Drink Magazine

Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting

By Josh Peters @TheWhiskeyJug

In 1826 Highland Park was born and nearly 200 years later the Malt Nuts would take on 14 expressions as part two of our 1,000th single malt scotch celebration. Part 1 was the Ardbeg tasting.

Malt Nuts Highland Park Mega Tasting - 2

Twas the night before the night before the 4th of July and the Malt Nuts were stirring in the back of a member’s house.
Steaks were grilling and everyone was laughing with excitement but when the first bottle opened they were quiet as a mouse.
The brand ambassador walked us through a few things and to the sound of “Cheers”
it was time to get started with Highland Park Light and Dark making their appears… and that’s as far as I’m taking that

😃

Highland Park Light and Dark

As I was, kinda, saying – this is part two of the celebration for the Malt Nuts hitting our 1,000th single malt scotch. Unfortunately, I haven’t been with the group from the beginning, I’ve only been with the group for 371 of that 1,000 single malt scotch journey. Add in the bottles we tasted at the Irish Single Malt, Old Blends, Suntory Deconstruction, Grain Whisky, Corn Nuts and Amrut tasting, which are not counted in that 1,000, and the number of bottles tasted with this group jumps up to 463… that’s a lot of whisk(e)y.

Malt Nuts Highland Park Mega Tasting - 3

Being the culmination of years and years of dedication to palate education this tasting had to be something truly special and so we made the theme Indie Highland Park aged 20-25 years. As always some OBs found their way into the tasting to keep the blind tasting lively, but overall the theme was held and I’ve never seen this many HPs – at this age – in one place – at one time – open. It was a magical night and the rounds ended up being broken out like this.

Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting Rounds

  • Highland Park Light vs Dark (not blinded)
  • Cut IB HP 24 vs old OB 18
  • Cask Strength Highland Park 20-25 ex-Bourbon / Hogshead
  • Cask Strength Highland Park 12-26 ex-Sherry

My bling notes are below, let’s dig in!

Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years – Highland Park Light vs Dark (not blinded)

Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting Round 1 - 1A: Highland Park The Light 17 years (01-18): 52.9% - X Cask, 1B: Highland Park The Dark 17 years (00-17): 52.9% - X Cask
1A: Highland Park The Light 17 years (01-18): 52.9% – X Cask

  • Nose: Peaches, pears, peat, malt, char, spice, honey, toffee and bubblegum.
  • Palate: Peaches, pears, peat, spice, malt, cocoa, honey and toffee… touch bubblegum.
  • Finish: Long -> Fruit, graham, peat and oil.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) Big fruity whisky with tons of character and a big dollop of peat. Well balanced and delicious.

1B: Highland Park The Dark 17 years (00-17): 52.9% – X Cask

  • Nose: Sherry, nuts, spice, cocoa, nutmeg, char, roasted nuts and peat.
  • Palate: Sherry, nuts, dark fruit, spice, cocoa, char, roasted grain and smoke.
  • Finish: Long -> Dark fruit, cocoa, spice and char.
  • Overall: A- (90-92) Wow… just wow. Deep heavy dark fruit, waves of that inky sherry character rife with iodine and vermouth… this is bonkers good.

Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years – Cut IB HP 24 vs old OB 18

Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting Round 2 - 2A: The Macphail’s Highland Park 24 years: 43% - X Cask, 2B: Highland Park 18 years (old bottle): 43% - ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry

2A: The Macphail’s Highland Park 24 years: 43% – X Cask

  • Nose: Pears, honey, Sunkist Fruit Gems, smoke, spice, char and malt.
  • Palate: Honey, malt, fruit, smoke, spice, peaches and some bubblegum.
  • Finish: Long -> Fruit, smoke, spice and bubblegum.
  • Overall: B (83-86) Elegant and fruity, but not a standout malt.

2B: Highland Park 18 years (old bottle): 43% – ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry

  • Nose: Fruit, vermouth, cocoa, dark fruit leather, oil and nuts with a bit of smoke.
  • Palate: Fruit, vermouth, cocoa, dark fruit leather, citrus and nuts with a bit of smoke.
  • Finish: Long -> Fruit, vermouth and smoke.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) This is really quite good. Robust and silken, a bit more depth and it’d easily be an A-.

Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years – Cask Strength Highland Park 20-25 ex-Bourbon / Hogshead

Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting Round 3 - 3A: Signatory Vintage Highland Park 25 years (88-14): 51.2% - Hogshead, 3B: SMWS 4.171 Highland Park 21 years (91-12): 53.7% - ex-Bourbon & Refill Hogshead, 3C: SMWS 4.190 Highland Park 22 years (91-13): 53.9% - ex-Bourbon & Refill Hogshead, 3D: Scott’s Selection Highland Park 20 years (86-07): 54.1% -Hogshead

3A: Signatory Vintage Highland Park 25 years (88-14): 51.2% – Hogshead

  • Nose: Sherry-like sweetness, butterscotch, spice, vermouth, dark fruit, clove.
  • Palate: Sherry-like sweetness, butterscotch, spice, vermouth, dark fruit, char.
  • Finish: Long -> Peat, sherry-like sweetness, butterscotch and dark fruit.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) Oily, iodiny and spicy dark fruitiness all around. Good stuff.

3B: SMWS 4.171 Highland Park 21 years (91-12): 53.7% – ex-Bourbon & Refill Hogshead

  • Nose: Vanilla spirit, spice, peat, minerality, banana and a weird funk.
  • Palate: Vanilla marshmallow spirit, spice, peat, minerality, banana and a weird funk.
  • Finish: Long -> Peat, fruit, toffee and citrus.
  • Overall: C- (70-72) Like a lightly aged new make in a used up barrel. This was a tired cask… or it’s only 3 years old… and in a 4th fill barrel.

3C: SMWS 4.190 Highland Park 22 years (91-13): 53.9% – ex-Bourbon & Refill Hogshead

  • Nose: Fruit, toffee, caramel, peat, oak, citrus, spirity vanilla and honey.
  • Palate: Peat, fruit, toffee, citrus, oak, spirity vanilla and honey.
  • Finish: Long -> Peat, spirit, toffee and sharp citrus.
  • Overall: C (73-76) Wow, two in a row that come across raw and spirity. Who is picking these tired casks? It’s better than 3B, but not by much and with water even more raw spirit comes out… so don’t do that.

3D: Scott’s Selection Highland Park 20 years (86-07): 54.1% -Hogshead

  • Nose: Peat, honey, melon rind, oil, toffee, minerality and char.
  • Palate: Peat, honey, malt, caramel, melon rind and toffee.
  • Finish: Long -> Peat, honey, malt and fruit.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) I always hate having something that’s this good after a run of bad whisky. Because I don’t know if it’s a decent malt that’s great by juxtaposition or genuinely great… but that’s why I leave some in the glass for the end of the night. and since I didn’t correct my score in my notes I’m guessing I liked it afterall.

Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years – Cask Strength Highland Park 12-26 ex-Sherry

Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting Round 4 - 4A: Signatory Vintage Highland Park 24 years (90-15): 51.4% - ex-Sherry Butt, 4B: The Ultimate Highland Park 22 years (89-11): 46% - ex-Sherry Butt, 4C: Hart Brothers Highland Park 26 years (77-04): 46% - ex-Bourbon & ex-Sherry, 4D: Carn Mor Highland Park 19 years (95-15): 51.9% - ex-Sherry Hogshead, 4E: Highland Park Single Cask 13 years (03-17): 61.3% - Refill Puncheon, 4F: Highland Park Single Cask 12 years (04-17): 65.3% - 1st Fill Sherry

4A: Signatory Vintage Highland Park 24 years (90-15): 51.4% – ex-Sherry Butt

  • Nose: Sherry, oily, dark fruit, toffee, peat, caramel, char and leather.
  • Palate: Sherry, dark fruit, toffee, peat, cocoa, char leather and spice.
  • Finish: Long -> Peat, floral, cocoa and sherry.
  • Overall: A- (90-92) Damn, this is straight up elegant. It’s balanced and water brings out a deeper fruitiness. Awesome.
    bottled for La Maison Du Whisky

4B: The Ultimate Highland Park 22 years (89-11): 46% – ex-Sherry Butt

  • Nose: Fruit, peat, dark fruit, spice, toffee, pears and spice.
  • Palate: Peat, dark fruit, orchard fruit, spice, sherry sweetness, pears and leather.
  • Finish: Long -> Peat, sherry and iodine.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) So good. Balanced, full and complex. It’s lovely.

4C: Hart Brothers Highland Park 26 years (77-04): 46% – ex-Bourbon & ex-Sherry

  • Nose: Fruit, spice, peat, char, nuts, copper and some… dill? Weird.
  • Palate: Sulfur, spice, peat, char, nuts, leather and dark fruit.
  • Finish: Long -> Sulfur, peat, cinnamon and char.
  • Overall: B (83-86) Lots of sulfur, coming close to the line, but balanced enough to call it good.

4D: Carn Mor Highland Park 19 years (95-15): 51.9% – ex-Sherry Hogshead

  • Nose: Dark fruit, spice, peat, sherry, toffee, spice, nuts, char, cocoa, oil and leather.
  • Palate: Dark fruit, spice, sherry, toffee, peat, spice, nuts, char, cocoa, oil and leather.
  • Finish: Long -> Smoke, cocoa, roasted coffee beans, dark fruit and mint.
  • Overall: A- (90-92) Another stunner. Sure there were some pitfalls (I’m looking at you 3B & 3C) but this is shaping up to be a phenomenal night and this complex, multi-faceted whisky is the sherry-soaked cherry on top.

4E: Highland Park Single Cask 13 years (03-17): 61.3% – Refill Puncheon

  • Nose: Sulfur, peat, toffee, copper, cocoa, charred meat and nuts.
  • Palate: Sulfur, wax, char, peat, toffee, copper, cocoa and mint.
  • Finish: Long -> Wax, char, peat, dark fruit and nuts.
  • Overall: B- (80-82) This whisky tested the limits of my Sulfur tolerance. But, once / if, the sulfur blows off this will / could be an incredible whisky.
    bottled for Helluland

4F: Highland Park Single Cask 12 years (04-17): 65.3% – 1st Fill Sherry

  • Nose: Sulfur, wax, burnt cocoa and fireworks.
  • Palate: Sulfur, wax, eggs and burnt toast.
  • Finish: Long -> Sulfur, wax, eggs, spice.
  • Overall: D+ (67-69) I dunno, maybe a D. This is a mega sulfur bomb and I just can’t hang. It’s gross.

Malt Nuts Highland Park Mega Tasting - 8

And there we go… 463 bottle of whiskey downed with the Malt Nuts, and that’s not even counting the extra bottles and samples people bring to share and taste with each other before and after the event. If I added all of those together I think I’d be closer to 600. This… this is a hell of a group.

Till next time, cheers!

Malt Nuts Highland Park Mega Tasting - 9

Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting
Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting
Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting
Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting
Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting
Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting
Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting
Malt Nuts: Highland Park 20-25 Years Mega Tasting

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