The Single Cask Whisky Review #40: Highland Park 1995 20 Years Old Madeira Finish

November 05, 2016

The Single Cask Whisky Review #40: Highland Park 1995 20 Years Old Madeira Finish

This week's review focuses on a rather interesting expression of Highland Park which was distilled in 1995, matured largely in ex-bourbon casks before being finished in a cask which once held madeira wine and being bottled at 20 years of age by independent bottler, Cooper's Choice.

While the whiskies at Highland Park are lightly peated, the way in which it influences the spirit is quite different. While the peat bogs of Islay are made from the decomposed matter which originated from vegetation such as seaweed and trees, the peat in Orkney is primarily from vegetation as there are no trees on the island.

As a result, the resulting peat has a more sweet, heathery note to it and this is transferred into the barley during the drying process. This sweet, smoky character follows right through the entire whisky making process and is evident in the final spirit itself after maturation.

The distillery malts part of its barley requirement in house and it is dried for 18 hours over a peat fire before a further 18 hours over a coke fire. The resulting peat has a phenol specification of 30-40ppm phenol, but the distillery also purchases unpeated malt from commercial vendors Simpsons and both types are always mixed before mashing.

As mentioned above, this expression has been finished in a madeira cask before being bottled at 20 years of age and at a standard abv of 46% by independent bottler, Cooper's Choice.

Highland Park 1995 20 Years Old Madeira Cask Finish (Bottled by Cooper's Choice, 46% abv)

Colour: Bright gold

Nose: Initial entry presents an intense rounded sweetness which one would typically associate with the madeira cask maturation. Honey, cinnamon, mulled mead and black pepper also emerge on the rather full and rich nose and there are hints of oak and vanilla from the underlying ex-bourbon cask maturation.

The sweetness becomes increasingly pronounced over time, but it is a rather nuanced sweetness and not one that is cloying. There's just the tiniest hint of sea salt and brine, but the sweetness is the dominant aspect of this dram.

Palate: More of the same on the palate, with the rich sweetness of the madeira cask finish coupled with the honey, cinnamon, oak and vanilla. The base spirit is dignified, yet feisty and there is a distant whiff of peat smoke which adds character and complexity to the mix. Mulled mead, sea salt and hints of camphor emerge with time, adding even more complexity and weight to this full-bodied dram.

Finish: Long and sweet on the finish, with the mulled mead, honey and cinnamon lingering to the very end. The base spirit conjures up a final flash of heat which recedes into the warming embrace of the cinnamon, black pepper and sea salt mix. Very satisfying.

Balance: An immensely well-balanced and sophisticated expression of Highland Park which highlights the versatility of the base spirit through multiple maturation regimes as well as the richness of the flavours it exhibits as a result. Coats the palate very well and the mouthfeel is oily with a slight dryness at the very end. Impressive to say the least!

This expression of Highland Park is unfortunately sold out at the moment, but we will endeavour to secure more bottles if possible.

Written By Brendan Pillai for The Single Cask

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