Tastings and meet-ups featuring Glenfarclas
For those fortunate to be near at the right time of the year
From Austria to Australia, Brussels to Bangkok
Glenfarclas stands for grand no matter the age or era!
Glenfarclas stands for grand no matter the age or era!
Even by Islay standards this new single malt scotch from Ardbeg has a distinctly maritime charter, with a leafy green spine of peat that is downright, well, kelpy! So they named it for the mythic water spirits called kelpies, which have beguiled and bewitched many a mortal in that part of the world since Pictsh times.
The wider release version of Ardbeg Kelpie made quite a splash, when introduced to the crowd after two hours of a breakfast buffet, raw bar, and the open spirits bar featuring core expressions, Corryvreckan and Uigeadail, along with the classic 10 year-old age statement expression.
This included trying them in new and novel ways, like this outrageously spicy/smokey potion I dubbed the “Bloody Skeery.” Skeeries being the wee rocky islets dotting the Scottish seacoasts, including the ones making up the protected nature reserve directly in front of the Ardbeg distillery.
Ardbeg put on this cruise, and similar events in other cities, for their Ardbeg Committee members, an organization that is free to join, just as the entire event was free for any Committee member lucky enough to sign on for the 4 hour cruise.
Just when we began to wonder if we might not see any Kelpie, one actually came on board in the form of a giant pile of seaweed with enormous red lobster claws, similar to the ones that served up earlier in the day.
But the real starfish of the day was the new Kelpie expression itself, which contains Ardbeg matured in virgin oak casks from the Black Sea region of Southern Russia and then vatted with more typical Ardbeg aged in bourbon barrel casks.
As expected, this 46% is a tamer spirit compared to the cask-strength special committee release. But really, it is the very same whisky.
There is the big leafy green nose awash with maritime accents and fresh sage, between the balanced bookends of oak and smoke, and considerably creamy vanilla custard, while being a leaner Ardbeg than the others that tasted during the cocktail hours before the official Kelpie launch. It is not as oily or weighty as the core expressions, but so full of ever-changing flavor.
And like the special edition, which was bottled at 57.1%, a dash or splash of water spreads it out, while releasing even more flavors including the same lovely baking spices of clove and nutmeg, along with freshening up the smoke and maritime notes of seafood and kelp.
It does not pack they same wallop, but provides a calmer yet still very delicious single malt experience. As one venerable malt man with many years in the industry put it, “I could see this being my peaty whisky for the entire summer !”
May there be that much of Kelpie in its wider release to go around, and last that long.
Apparently Kelpieitis IS contagious!!
click to enlarge
The photo shows my late father at the Royal & Ancient Clubhouse at St. Andrews, in Fife, a good 100 miles south of the Mortlach distillery in the whisky-producing region of Speyside.
These were taken at http://hedonism.co.uk
Now, what shall I have later this evening to celebrate World Whisky Day?
Last night, in the 85 degree heat, it was Bank Note blended Scotch whisky and soda. Actually, it was plain seltzer which has no added mineralization. Since most club soda in the USA is now made with potassium rather than sodium, it does not taste nearly as good for whisky and soda, to my palate anyway.
But tonight? After the weather changed to chilly and wet? Hmmm. Recently arrived acquisitions worthy of a World Whisky Day celebration include:
Longrow Peated (no age statement)
Glenfarclas 12 (not yet opened)
1998 Ben Nevis 15 Year Old Fresh Sherry Butt #596 Cask Strength (K & L Wines Exclusive)
Ardbeg home blending of 10 yo, Corryvreken, and Uuigeadail (Thanks Tony!)
Springbank 12 Cask Strength
Mortlach 18 (so really, really very good compared to the Mortlach Old and Rare, but still really, really overpriced.)
Or I may finally open my last bottle Mortlach 16 yo Flora and Fauna, which may just be my all-time favorite whisky, as if there could be only one.
The name added to Highland Park’s traditional 12 year-old age statement single malt and the embossed glass relief imagery on its new bottle, hark back to an imagined history much older than the Victorian era suggested by the bottle it is replacing.
It will also be used for their European market 10 year-old, now named Viking Scar. The fabulous 18 year-old expression will be getting the new bottle and the name Viking Pride, later this year.
The previous, quasi-nineteenth century bottle of elegant understated design will be missed. But the folks at Highland Park felt it looked too much like a bottle of American bourbon. And that is exactly what I thought when it first appeared, before I got used to it and came to like it.
Although it was hardly traditional, I very much loved the bottle that held Highland Park when I discovered the singular spirit in my earliest drinking days, which had a map of the Orkney Islands embossed on the bottom of its base.
The soon to be retired bottle with the one that came before it.
The new bottle is quite lovely to look at, with a new line that is not radically different from its predecessor, and the artwork was inspired by the impressive iconographs decorating a church in Norway believed to be from about 1130, and now an official UNESCO World Heritage site.
While some say this is the Lion of Christ defeating Satan in serpent form, it looks to me more like hound or possibly a horse, and I will not be surprised if HP’s modern day lore masters declare the serpents to be wyrms aka wingless dragons known to inhabit those parts back in the day.
Orkney was a Norwegian Earldom for centuries, which evolved from the original Viking settlers who either transplanted or intermarried with the Pictish occupants living there since the late Bronze Age. The islands were not ceded to the King of Scotland until the 1400s, as partial payment for a broken marriage agreement between the two kingdoms, something that happened quite often between Scotland and Norway in the medieval times. I mean the marriages between the Scottish and Norwegian royal families, not the broken engagements.
So the new bottle, and Highland Park’s brand revamping to focus on all things Viking isn’t just coming from the drawing board of some Aldwych and Kingsway ad exec. It comes directly from the rich and often turbulent history of Orkney itself.
The best news, for me, about all this, is that the core range of Highland Park expressions is remaining single malt whisky aged entirely in sherry barrels.
But outside the core range they are introducing exciting expressions that combine sherry-aged Highland Park with HP from American bourbon barrels, and two new expressions made entirely from ex-bourbon barrels!
Highland Park is adapting their looks and legends while looking progressively to the future and making the best of it they can.
And that is one man’s word on …
Highland Park – Big Changes Ahead in 2017 – new expressions in a new look
Our HP Reviews
Highland Park Valkyrie appeared before the faithful at Whisky Live! London, earlier this month.
There are two other Viking Legends expressions on the calendar for 2018/19, named Valknut and Valhalla.
Sometimes kindly described as Viking angels, the Valkyries were supernatural female spirits who decided which Viking warriors would die in battle, and escorted certain chosen ones to Valhalla, the feasting hall of the God Odin, where the Valkyries serve them mead until they are called to the last battle at the end of the world.
While it might be said that Highland Park single malt Scotch whisky has some heathery honeyed notes, it is a long way from meade. And this new Valkyrie expression kicking of the Viking Legends Series may be even farther from it, since it is reputed to be peatier and smokier than most Highland Park.
The bottle Lyngvild designed is not embossed like the new bottle being used for HP’s core age statement expressions. But they share the same silhouette, while Valkyrie’s label and carton reflect Viking artwork and literary sagas, including the stylized Valkyrie on the box, which resembles talisman pendents from Norse jewelry made between the third to the seventh century CE, which include Valkyries as a common theme.
As for the whisky itself, it is bottled at 45.9% ABV and comes from a combination of sherry barrels made of European oak, sherry barrels of American oak, and American Bourbon barrels, which HP has been incorporating into the various exotic expressions among the No Age Statement whiskies with names taken from Norse gods and legendary Viking heroes.
Nose: Sharp tang of sweet green apples and ripening lemons.
Palate: A bewitching mix of oriental spices. Driven by European Oak sherry seasoned casks, American Oak sherry-seasoned casks and Bourbon casks, the flavour profile is creamy vanilla with spicy, sweet, preserved ginger and lingering smokiness with hints of liquorice.
Finish: Exquisitely balanced, the long and lingering finish delivers waves of warm aromatic smoke and richly ripened fruit.
Whisky.com quotes HP’s Jason Craig as saying Valkyrie “dials up more of our smoky notes by incorporating more of our heathery peated malt… This creates a richer, fuller phenolic note that has balance due to the sweeter, heathery character of our moorland peat, but it is a slight departure from our core 12-year-old whisky.”
Um, yeah, if you can call adding whisky aged in bourbon casks into a bottle of Highland Park a “slight departure,” which is something I certainly cannot do, because it is a major departure with serious implications of the endangerment of classic Highland Park, which is aged entirely in sherry casks.
My personal copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy states as fact that the core age statement HP expressions are remaining all-sherry for now. I just get a little uneasy when marketing speak implies that bourbon barrel Highland Park in core range expressions would somehow not qualify as a radical abandonment of HP tradition, because it sounds too much like an attempt at grooming the public to accept such a departure in the future.
And whilst the future may indeed dictate such a change, no matter how much HP tries to conjure up a mythic Scandinavian past, I will not go gently into any such good night and shall put up a fight worthy of a one-way ticket to Odin’s mead hall.
And that is one man’s word on…
Highland Park – Big Changes Ahead in 2017 – other new expressions and the brand identity
Our HP Reviews
Highland Park bids farewell to some core range expressions, and launches new expressions outside the core range, including the new Viking Legend Series, part of their revamped image announced today, which is inspired by Orkney’s Viking era during the Dark Ages circa the year 800 CE.
Highland Park 15 is discontinued. Fans will want to budget accordingly and scour the shop shelves. Made with a higher percentage of sherry casks made from American oak, it has a sweeter taste with notable flavors of mango and other tropical fruits.
Dark Origins is also discontinued. It had been the first No Age Statement expression in HP’s core range. Including a higher percentage of first-fill sherry casks made from European oak, some re-charred, this expression is smokier than other HP and has a more-savory character overall.
[UPDATE May 21, 2017: And perhaps the worst news of all, Highland Park 21 is is also missing from their brand new website.]*
The folks at Highland Park have the good taste to leave alone the great taste inherent to the rest of their core age statement expressions! And there was much rejoicing – yea.
In fact a new 50 yo will be appearing in the next year or two.
Highland Park makes their classic core range whiskies from 100% single malt whisky aged entirely in sherry casks, and thus they shall remain, according to my sources.
But the core range expressions are getting a new bottle, with a somewhat different shape and embossed glass relief designs inspired by the twelfth century iconography on the famous stave church at Ornes (Urnes,) Norway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Martin Markvardsen Senior Brand Ambassador for HP is quoted by Imbibe as saying “What we heard about the old bottle is that it looked a bit like a bourbon.” That is something I recognized the moment it first appeared on the market, before I got used to it and came to like it. He went on to say, “I think the new bottling and positioning will stand out well and look like a (Scotch) whisky.”
The important part in all of this is that the newly christened 10 yo Viking Scars (not available in the USA,) 12 yo Viking Honour, and 18 yo Viking Pride have been promised to stay the same incomparable Highland Park we all have come to depend upon. The 18 yo will now be made two batches per year, the first dated February 2017.
It is just the Highland Park brand that has taken on a new look and language to imbue its image with Orkney’s ancient Viking past.
This is not just about evocative advertising in the drinks industry. The trend in Scotland toward a national identity separate from that of the rest of the UK has revived old sentiments suggesting the culture of the Scottish Highlanders has more in common with Norway and the rest Scandinavia, than with their English and Welsh cousins to the south. And the Orkney Islands have always had considerable Scandinavian connections, belonging to Norway until the 1400s.
Besides, who doesn’t stir with some romantic attachment to the idea of intrepid Viking explorers and the brave and hearty people who sent them out on their legendary adventures?
Full Volume and Valkyrie
As for the new expressions, the soon-to-be-missed 15 will be replaced later this summer, by something called Full Volume, which has a marketing spin of comparing a whisky blender’s flavor engineering to an audio engineer’s mixing of music. It is made entirely from Highland Park aged in American bourbon barrels. Bottled at at 47.2% ABV, HP Full Volume will cost about £75 per bottle.
Full Volume will fit in the 18 yo core expression and the newly released Valkyrie expression, which is launching the new Viking Legend Series, while also replacing Dark Origins, at least in the minds of Highland Park management. Where Dark Origins was smokier than other Highland Park, Valkyrie is officially peatier.
But unlike Dark Origins and the age statement expressions in the core range, Valkyrie has bourbon barrels involved, along with sherry barrels of European and American oak. The official line stresses the latter as a tie-in with traditional HP, but the published tasting notes, of lemons with vanilla and spicy sweet preserved ginger, suggests the former is prominently featured.
It was reputedly distilled in 1999 and bottled in 2017, at 45.9%, but Valkyrie does not have an age statement. This might be to avoid having to re-label future bottles, should some younger spirit get mixed into later editions. Or it is simply that is the way HP does their non-core range expressions.
There are two other expressions scheduled in this Viking Legends Series over the next two years, named Valknut and Valhalla.
There is also an all-bourbon barrel Highland Park heading to the American market called Mangus, which is sadly bottled at 40%, but happily priced well under $50. Mangus was the name of both the King of Norway and the King of Sweden at the same time that stave church was being built. But it does not distract from the fact it is much more about America in its creation than anything to do with Vikings. But the same can be said for all of those special edition whiskies HP has been coming out with for years.
As I just said to a friend last night, Highland Park should feel free to follow industry trends and come up with all the expressions they can that utilize bourbon casks, virgin oak, or oak seasoned by other wines or spirits, put them in various bottles and wooden cradles and charge a Viking’s ransom for them, if they can get away with it – if that is what it will take to insure that my beloved all-sherry-all-the-time Highland Park bottled with guaranteed age statements will continue unmolested into the foreseeable future and remain available for those who know it and love it so well.
*If they have discontinued Highland Park 21, arguably the most fresh and intensely flavorful expression of their core range, it would be a tragedy indeed, and a crime if it is not longer being made to make room for one of their newfangled non-traditional expressions.
And that is one man’s word on…
Our HP Reviews
Virtually unattainable, an upcoming version of Ardbeg Kelpie bottled at 46% is scheduled for wider but limited release in mid-May.
With a portion matured in virgin European oak from near the Black Sea, Ardbeg Kelpie is aptly named for a mythic shapeshifting aquatic nature spirit, as its unbridled flavors gallop along, ever changing around a golden heart swathed in seaweed.
“But that sinewy tendril of seaweed winding its way through the palate acts like savory herbs for the tasty elements of raw cacao, roasted coffee, maple sugars, buttery scallops, a dab of vanilla bean to go with the coconut, and a ghostly memory of smoked fish. And that scrumptious nutmeg continues to surface, along with other spices bobbing up from the deeper riptides of this compelling dram with the deceptively serene looks of a burnished sauternes lake.”
I get this question about pure malt whisky from time to time, and tend to reply directly. But I have seen a ten-year-old post on Yahoo with the same query, followed by a bunch of replies, most of which are way off the mark. So here is a public answer.
The term “pure malt” was used throughout the twentieth-century, in a manner synonymous with “single malt,” meaning the bottle contained 100% pure malt whisky made at the same distillery. And it was likewise used to refer to “single cask” whisky as well.
At times, however, “pure malt” was used in place of “vatted malt,” which meant a blending of whisky from various distilleries, yet still consisting entirely of pure malt whisky. The term vatted whisky was recently replaced with “blended malt” in official capacities within today’s standardized whisky industry.*
For example, a label reading “Dewar’s Pure Malt Whisky” from the early 1900s would contain a vatting of various single malts from different distilleries.
But since commercially available single cask whisky and vatted whisky (with no grain spirits) were uncommon after the First World War, the term “pure malt” almost always meant what we today call “single malt” i.e. a bottle of malt whisky made all in the same distillery, but likely a mixture of various casks.
The term “single malt” was used from time to time since the 1800s, but it did not come into vogue until the 1980s. Up until that time, “pure malt” remained the common term in Scotland, while “single malt” and “all malt” were used more rarely, and were more frequently seen on export labels in America.
I suspect it was United Distillers (now Diageo) that started using the term in a uniform manner, primarily for whisky being exported overseas.
Examples include Auchentoshen from the early 1970s, which say Pure Malt, while the distillery’s label in 1977 says Single Lowland Malt. That same year, the label on a bottle of Mortlach, another Diageo brand, said Highland Malt Whisky, shortly before it changed its label to Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
But really, all of these terms are relatively new.
For most of the century, if the brand on a bottle of single malt whisky was that of a regional re-seller who did their own bottling, it was likely to say All Malt, Pure Malt, or Single Malt. But anything like an official distillery bottling would simply say Scotch Malt Whisky.
Sometimes the name of the region was included. Here follow some examples:
“Pure Highland Malt Whisky,” was seen on Macallan labels from the mid-1950s.
A bottle of 1890s Ardbeg says “Fine Old Islay Whisky: Specially selected & Fully matured pure malt.”
Meanwhile, Laphroaig from the same period said simply “Islay Malt Scotch Whisky.” But exported Laphroaig often added “Unblended” to the title later on, probably due to the propensity for blended scotch being shipped to America.
A bottle of Springbank from 1960 says “Cambeltown style Scotch malt whisky made from 100% pure malt.”
Both Wm. Cadenhead Ltd. and Gordon and McPhail used the term “Pure Malt” on their independent bottlings of single-cask malt whisky well up into the 1980s.
However, they tended to use the same language that the distillery of origin used. So a Cadenhead bottling of a Glenlossie – Glenlivet from 1978 says Pure Malt Whisky, while a Cadenhead single cask bottling of Springbank from the same era says simply Campbeltown Malt Scotch Whisky.
It seems the more traditional the distillery, if they were not under the Diageo umbrella, the longer they took to start using “single malt” on their labels.
And that is one man’s word on…
* The creation of “blended malt” as an official designation was almost certainly done to confuse blends of pure malt whisky in the mind of consumers with “blended whisky,” which can contain up to 90% grain spirits and still be called “scotch” if it is distilled in Scotland. Blends typically have 40% pure malt whisky mixed with 60% grain whisky, which is considerably less expensive to produce, while also being considerably less flavorful.
** The use of “– Glenlivet” in the previous instance referred to the traditional name for the whisky producing region now called Speyside.
Terse tasting notes of the “rarest whiskies” give a tantalizing hint at what a price tag in the thousands could lead to for the discerning palate.
The lone no age statement single malt being Macallan’s M, from the 1824 Series, which was produced in 2013 from casks stretching back into the 1940s. Part of its high price comes from the Lalique crystal bottle, which is dwarfed by the auction price of a six-litre crystal decanter of the same stuff. The “normal” 750ml version can still be had in the U.S., for about $5,000 after taxes.
The list includes expressions from some of my all-time favorites, Highland Park, Ledaig, Balvenie, and Glenfarclas.
Most of my nose-on experience with high-end whisky tops out at 25 year age statements, but there have been some exceptions.
While I have yet to publish my review of the serenity in a whisky glass that is Balvenie 30, the most indulgent review I have published was for a most indulgent whisky, yet to be surpassed in my estimation, the Highland Park 30 from the 2013 bottling.
However, it comes nowhere near the prices of the whisky in the article, which you can check out HERE.
And if you would like to read about more about some exceptionally rare and expensive whisky, this run down at moneyinc.com, which includes both whiskies in ultra-expensive decanters, and those costing a king’s ransom simply because of their rarity.
And here is a quick and easy list from winesearcher.com of “the most expensive whiskey” even if everything on the list is a whisky, and almost all of it comes from the extinct distillery of Port Ellen, on the Isle of Islay, or Brora, which existed in the town of the same name on the northeast coast of Scotland.
But another way to look at it is in terms of whisky as an investment tool. If that sounds interesting, you may want to give this article a read over at Australia’s ExecutiveStyle.com, which includes some relatively affordable malt whisky bottles, expected to rise high as their numbers dwindle.
We will try to keep it more up to date, just as we are finally typing up copious notes on a year’s worth of tastings, solo, groups both blind and not.
Check out the latest list HERE
Happy New Year from One Man’s Malt
Our holiday harvest included some rare Mortlach and some scrumptious Glenfarclas, along with Caol Ila and Highland Park.
Okay, the last bit was a gift from my cat. But the larder looks mighty festive for the coming winter.
But since it was 50 degrees today in Brooklyn, New York, I may have to turn to a nice summery 18 yo Hazelburn, or a 28 yo single American oak cask Bunnahabhain if this keeps up. Good thing Climate Change is a hoax, huh?
Many new reviews on the horizon, including the two malts just mentioned.
Cheers and a happy, healthy, malty 2017 to you all!
By that time, he was spending whisky shows sitting in a comfortable chair as the industry paid their respects to the man who once mentored many of them, and shared stories from a career that saw him managing a long list of distilleries, including Balmenach, St. Magdalene – Linlithgow, Lagavulin, Dalwhinnie, Rosebank, Towiemore, Coleburn, Caol Ila, Cragganmore, and Cardhu from where he retired in the early 1990s, before becoming what is now called a brand ambassador for Diageo’s Classic Malts range.
Saturday, the Men of Malt had a Glenfarclas celebration of their own.
Understated and traditional in presentation, Glenfarclas represents the classic, elegant Speyside style of European oak casks drenched with luscious Spanish sherry in a judicious vatting with some sherry barrels of American oak.
The vibrant splendor of the 17 year old, the polished singularity of the cognac-like 21 year old, and the mature and oaky depth of the regal 25 year old, all provide an elegant and luscious dram, effortless, beguiling, and oh so quaffable.
They also announced the release of a commemorative bottling, named after the £511.19s.0d their forefather paid to acquire the distillery. From the official newsletter:
“The £511.19s.0d Family Reserve, a non-chill filtered bottling at 43%, is a vatting of predominantly first fill sherry butts which proudly embodies the distillery’s sherry profile, bringing together all the character of this great spirit across the generations. Sweet and rich sherry, like a toffee syrup over a freshly toasted French baguette, the nose promises fresh fruit smothered in heather honey, ending almost like a sweet port. Then a dry yet sweet taste, a lovely balance of fruit, light nuttiness and milk chocolate develop, followed by a very palatable long and easy finish. A copy of the original bill of sale is included with each bottle along with a note from George Grant explaining the significance of the £511.19s.0d Family Reserve to the Grant family tradition.”
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I was privileged to sample the these two cask-strength distillery releases at Whiskyfest New York 2013, before they had shipped to American distributors.
I acquired a bottle of the blonde version, but the sherry version was nowhere to be found. That is until I discovered one dusty bottle right here in New York City some three weeks ago.
When recently visiting a friend, were were both surprised to see I had brought Glen Garioch, while he was intending to surprise me with his own blonde bottling and the above-the-top-shelf indie bottling from Samaroli, the Italian concern known for their exceptionally smooth and floating on air editions.
Detailed reviews will follow in time.
But as a reminder, one need not spend one or two hundred dollars to acquire a very nice bottle of Glen Garioch. Nay, the 12 year old is as good a buy as you will find within Malt for the Common Man price ranges!
And while this may sound a bit daft at first light, the connection between running and golf is not new. Both are considered great ways to get healthy exercise out-of-doors. At least, when you are spending the day in a golf cart. But it is well-known that people maintaining high levels of fitness excel at golf, and those who undergo a fitness transformation through other forms of exercise find their skill at golf go up, while their scores come down.
The principles of running-based fitness and the game of golf has been formally crafted into a lifestyle, practiced by those who enjoy Speed Golf, where the running takes place on the golf course, between shots! Learn more at http://speedgolfinternational.com/.
And while my father’s first love was golfing, and he was known for his impatience with friends who had not his ability to approach a ball, take one look down the fairway before whacking an excellent shot without hesitation and moving on, it was suspected his main goal was to get to the 19th Hole as soon as possible for his second great past time, drinking scotch whisky!
Out of the shadows and first fill sherry casks of European oak comes a mysterious no-age-statement expression, the first deemed worthy of Highland Park’s core range of classic single malt.
Having now tasted it, I am surprised they aren’t marketing it as a recreation of a pre-Prohibition version of Highland Park, due to the prominence of European oak, Oloroso sherry, and peat.
Instead, they have taken things further into the realm of romantic fantasyland when it comes to the packaging and the marketing that goes along with it.
The name Dark Origins is meant to harken back to the founder of the distillery, who was a clergyman by trade, while engaging in illicit whisky making before he was granted a legal license to distill in 1798.
I guess if Jameson’s PR folks can invent tall tales about their Kraken-slaying founder, Highland Park can turn theirs into a figure of manly mystery, whose secret dealings as a “dark distiller” is equated with defending the common folk of the Orkney Islands from “from the villainy of the tax collectors.”
Are your eyes rolling yet?
The Dark Origins box sports the image of said founder’s head partially obscured by a hooded cloak. He even has the stubble of a Hollywood action figure on his chiseled unshaven chin, ala Braveheart or Aragorn son of Arathorn. At least they left him off of the bottle, which is is also black and all done in silver writing.
Perhaps this Robin Hood vs. the tax collector slant is all a poke at the legal restrictions in Scotland that say thou shall not display an age statement on a bottle of whisky older than the youngest spirit contained therein. So the ages of the casks blended to create Dark Origins shall remain a mystery, and so will be the whisky itself, unless you buy it and free it from the obfuscation of the black bottle.
However, the use of the word “dark” also signifies the larger portion of the expression that was aged in first fill sherry casks – which is proven in the nose alone.
And while it is a bit darker than the 12 year old expression, and notably darker than the 15 year old, which is the closest to it in terms of price, the post-production enhancement of the “rich mahogany” color seen in the official video advertisement for Dark Origins, conveniently held up in front of a stained mahogany wall, bears no resemblance to what actually comes out of the bottle.
Hardly cricket, that. But at least they resisted any temptation to introduce caramel coloring, something Highland Park does not use, and hopefully never will.
I found the pale amber of the actual color, with its blackish accents, and rich golden highlights quite attractive, even if Dark Origins comes nowhere near the “rich mahogany” color of the 30 year old expression, which we tasted along side it.
The published wording (here as it actually appears on the box and bottle) is:
“DOUBLE first fill sherry casks for a DARKER richer flavour.”
At first that sounds as fine an example of marketing DOUBLE speak as I can remember. Double compared to what? They do not say. And how can a flavor be darker when light or its absence has no bearing on the senses of taste and smell?
But since I often use metaphors such as “dark” when trying to describe sound during many guitar reviews, I will grant them this allusion to a darker flavor.
In fairness, other marketing copy makes clear it has twice the first fill sherry casks involved than the standard 12 year old expression – and it certainly tastes like it. It is full of darker fruit like figs, prunes and cherries than the usual oranges and banana often floating around a glass of Highland Park, and the peat, both the green mulch and the smoke itself are also denser and pervasive. So dark isn’t such a bad metaphor for this spirit, since it is denser and more somber than typical HP.
And this branding of Highland Park Dark Origins is a good deal less brash than something like Talisker Storm, or the highland cow adorning Glen Scotia’s colorful if misguided packaging, the nouveau color schemes of Bruichladdich, or for that matter the over-the-top presentation of the new Mortlach line. It is hard to believe such displays actually bring in more sales than they discourage. But this sort of fanciful marketing seems to be trending, sad to say.
While its black bottle and action hero packaging is bit much, Highland Park’s tasty new Dark Origins expression fits more with the traditional distillery character than many of their other non-age-statement expressions, like those from their absurdly over-priced Valhalla series. But if they wish to use up their old bourbon casks and virgin oak casks in special editions to raise capital while saving their sherry casks for the core range, I am all for it!
Even if the fanciful packing might suggest otherwise, Dark Origins is well worth tracking down, and should be available across the U.S. very soon.
I was able to share the latest revelations from Dave Broom’s book, Whisky: The Manual by taking several people through tastings of various whisky with various mixers.
And I auctioned off a new copy of Dave’s venerable The World Atlas of Whisky, with the proceeds going to help fund next year’s Martinfest.
All and all, I netted some converts to the Great Malt and expanded the experience of many already converted.
This according to a report on the website The Daily Beast, which claims that various artisanal distilleries selling American “craft whisky” at premium prices, of the bourbon and rye varieties, are actually reselling spirit purchased from the Indiana plant.
This is what comes of not buying your whisky from Scotland or Ireland. 😉
Read the Full Article HERE
Please bookmark 1mansmalt.com, as onemanz.com/malt will be going off line once the new site is fully updated.
Here’s to a great July finish, and the perfect August splash!