Islands

Review: Highland Park 15 Year Old "Viking Heart" Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
44%
Aging
15 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

I love older Highland Park, generally, and 15 years is a real sweet spot - their older whiskies can attain such magnificent heights. This one is matured in sherry-seasoned European and American oak casks along side some refill casks. This is coming to Canada for a recommended retail price of $150. It has already hit shelves elsewhere in the world.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Code: ~2021

What a beautiful nose! It is starting to get some of those gorgeous aged Highland Park notes – waxy, floral, sweet. Bright barley, heather, vanilla, beeswax, baking spices, blueberry, marmalade, oak, poached pear, canned peach, stewed apple, and custard – among other things! Beautiful complexity. Magnificent nose, that. The palate starts out with dried fruit, but then there is a flourish of bright barley before fading into toffee, baking spice, and earthy barley. The finish is loaded with bright grain notes, baking spice, orange peel, leather, slightly smoky toffee, and a touch of earth and smoke.

Gorgeous! Just a beauty of a scotch. I’m always a sucker for a great nose. Better yet when everything else backs it up!

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at a price of $150. While this is better, the 10 and 12 year olds offer great value.


Review: Highland Park Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
63.3%; 63.9%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

I was a bit surprised to see this - I wondered if Highland Park would go the way of Macallan and dilute and try to premiumize their whiskies. Here we have something different - cask strength, natural colour, and matured predominently in sherry seasoned European and American oak casks. The whisky is blended from single malts of various ages. And, non-chill filtered.

Notably, the box actually provides details that I’m very interested in as a connoisseur, rather than a bunch of marketing nonsense. I’m legitimately excited when I see this from Scotch whisky brands.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: No. 1 (63.3%)

  • Bottling Code: L0201C L04 04/08 16:51

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

The nose here is very highland park – nutty sherry, light heather smoke, almond, black pepper…but also with a very strong dose of vanilla pudding, coconut, mixed dried fruit, earthy oak, pear, barley flour, and mossy grass. A very nice nose. On the palate, the barley really comes through – grainy, gritty, and fruity. This, combined with the spice, smoke, and floral character is awesome. And, we get some characteristic highland park orange too. The finish is light smoke, orange,

I’m so pleased to find this. Incredible bottle.

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: A nice bottle of Scotch, but also $130. Against the market, average at this price.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: No. 2 (63.9%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2021

The nose is a beauty – bright barley, apple, sharp clove, and loads of heather. There is a nice dried orange character also – as we see in highland park. Vanilla and wet, old oak too. It really does remind me a bit of a fresh rain in Scotland or Northern England – fresh, grassy, and slightly earthy. Great nose! The palate is sharp, spicy, with a decent hit of toffee and smoke before a floral and ashy finish with dried fruit and spice taking hold at the end.

Great stuff from highland park! A bit smokier and richer than last year’s version, and broader – but maybe not quite as complex. It’s different - but of great quality again!

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average at $140. Which means it’s pretty good whisky to not be bad value at that price…


Review: The Arran Port Cask Finish Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
50%
Aging
~8 Years, Finished in a port cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Arran (Lochranza, Scotland)

An Arran, initially matured in “traditional whisky casks” before finishing. I assume that is just refill cask, but it could be just about any of your standard casks. As with a lot of the lower end Arrans, it’s priced pretty reasonably for what it is.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

The base notes of arran are so nice – malty, light spicy, with some nice white pepper, apple, and fresh peach. It is just as you might expect – the port layers on fruit and spice in a very pleasant fashion. The layer of richness is very nice. On the palate, lightly oaky, sweet, with orchard fruits and a nice spicy, malty finish. The finish is fruity with a touch of spice. Dried fruits seem to carry the finish forward for a little while.

Very nice!

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average against the whisky market in general. High for Scotch.


Review: Arran The Bothy Quarter Cask by Jason Hambrey

ABV
56.2%
Aging
Ex-bourbon for 7 years, finished in quarter casks for another 2 years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Arran (Lochranza, Scotland)

A fairly cheap cask strength version of a single malt, going the route of finishing in quarter casks - given the woody influence of smaller casks combined with the ABV (which brings out more of the oak on the nose), you’d expect an oakier Scotch.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2020

This has a very pleasant oakiness, with nice bourbon notes, apple, fresh peach, vanilla, a nice grassy barley character, and a touch of clove. It doesn’t disappoint on the palate either, with the fruits being very well supported by the oakiness. It’s big at cask strength – medium bodied – but the oak, sweetness, fruit, and grain are just about perfect for this percent of alcohol. So, the balance is there, the flavours are good – and this is pretty great Scotch, especially at this price (if you like higher ABV scotches).

A nice pairing for an amber beer, too.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, against whisky as a whole – Scotch has trouble competing on a value basis. But, at $91, it’s hard to get a better cask strength single malt than this one.


Review: Isle of Jura 18 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
44%
Aging
Matured in ex-bourbon casks for 18 years and finished in Bordeaux wine casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Jura (Craighouse, Scotland)

Now how about the 18?


Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

Gorgeous nose. Quite elegant – beautiful fruit, stewed apples, apricot preserves, almonds, and with a touch of smoke. After a great nose, the palate doesn’t measure up, being pretty dominated by smoke and losing some of the resolution of complexity from the nose – but it regains it on the finish which mixes light peat, smoke, with stewed fruit (apple, pear, apricot) is great. It has a bit of sweet tart (the candy), always an odd character in whisky I find – I’ve only found it in appreciable quantities in some old bowmores.

This nearly was ranked a notch up, but the palate just isn’t quite there. Still, a fantastic dram.

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at $150.