Friday 16 December 2016

Highland Park Ice Launch Tasting & Lunch in Hong Kong (Tasted #331)

It may have been released all the way back in February of this year, but Edrington Hong Kong were so busy with other launches in 2016 (Edition No.2Double Cask 12yo and the incredible 65yo in Lalique to name a few), that Ice was put on the backburner. Not to worry though - good things always come to those who wait, and this month Hong Kong finally got its taste of "Ice".

Focusing on the creation (with "Ice") and destruction (with "Fire") of Earth, the series follows on from the hugely successful "Valhalla Series", which concluded with 2015's "Odin". Interestingly, this series will only have the two bottles - there won't be a "wind" (although I'm not sure what style of whisky "wind" would have been anyway - an empty bottle perhaps?!)

Whilst the HK release may have been delayed, it was certainly no less impressive than we've come to expect from Edrington, with Highland Park's Senior Brand Ambassador Martin Markvardsen flying out for a series of events over the course of a week.

Our first taste of Ice came not during the official media launch, but during a public tasting held at SAFE Bubbles & Malt (which features in our list of Hong Kong's Top Whisky Bars). A few weeks earlier I'd seen a tasting advertised on Facebook, for the very reasonable sum of about $300HKD (~$53AUD). That might sound about right for a tasting, but check out the lineup...
  • Highland Park 40 Years Old
  • Highland Park 30 Years Old
  • Highland Park 25 Years Old
  • Highland Park Ice Edition
  • Highland Park 18 Years Old
  • Highland Park Dark Origins
It's not every day you get to try a 40yo Highland Park, but to do so with all those others, led by the distillery's global brand ambassador, for $300HKD? I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear it sold out in a matter of hours...

As a host Martin was the consummate professional, infusing his incredible Highland Park knowledge and love with stories from his years working for the brand (in roles ranging from floor malting to his current position), and always making sure guests were having a good time (we were - did you see the line-up above?!)

Martin talked us through a few interesting facts about the distillery and its Orkney home, like the minimal angels' share (0.5-1% each year), their use of "Tartan Barley" for 5 weeks every year, and the fact that if Scotland voted "Yes" in their 2014 independence referendum, Norway would have legally had the right to "buy back" Orkney - and intended to exercise that right!

Of course as interesting as those facts were, we were there to try the whiskies, and Martin wasted no time in letting us get into them.

Having tried the 18 year old, Dark Origins and 30 year old before, it was the Ice, 25 year old and 40 year old I was most interested in. I'll save the 25 and 40yo for another post, and focus on the Ice here.

Highland Park "Ice" Edition (53.9% ABV, 17yo, One of 30,000 bottles, Orkney, Scotland, $2,880HKD£158.33 ex-VAT)
Matured in 100% first-fill Bourbon hogsheads with virgin, un-charred cask ends.

Colour: Light yellow gold. 

Nose: Light at first. Some bananas, a hint of mint. Then freshly cut grass. Tropical notes follow - mostly green apples and papaya.

Palate: It's tropical, but there's also a fair amount of spicy vanillin. Then there's mint again, and a treacle-like sweetness that emerges - honey-drizzled pineapple actually!

Finish: Long, spicy, with subtle hints of earth-laden smoke. I wouldn't call it BBQ smoke, but there is a little grilled pineapple towards the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. After a lot of hype, and a lot of comments (both good and bad) online, after finally tasting it, I can confidently say it's a sold dram - one that meets the hype.

Later that week, Edrington held a media lunch to launch Ice, at Eaton House in Central. Over a 3 course lunch we heard more of Martin's years with the distillery, and tasted Dark Origins, 25 year old and of course Ice, paired with a menu from Eaton House's caterers.

Crab Cake with Salad paired well with Dark Origins, bringing out some really interesting fruity, yet nutty notes which weren't evident in the whisky when sampled neat. 

Short Ribs stew with red wine reduction, seasonable vegetables and brown rice followed, paired with Ice. The pairing was fine, but I used this as another opportunity to try Ice on its own (and found I enjoyed it just as much as the first time).

Chocolate truffle cake came last, paired with the 25 year old. As the 25 was my equal favourite dram of the core range (equal with the 40), I was more than happy to enjoy that one on its own. Detailed tasting notes on both the 25 and 40 year olds will follow this post.

Edrington certainly went all out for their last launch of the year, and it was great to finally try Ice. A big thanks to Edrington and Lee Wolter PR (again). We can't wait to see what 2017 has in store!


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