Highland Park ICE or: Where’s the ceiling?

This cask needs a medic...

This cask needs a medic...

I don’t often feel inclined to post a short opinion piece, but I just had lunch and sat down with a cup of coffee in front of my computer to look at new arrivals at whisky shops. That’s when I saw the new Highland Park ICE on offer. Let’s put it that way: Coffee stains on my keyboard and screen when I saw the price.

Highland Park ICE. The latest instalment of Highland Park’s highly collectible series of whiskies. There are 30.000(!!!) bottles worldwide. That’s hardly “limited” by any standard, most distilleries have much smaller batches with their regular bottlings.
In essence it is 17-year-old whisky, selling at 350€ a bottle. 350€! Their very good standard 18 year-old is already sold at a steep price – and it’s “only” 100-125€. If you’re lucky, you can get four bottles on offer for the price of one bottle of this new limited edition.

I am scratching my head here. Did I miss something? Is Highland Park a lost distillery, closed for 10 years or longer? Is there a pure gold stopper on the bottle? Or did the queen sign them? Or perhaps the queen’s poodle sniffed the vatting tank? What’s the heck is going on here?

In my opinion this bottling is displaying everything that’s wrong with the whisky industry right now. It will be talked about not only amongst whisky enthusiasts (heck, I’m even giving them publicity here, even if it’s more of a rant so I too fell into the trap…).  It is one of many puzzle pieces as of late changing public perception of whisky being that of an elite luxury, a dream only rich can fulfill, worse, a snobist’s tipple. Whisky used to be a tipple of which nearly everyone could afford a “special” bottle for special occasions. These days the market is increasingly divided.

I have to congratulate Highland Park and their marketing team for pulling it off, though, and I’m dead serious about this. It takes skill, a great reputation, a large following of collectors and devotees, predecessor bottlings which are highly sought after and a superheated market to be able to place a bottle of whisky in pretty high volume at such a price level. Not everyone can do it and I’m sure it will be a quick sell-out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s a lovely dram and if you head out to buy and enjoy it – good on ya, no envy involved, enjoy it with a few mates as intended. But, in the end, it’s still “just” a very big batch (30.000 bottles amounts to roughly 150(!) barrels at 200 bottles each) of 17yo ex-bourbon matured whisky that isn’t any more expensive to produce than the standard expressions (except for a few additional coins for the admittedly very nice packaging – which you can’t drink).

But, in the end, when you look at it from a distance, it’s just another sign of how superheated and completely over the top a portion of today’s whisky market is and it makes me wonder whether we’re getting close to the ceiling or if there’s still loads of head space to trump it in the upcoming years…

Tasting: Glen Spey 1995 20 yo by Cadenhead’s – 2015 Club bottling

Glen Spey 1995 20 yo by Cadenhead’s - 2015 Club bottling

Glen Spey 1995 20 yo by Cadenhead’s - 2015 Club bottlingDram data:
Distillery: Glen Spey-Glenlivet
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1995
Bottled: 2015
Age: 20 years
Limitation: 180 bottles
Casks: Ex-Sherry hogshead
Alcohol: 52,7%
Unchillfiltered, uncoloured
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
Colour:
dark forest honey
It’s been ages since my last whisky review – the cold ruined my nose and palate for quite a while. In the glass today is one of my most anticipated bottles of the year – the “free” bottle from Cadenhead’s club which you get when you trade in a full stamp card (i.e. for buying six bottles of whisky from them). Great deal and it’s always a big mystery what the surprise bottle is going to be. For last year’s bottling, which arrived here in Austria in February 2016, they chose a sherry hogshead (!) from a rather obscure Speyside distillery. So let’s check it out!
The rather gentle nose is that of a well-aged (probably first fill) proper dry Sherry (Olorosoor Fino? – i.e. not overly sweet cream sherry) European oak sherry cask. Slightly dry sherry notes and wood spices (sandalwood, cinnamon, star anise) up front, met by what remains of a clean, slightly citrus-laden distillate. When I first tasted it I had lightly vegetal notes too – I think I can attribute those to my cold, I can’t find them anymore. Continue reading “Tasting: Glen Spey 1995 20 yo by Cadenhead’s – 2015 Club bottling”

Tasting: Dalmore 12 yo (late 80s/early 90s duty free bottling)

Tasting: Dalmore 12 yo (late 80s/early 90s duty free bottling)

Tasting: Dalmore 12 yo (late 80s/early 90s duty free bottling)Dram data:
Distillery: Dalmore
Bottler: official bottling
Distilled: 70s to early 80s
Bottled: late 80s, early 90s
Age: 12 years
Limitation: –
Casks: –
Alcohol: 43%
Most likely chill filtered and coloured
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
Colour:
dark orang-ey gold
Woohoo! my nose is finally working again and properly calibrated after being stuffed for well over a week! So it’s back to business with an old Dalmore 12, bottled in the mid-80s to early 90s. This might very well contain whisky distilled in the 70s! I’m excited! The nose is, well, recognisably Dalmore-ish! Light, fruity, sweet and pleasant but not without depth. The first thing you notice is a sweet – but not cloying – rich sweet sherry and fruit sweetness. Px sherry, dried dates and figs, dried pears for making fruit-bread, plum spread, seasoned with Swiss herbal cough lozenges and a dash of plum distillate (with cracked kernels!). Continue reading “Tasting: Dalmore 12 yo (late 80s/early 90s duty free bottling)”

Tasting: Caol Ila 1995 20 yo by Cadenhead’s

Caol Ila 1995 20 yo by Cadenhead’s

Caol Ila 1995 20 yo by Cadenhead’sDram data:
Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1995
Bottled: 10.2015
Age: 20 years
Limitation: 564 bottles
Casks: Butt
Alcohol: 57.7%
Unchillfiltered, uncoloured
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
Colour:
white wine
Seems like yesterday since I last tasted a refill-Butt 20-ish Caol Ila. I was very fond of the last one so there’s certainly no harm in trying another! The nose is… rather gentle and delicate, actually. Very little alcohol despite nearly 58% ABV with a light and delicate peat smoke – almost a Bowmore-ish flowery note (burning lavender and violets?). Slightly damp cotton candy, diluted honey, almost faded Italian orange blossoms, citrus juice with bits and peel, an oak board in a florist’s shop and highland honey so faint you’re wondering if the bees made it through the summer. Continue reading “Tasting: Caol Ila 1995 20 yo by Cadenhead’s”

24 drams till Christmas tasting #24: Bunnahabhain 1988 24 yo by Signatory Vintage

Bunnahabhain 1988 24 yo by Signatory Vintage

Bunnahabhain 1988 24 yo by Signatory VintageDram data:
Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Bottler: Signatory Vintage
Distilled: 10.10.1988
Bottled: 30.07.2013
Age: 24 years
Limitation: 588 bottles
Casks: refill Sherry Butt
Alcohol: 55,9%
unchillfiltered; uncoloured
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
Colour: amber
How fitting! A 24 yo single malt whisky to conclude the 24 drams till Christmas series! This better be a good one for a great finish or I’ll have to extend it to 25 days… The nose starts off slightly alcoholic but there’s greatness underneath! Classic European oak sherry cask matured whisky – post Paxarette! Spices up front – cloves, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg. The cask is strong with this one (excuse the Star Wars pun…), no oaky notes, just letting the spices talk. Continue reading “24 drams till Christmas tasting #24: Bunnahabhain 1988 24 yo by Signatory Vintage”

24 drams till Christmas tasting #19: Laphroaig 1990 19 yo by A.D. Rattray

Laphroaig 1990 19 yo by A.D. Rattray

Laphroaig 1990 19 yo by A.D. RattrayDram data:
Distillery: Laphroaig
Bottler: A.D. Rattray
Distilled: 29.03.1990
Bottled: 30.06.2009
Age: 19
Limitation: 203 bottles
Casks: refill ex-Bourbon #2239
Alcohol: 56%
unchillfiltered; natural colour
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
Colour: straw
Dirty, peaty, smoky Islay as we love (or hate…) it on the nose! Phenolic peat smoke, damp oily rags used to wipe down a puffers’ engine, cigarette ash and iodine wound disinfectant paired with a lemon-infused get-well-tea in the Bowmore hospital. Oh and a eucalyptus shrub as a twisted gift for the patient thrown in for good measure! Salty too – licking sea-stones at the Laphroaig pier.

Continue reading “24 drams till Christmas tasting #19: Laphroaig 1990 19 yo by A.D. Rattray”

24 drams till Christmas tasting #18: The Good Spirits Co. Cask 23 blend batch 9

The Good Spirits Co. Cask 23 blend batch 9

The Good Spirits Co. Cask 23 blend batch 9Dram data:
Distillery: – (blended malt)
Bottler: The Good Spirits Co.
Distilled: –
Bottled: 2013
Age: youngest malt is 7 yo
Limitation: –
Casks: unknown, “living cask” for vatting
Alcohol: 57%
unchillfiltered; natural colour

Tasting notes:
Colour: red gold
The nose is initially quite alcoholic – this batch had a load of young high-octane Glentauchers added. Vanilla, light honey, heather, citrus, coconut, eucalyptus and a grassy, green note. Feels a tad young. On the palate the load of high-strength young whisky is immediately noticeable as well. As the alcohol and initial dryness passes the dram is mouth-coating and pleasantly oily. Bourbon-matured Glentauchers, I’d say, but the exact proportions of Glentauchers to other malts are unknown.
Continue reading “24 drams till Christmas tasting #18: The Good Spirits Co. Cask 23 blend batch 9”

24 drams till Christmas tasting #17: Bladnoch 2001 11 yo lightly peated Sherry cask 280

Bladnoch 2001 11 yo lightly peated Sherry cask 280

Bladnoch 2001 11 yo lightly peated Sherry cask 280Dram data:
Distillery: Bladnoch
Bottler: original bottling
Distilled: 16.11.2001
Bottled: 25.06.2013
Age: 11 years
Limitation: –
Casks: Sherry cask #280
Alcohol: 55%
unchillfiltered; natural colour
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
Colour: amber
The nose, although it is not a triple distilled whisky, is initially that of a typical, light, fruity, sherried Lowlander. Slightly alcoholic (no wonder at 55% ABV and 11 years of age), with a noticeable citrus note, diluted dark fruit puree, spices (allspice and cloves), dried orange peel, molasses and fruit bread. Getting darker and more interesting as time passes on. But, wait, what’s that?
Continue reading “24 drams till Christmas tasting #17: Bladnoch 2001 11 yo lightly peated Sherry cask 280”

24 drams till Christmas (blind) tasting #16: Arran Quarter Cask distillery exclusive

Arran Quarter Cask distillery exclusive

Arran Quarter Cask distillery exclusiveDram data:
Distillery: Arran
Bottler: Original bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: 2014-ish
Age: NAS
Limitation: 438 bottles
Casks: quarter cask finish
Alcohol: 52,8%
unchill filtered; natural colour
Whiskybase link

Blind tasting notes:
Colour: light gold
The nose is initially on the light side, getting darker and richer as time passes. 40-43% ABV would be my guess. We’ve got vanilla, honey, heather, a hint of toffee, baked apple with brown sugar, sweet flowers, fragrant oak, slight spices and dried fruits (raisins) in the background.
Continue reading “24 drams till Christmas (blind) tasting #16: Arran Quarter Cask distillery exclusive”

24 drams till Christmas tasting #14: Tomatin 14 yo

Tomatin 14 yo

Tomatin 14 yoDram data:
Distillery: Tomatin
Bottler: original bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: 03.04.2014
Age: 14 years
Limitation: –
Casks: Port finish
Alcohol: 46%
unchillfiltered; natural colour
Whiskybase link

Tasting notes:
Colour: reddish gold
The nose is a summery fruitbomb, opening with vanilla-infused red fruits on Demerara sugar. Which red fruits? strawberries and raspberries, successfuly bringing the warm feeling of summer back on this cold and dreich December day. The fruit garden in the glass must be in close proximity to a vineyard – there are notes of grape skin and sweet grapes as well as a hint of oak and just a trace of spices paired with a note of thick, old balsamico di Modena.
Continue reading “24 drams till Christmas tasting #14: Tomatin 14 yo”

Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner