Statement (NAS) palate or, to use our newly coined term, was quite NASPy.

Here is what the folks over at Highland Park have to say:

The joint Earl of Orkney from 1014, EINAR was a bold and ruthless warrior and ruler, renowned for venturing on long and daring voyages and clearly distinguishable by his mighty axe.

Matured in Sherry seasoned American and European oak casks, the warm flavours of zesty dried orange peel and vanilla pods sweetly unfold in each dram of EINAR.

And Highland Park’s tasting notes:

  • Appearance: Rich golden, clear and bright
  • Nose: Pineapple, spicy, wood smoke, dried peel and golden syrup
  • Palate: Initially smoky and vanilla, citrus peel develops 
  • Finish: Vanilla sweetness and lingering smokiness

Curious about other Highland Park whiskies sampled?

I sampled it initially from a freshly opened bottle in a social context in August, then later with friends in September 2017 from a mini sample taken from the same bottle.

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Highland Park 12 year 40%

I will admit to being wary about trying Highland Park. Once upon a time the Highland Park 18 year was a favourite and regularly found in my whisky cabinet. However first the prices shot up, then it simply could not be found readily. What I could afford from the vintage series was a disappointment, the last of which kicked around in my cabinet was the Highland Park 1998.

Since then, I’ve watched as a whole series of Viking theme related NAS prance around and have been… well… reluctant… Breaking my Highland Park drought only with a mini of MacPhail’s Orkney 8 year, until this Highland Park 12 year arrived as part of our monsoon malts evening

Highland Park 12 year 40%

  • Nose – Sweet water, honey, fruits, cashew feni, faint esters, an almost chemically fruity, then started to open up to reveal fragrant heather, light spice and a puff of smoke
  • Palate – Light on the body, warm smoke. If you hold in your mouth for some time reveals sexy peppers, chocolate and more, honey, fruits and mildly malty
  • Finish – Bitter, spice, smoke… long finish
  • Water – Though sounds like a contradiction, a few drops improved the body and mouth feel, tames the spice, reveals sweet coffee

It honestly has been many years since I sipped a Highland Park 12 year, with my earlier impression of a decent dram but the 18 year? Oh the 18 year! That was a beaut!

And yet, as I continued to sip the 12 year, could find shades of those memories of the early favourite 18 year. Which was part of that tipping point from “Yeah, sure, I like whisky” to “Hmm… let me take some time to really pay attention to the different elements.”

So the verdict on the Highland Park 12 year? It is definitely a decent dram and worth a revisit.

Here’s what they have to say about it:

The heart and soul of Highland Park, VIKING HONOUR is a perfect harmony of aromatic smoky peat, sweet heather honey and rich fruit cake.

  • Flavours – Heather honey | Rich fruitcake | Winter spices | Seville oranges | Aromatic smoky peat
  • Try with – Haunch of venison, chocolate ginger biscuits, soft cheeses such as French Brie and even Japanese sushi and wasabi (yes, really!)

Other whiskies sampled in our Mumbai monsoon malts evening included:

You can also find Whisky Lady (in India) on:

MacPhail’s Orkney 8 Year 43% (Highland Park)

Next up in our miniatures tasting session was a Highland Park

The MacPhail’s Collection is a small range of single malt whiskies bottled by Gordon & MacPhail.

The focus of this collection is the quest for younger, quality drams at affordable prices. You won’t find a rich mature complex aged marvel here, instead a younger, better than decent dram for a reasonable cost.

Macphail's Orkney 8 year

MacPhail’s Orkney 8 year 43% (Highland Park)

  • Nose – Banana, apricot, lemon zest, butter toast with sugar sprinkles, woodsy, vanilla, citrus soft, wet cloth with a bit of brine
  • Palate – Peat, malty cereal, a little pepper spice, smooth
  • Finish – Enjoyable finish, like a puff of smoke then dry, bitter ending sweet

Overall a drinkable dram… much more so than the Highland Park 1998. Light balance between sweet and smoke, coming together so smoothly.

Here are the official tasting notes:

  • Nose: Soft fruits – peaches/mangos, heather/earthy notes and a touch of saltiness.
    With Water: Fruity (green apples), subtle sherry influence and touch of floral.
  • Palate: Rich, mulled fruits with a touch of smokiness.
    With Water: Sherry wood with smoky notes (charred oak). A vanilla sweetness emerges
  • Finish: Long with a delicate sweetness.

Check out what other’s have to say too:

Other miniatures sampled recently include:

You can also find Whisky Lady (in India) on:

Whisky Ladies of Mumbai turn “One”

One year ago, a chance conversation about whisky lead to a fabulous evening… Each month since, a remarkable group of women have met in Mumbai to explore whiskies combined with witty conversations.

Whisky Ladies 1st Anniversary

Together we’ve had 12 fabulous sessions:

  1. Whisky Ladies Welcome Compass Box Asyla, Kilchoman Coull Point, Nikka ‘Yochi’ 10 yr, Caol Ila 12 yr, Ledaig 1997
  2. With Karen Walker – Caorunn ginBalblair 03Old Pulteney 12 yrSpeyburn 10 yrAnCnoc 12 + 22 yr
  3. Cask Strength Diwali – Glenfarclas 105, Chichibu 2009, A’bunadh #35
  4. World Tour – Forty Creek Confederation OakNikka BlendedOban 14 yr, Sheringham William’s White Double Distilled Grain
  5. Go Goan! Paul John Brilliance, Edited, Bold, Classic & Peated
  6. Go American! JD, Hudson Single Malt, Jim Bean, Knobs Creek 9 yr (with Shatbhi Basu)
  7. Sweetly smokey – Dalmore 15 yrMackmyra Svensk RökSmokehead Rock
  8. Chocolate with Hibiki Harmony, Lagavulin 16 yr, A’bunadh #46
  9. Far East – Kavalan Concertmaster SolistNikka Coffey GrainChinese baijiu
  10. “I like the label” – Compass Box Great King Street – Artist’s BlendStarwardSmoky Goat
  11. European Tour – Teerenpeli (Finland)Danica (Denmark)Kornog (France)Slyrs (Germany)
  12. 5 Region Tour – Glenkinchie 12 yrJura Turas-MaraClynelish 14 yrCardhu 12 yrArdbeg 10 yr

Whisky Ladies in Mumbai

And the whiskies for our 1st anniversary celebration? Count them… yup that’s 13 whiskies from left to right…

  1. Amrut Single Malt
  2. Amrut Fusion
  3. Paul John Edited 46%
  4. Paul John Peated 55.5%
  5. Cragganmore 12 year 40%
  6. Smoky Goat 40%
  7. Highland Park 1998 40%
  8. Aberfeldy 12 year 40%
  9. Monkey Shoulder 40%
  10. Dalmore 15 year 40%
  11. Glen Grant 10 year 40%
  12. Caol Ila 12 year 43%
  13. Ardbeg 10 year 46%

Along with a bottle, our potluck approach to nibbles resulted in a fabulous spread.

Whisky Ladies Spread

Here’s to wonderful women that make up this Mumbai malty tribe! May we continue to enjoy many more sessions together!

In celebration, we now have a special Whisky Ladies Corner sharing:

  • Blog posts from our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai (other than mine!)
  • Recognition of evenings we’ve enjoyed courtesy of a few kind benefactors
  • Other nights with whiskies we sourced with different themes
  • Related women centric whisky posts

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on: