Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Highland Park Cask Strength - Hong Kong launch [Tasted #495 - 497]

It's been a "long time between drinks" when it comes to whisky events in HK (for obvious reasons, of course). With the COVID caseloads being relatively low for the past month or so however, it's been nice to see a new style of launch event able to emerge - smaller gatherings with appropriate social distancing. Wasting no time in this space was Edrington HK, who recently launched the new Highland Park Cask Strength with a series of small tastings held in a suite at Rosewood Hong Kong, overlooking Victoria Harbour.

Building on the success of the Single Cask series (of which there have been a few for Hong Kong), the new Cask Strength sees the whisky bottled without any dilution, and is set to be a part of the core lineup, albeit in various batches - this being Release 1.

Whisky maker Gordon Motion (whom we met back in August last year in Taipei) created the whisky from "predominantly sherry seasoned American oak casks of different ages" and judging by not just my notes, but those of others in the room, some of those casks must have had a reasonable amount of age. Highland Park are deliberately inviting whisky drinkers to "choose their strength" with this release, and with 63.3% ABV on tap, there's plenty of room for experimentation.

Our tasting was accompanied by some perfectly-matched canapés, along with the 12yo and 21yo for good measure...but really it was the Cask Strength everyone was most keen to try.

Highland Park Cask Strength Release 1 (63.3% ABV, NAS, Orkney, $625HKD, £54.75) 

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Colour: Vibrant yellow gold.

Nose: Sweet at first (although as our ever-helpful host Ron Taylor taught us, you can't actually "smell" sweet) - boiled lollies, desiccated coconut, pears. No prickliness, despite the high ABV and what I'd wrongly assumed would be a relatively young age.

Palate: Big and mouth-coating as you'd expect - ginger, orange, then a slightly earthen smokiness emerges, but surprisingly approachable. "Big", but not "brash". I'd honestly have no hesitation giving this to a whisky newcomer! There's some toffee too. With a few drops of water, a meatiness appears, the smoke intensifies slightly, and there's citrus (orange) that becomes evident.

Finish: Follows the palate with incredible length.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. "Big", but not at all harsh - much more approachable, and much more mature than I'd expected. A very good dram, especially for $625HKD.


Highland Park 12 Year Old (40% ABV, 12yo, Orkney, $490HKD, £29.95) 

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Colour: Yellow gold.

Nose: Floral spice, honey, wafts of earthy-smoke and candied ginger.

Palate: Vanilla, ginger spice, whole oranges and that same earthy smoke, but with floral hints.

Finish: Medium in length, with hints of caramel towards the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. Still a solid dram, as it's always been over the years.


Highland Park 21 Year Old (2019 Edition) (46% ABV, 21yo, Orkney, $2,300HKD, £209.95) 

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Colour: Orange-brown gold.

Nose: Paprika spice, gingerbread, sea-salted smoke.

Palate: Complex - sweet and savoury, with BBQ smoke, orange chocolate, salted caramel and dry rub.

Finish: Orange chocolate, coconut, medium to long in length.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Delightful.


I'll admit that going into the event, I expected the Cask Strength to be a little on the young, and possibly harsher side (especially given the 63.3% ABV), but it's not at all. Here's a rare cask strength whisky from a respected distillery which is available, good value, approachable, and delicious. That's a lot of boxes ticked in my opinion!

Highland Park Cask Strength is available now across UK and HK retailers.

Cheers,
Martin.

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