Monday 24 December 2018

Highland Park Single Cask Exclusive for Hong Kong and Valknut launch in Hong Kong (Tasted #416 - 417)

Continuing a busy year for Edrington HK, two new Highland Park releases have recently been launched in Hong Kong, both celebrated recently at Tai Kwun's new The Chinese Library restaurant.

The first, Valknut, is the next release to emerge from the partnership with Danish designer Jim Lyngvild (first seen in 2017 with the launch of Valkyrie). Using a small portion of Orkney-grown barley ("Tartan barley"), it was matured in ex-Sherry American oak casks, carries no age statement and is bottled at 46.8% ABV, retailing for $550HKD.

The second, a significantly more limited and special bottling, is an exclusive Hong Kong single cask (officially known as the "HKexcl" bottling), bottled by the distillery under the "Single Cask Series". Many of you will no doubt be familiar with the series, which has seen a number of OB single casks (generally around 12-16 years old) bottled for travel retail, certain markets/countries, whisky bars, and even the distillery itself (which if you ask me, was one of the best).

The "HKexcl" isn't actually the first, or even second single cask OB Highland Park to be bottled for Hong Kong, but it is the first to be available in regular retail (the first two were bottled for travel retail - one for DFS, the other for Duty Zero). Limited to 523 bottles and aged for 15 years, it was bottled from a 2002 1st Fill American Oak sherry butt (#2123) at 58.3% ABV, retailing for $1,960HKD.

To celebrate the launch, Edrington hosted a media lunch pairing the new expressions with a 5 course Cantonese lunch, with each whisky introduced by the ever-knowledgable Patricia, Edrington's Hong Kong brand ambassador.

The lunch brought back fond memories of my trip to Highland Park (part of our Scotland trip to celebrate the launch of the new Macallan distillery earlier this year), particularly enjoying a dram of HP18 atop the Cliffs of Yesnaby in Orkney - easily my most memorable dram of the year.

Whilst I unfortunately couldn't stay for the whole lunch, I did manage to spend some time with both releases and note down my thoughts...

Highland Park Valknut (46.8% ABV, NAS, Orkney, Scotland, $550HKD / £47.95)
Colour: Orange-brown gold.

Nose: Vanilla orange spice, then some earthy, dusty smoke. There's a nuttiness to the nose, and a noticeable amount more smoke than the Valkyrie.

Palate: Lots of pears and applewood smoke, then some citrus (oranges), vanilla pods and subtle white pepper notes. Grilled pineapple rounds things out.

Finish: Long and slightly tannic smoke, with spicy orange notes to the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  89/100. A different and equally enjoyable dram to the Valkyrie.

Highland Park Single Cask Series "HKexcl" Bottled Exclusively for Hong Kong (58.3% ABV, 15yo, Orkney, Scotland, $2,500HKD from Dram Good Stuff)
Colour: Copper brown.

Nose: A HUGE iniital hit of coconut, sandalwood and pencil shavings. OK, yes this comes from a 1st-fill butt, but wow, you could be mistaken for thinking it was made of Mizunara! Really lovely. A few drops of water tones things down a bit but doesn't really change or amplify the characteristics drastically.

Palate: Big and spicy. There's sandalwood and some tropical fruits in the background, with pineapple, oranges, cloves and pencil shavings most dominant. A few drops of water doesn't really change things here either - despite the high ABV, I'd say it doesn't really need any water.

Finish: Mostly citrus, with toasted coconut and noticeable toasted oak notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale):  90/100. There's a noticeable amount of oak here, but when that oak brings things like coconut and sandalwood, I'm not complaining! A very unique, delicious and enjoyable HP.

Big thanks as always to the amazing team at Edrington HK for the invitation to celebrate the launch of these two whiskies.


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