Wednesday, January 1, 2014

001 - Highland Park 21

To close out 2013, I decided to finish a time capsule of sorts.

I think all whisky bottles are time capsules. It's a snapshot in this case of what was going on on the island of Orkney in Scotland in 1986 or earlier. Growing and harvesting grain. The weather across at least one growing season, the skills of the maltman, the miller, the brewer, the distiller, the warehouse manager -- all merge together in my bottle.

The youngest component of this travel retail release in October 2007 was 21 years old. But for me this was also encapsulating one of my earliest infatuations with whisky.

I heard about this particular release on a  contemporaneous episode of WhiskyCast and it sounded good (I was already a fan of Highland Park). To add thrill to the chase, it was only available in a few UK airports. But, sadly, I had no prospects for international travel.

Serendipity to the rescue...my company soon thereafter wanted to send one of my colleagues to India to do some training (name withheld). And he planned to go via Heathrow. To make a long story short, he was audibly clanking as he walked to the escalator down to baggage claim at SFO. He had bottles for himself, me and one colleague from work. They were just over $120/bottle, which is a steal given the rarity, age and quality.

So, what did it taste like?

It's a Highland Park, so there is a distinct orange peel or burnt orange nose. The flavor is full of vanilla notes, with oak notes (tobacco, leather), soft maltiness and even some fresh cracked pepper. It is exceptionally well-rounded. I liked it better than their ever-popular 18-year-old.

The bottle I just finished was the first release but I believe they do still make it. If you see it, I highly recommend it.

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