SMWS 4.228 – 15yo Highland Park

On a recent visit to Edinburgh, my friend and I found ourselves at a loss with about 2 hours to kill, so, being whisky lovers, we decided to pay a little visit to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Queen Street venue to pass some time. Any excuse right? While there we had 4 drams from some of the society’s recent releases which I decided to do reviews of, this review is of the fourth and final of those delightful drops. Click here to find out what the first, second and third whiskies were.

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The last dram was a bit different to the others, it was exclusive to the SMWS’s Queen Street venue, it was cask 4.228, which, if you know your SMWS codes (you can find out more about them here) means that this one came from the Highland Park distillery, on Orkney. The details for the bottling are below:

Cask No. 4.228 – Highland Park
Bottle Name Catch of the day
Age 15yo
Cask Type Refill Bourbon Barrel
Alcoholic Strength 58.1% ABV.
Number of Bottles 300
Tasting Notes N/A

Exclusive to the SMWS, 28 Queen Street.

The final dram of the day, unfortunately we had a train to catch, came from the Highland Park distillery, the 12 year old of which was the first dram I ever reviewed on the blog so long ago! I wasn’t too sure what to expect of this, generally I love my Highland Parks, though I’ve had a few from the society that I haven’t been hugely impressed by. Aged 15 years in a refill barrel, with that touch of smoke, I was expecting a lot of similarities to the third dram, a 9yo Bunnahabhain.

Nose

Lots of toffee jumps out of the glass before you even get your nose close to it, which is joined by a slight briny, coastal note – salted caramel? – As well as a light wisp of smoke. It’s more coastal than most Highland Parks that I’ve had before but in a really good way. The smoke aroma is also slightly different from what you might expect from this distillery, it is more like smoked meats or fish. Toasted almonds and creamy vanilla custard push through, carrying a slight black pepper spice. Before sweet fruits begin to appear in the form of gooseberries and perfumed orange peel. At the last we are left with strong black tea and fresh coffee beans.

Palate

Really sweet butterscotch on arrival which dominates completely. The smoke starts to gradually build as the sweetness starts to move towards flavours of white chocolate and golden syrup. Burning heather and wood smoke drifts in in waves but this is almost too sweet to pick anything else up from. With a drop of water the sweetness does die down a bit, allowing more tropical flavours to come through, with pineapple and papaya, as well as a chilli heat. I think this one is just a touch on the sweet side for me.

Finish

The finish leads on from the palate; it is intensely sweet and packed with honey. It’s quite a cloying dram, though the addition of water doesn’t lighten the honey assault. The finish is long but fairly one dimensional.

Well, the last of four tasty single cask drams. I enjoyed this Highland Park, especially on the nose, though it was just slightly too sweet for me on the palate and finish. Drams like this, and the Third we tried, are the reason I love the societies bottlings so much. It is great to try these casks that are so different to what you can usually try and offer a truly unique experience. I will have to make sure that I don’t wait as long before I spend an afternoon in their again, it’s a great way to sample a wide range of what casks and distilleries can offer.

Sláinte

Gary

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SMWS 10.134 – 9yo Bunnahabhain

On a recent visit to Edinburgh, my friend and I found ourselves at a loss with about 2 hours to kill, so, being whisky lovers, we decided to pay a little visit to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Queen Street venue to pass some time. Any excuse right? While there we had 4 drams from some of the society’s recent releases which I decided to do reviews of, this review is of the third of those delightful drops (the first and second dram).

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Dram number three of the day, was 10.134, which, if you know your SMWS codes (you can find out more about them here) means that this one came from the Bunnahabhain distillery, on Islay. The details for the bottling are below:

Cask No. 10.134 – Bunnahabhain
Bottle Name Cleaner than a ship’s whistle
Age 9yo
Cask Type Refill Bourbon Barrel
Alcoholic Strength 60% ABV.
Number of Bottles 240
Tasting Notes The mineralic and salty sparkle of sea breeze through an apple orchard joins a creamy palate of smoked peaches and herbal overtones.

For the third dram of the afternoon – still going strong – we had a peated expression from one of my favourite distilleries, Bunnahabhain. Distilled on the 7th of February in 2008 this dram was part of the societies November outrun in 2017, making this a 9 year old. Unlike the first two drams, which both had finishes done to them, this was a straight up, refill barrel matured whisky. After the confusion of dram number two I was looking forward to something a bit more relaxing with a nice smoky backbone so I was excited to try this one.

Nose

Well, this is a very medicinal Bunnahabhain indeed! Upfront on the nose we are met by a slight antiseptic-like aroma, as well as iodine and Elastoplast. There is smokyness; it comes through as a very dry and earthy smoke, though this comes in second place to the medicinal notes which dominate. Lots of American oak influence also with the classic vanilla sweetness, citrus fruits and coconut. Fresh fruits come through in the development of the nose, with time in the glass, with green apples and a massive amount of pear drops. Gentle maritime spice wraps up what seems to be a fairly subdued nose, though water does open it up slightly.

Palate

A lovely rich and very sweet arrival with golden syrup and lashings of honey and then whack! There is the peat smoke that was almost missing from the nose, like a massive punch to the face. Big, earthy hits of coastal peat with an intense spice heat coming with it. The palate drys out significantly through the development and get increasingly savoury. BBQ meats, with ash and cooking spices, it’s like having a BBQ on the beach. Then finally, green bananas as it heads towards the finish.

Finish

Long lasting smoke, with baked orange – if that’s a thing! – and savoury spice. A nice honeyed sweetness carries over vanilla and a slightly green grassy note.

Of the three we had tried so far this was definitely my favourite. The nose is a bit subdued but does open up with some water, its brings burnt popcorn and more cured meats, though, water completely destroys the palate for me. I could sit with a glass of this all day, very enjoyable and a very different side to any peated ‘Bunna’s’ I’ve had in the past.

Sláinte

Gary