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Whisky Israel Society Summit #3 – Highland Park

6 January 2011 2,410 views Written by: Shai Gilboa

Two months passed since the Whisky Israel Society summit #2 (which was all about Sherry aged whiskies), and it was time (long overdue) for summit #3. The idea for this summit’s theme was actually raised at the end of its previous as we had one Highland Park (1994), which was not all that impressive, and as some of the lads are very fond of HP and wanted to correct the impression for those of us who didn’t know HP that well, it was decided that an all Highland Park evening is a must.

As always, date and time was moved back and forward but it was agreed by all that Richard, who volunteered for it, will play host this time. At the finally agreed date and time the core group of Whisky Israel Society found their way to Richard’s place, each brining their assigned bottles, Glencairn glasses and good spirits.

Naturally, as my habit is, I brought with my “mobile studio for WI summits” (Camera, flash guns, light stands and so on… – maybe I’ll photograph it for you guys next time). Mind you I kept getting complaints from some of the lads about taking photos during the tasting as the flashes were firing for quite a bit, but I think after seeing the pictures below, I might actually get little more cooperation in order to get better pictures of all of us. Smile

The Highland Park expressions list consisted of the following, (this time the order of the list also represents the order in which they were tasted) –

  1. 12 Year Old – by Richard
  2. 1998 Vintage – by Kfir
  3. 1994 Vintage – by Shai
  4. 18 Year Old – by Yariv (see quick note below)
  5. Whisky Live 10 Year Old – by Kfir
  6. 12 Hjarta, Limited Edition – by Gal
  7. Earl Magnus 15 – by Gal
  8. 1990 Vintage (bottled 2010) – by Igal

Quick Note:
If you’ve been following on the Whisky Israel Society’s summits post, you’ll notice that we are growing from one summit to the next. Yariv and Raviv (who, alas, was unable to come) are the latest additions.

Yariv, amongst other things, is a serious whisky enthusiast and as a hobby makes awards winning beers under the brand Barrik. A very interesting and pleasant fellow who makes for a good conversation.
Raviv is a fan of the water of life and also very active in Israeli alcohol forums (I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Glenrothes event a while back).

We all (Gal, Kfir, Igal, Richard and I) are very pleased to add both, and wish them a very warm welcome!

Well, not that quick of a note after all.

Richard had setup a nice table for us with nice cheeses, pastes, homemade mini-pizzas (very tasty), chocolates, nuts, crackers and more. He wanted to have something from each taste on the table (sweet, sour, salty, bitter) so we can experiment with and see how it affects the flavours we get from the whiskies. Unfortunately, some of us (yours truly as well), came famished and so we just started to munch. It was a nice idea by Richard, one I also met before, and we’ll need to see how to better accomplish it next time (stuff a burger or two and then get to the whisky and food affects maybe…).

As always, Gal prepared a placemat for the occasion, which was placed times six on the table, with Glencairns for each of us. As we didn’t have enough glasses to go around, we placed four per each and had the tasting in two batches (well rinsing the glasses in between).

placemat

Whisky Israel Highland Park Summit Tasting Sheet

Before getting to the whiskies, Gal presented and welcomed Yariv to our core group (welcome again), and also updated us that a little surprise that was supposed to accompany the evening had failed to arrive due to Christmas and maybe whether in Europe.

It seems that Gal was able to contact Highland Park Head of Brand Ambassador, Mr. Gerry Tosh, tell him about the summit to come and ask him to send us any HP material that might add to the experience. Gerry was happy to comply and sent us some HP new make to add to the summit, but unfortunately the shipment failed to arrive on time. We all thank Gerry for this opportunity and hope the package arrives soon so we try it and add about it to this post.

After the previous summits posts, I received some feedback, in a positive gentle way I must say, that they might be a bit too long for you WI friends out there. So this time I’ll try to shorten a bit and leaving the tasting notes to Gal, I will just sum that like with previous events we ended well into the night with a quick shoot-out of all bottles we’ve tried. It was a very fun evening with good atmosphere and we all thank Richard for having us.

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Not the best of pictures, but did promise this in the previous post –Whisky Israel Society in action
From right to left: Richard, Yariv, Gal (hand stretched out), Kfir, Igal and myself (Shai)

Now onto business – the notes about the whiskies, in the order they were tried. Mind you, some of these have already been posted about in WI, and thus a link to the relevant post is provided instead.

Highland Park 12 Year Old, 40% ABV, £26 (buy here)

Nose: Sweet heather honey with touches of peat. some fruit (marmalade), wee sherry feeling to it.

Palate: Sweet with some malty notes, round and mouth coating, not over complex, but very rounded.

Finish: Medium length, with the fruits, and a wee ending touch of smoke.

Bottom line:

A good all around player, entry-level whisky. I remember why i appreciate it now. Excellent choice for a beginner, who is willing to take the next step from a decent blend to a single malt. Nice smoky touches.

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Highland Park 1998 Vintage, 40% ABV, Travel Retail Only

Nose: Sweet notes, evident peat, more sherried than the 12 year old, spices.

Palate: Peat, then a sweet n’ sour mix, which is quite interesting. Vanilla, vs some woody sourness. Interesting combination.

Finish: A little ‘bitter sweet’ symphony going on.

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Highland Park 1994 Vintage, 40% ABV, Travel Retail Only

This expression of HP was part of our previous Whisky Israel Summit. It was my Sherry finish whisky ‘donation’ to the evening. Back then I didn’t think too much of it. I was surprised to see that Richard really likes it. You can find the tasting notes about it in the previous summit post.

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Highland Park 18 Year Old, 43% ABV, £55 (buy here)

Nose: A masterpiece of a nose. balanced, and complex. Rich dried fruit salad here, mixed with tons of spices (cinnamon,ginger,cloves), vanilla, even some red fruits can be found here. It’s an orgy to the senses. I could be sniffing that one for an hour. Oh, i love thee HP 18. I love thee so much! More sherried than the 12, 1998, and  1994. Richer also. A different league.

Palate: Sweet, spicy and rich. very balanced, peat, sweet, vanilla and wood are all there, living in harmony.

Finish: Long,starting on the fruit, and ending on the smoke.Lovely.

Bottom line :

A true great whisky. One of the best in it’s range. I love it, I dig it. It’s splendid. You don’t have it? Run and buy it NOW. really, no whisky bar should be missing this one.Superb!

If i were to rate whiskies, this one would in the 90’s.

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Whisky Live Highland Park 10 Years Old, 59.3% ABV, Sold on Whisky Live ONLY

Nose: Sweet, Port like. Oodles of cinnamon,vanilla, and spices. Feels like a bourbon nose. And i mean that in a positive way. fun fun fun!

Palate:  What an impact on the palate this one has. sheer power (almost 60% ABV), and all is pretty darn good. Again, sweet, a combination of Bourbon and peat. what a nice idea. We loved it.

Finish: Sweat heather , then some smoke.

Bottom line :

I’m glad i talked Kfir in to get this one at WL 2010. It’s a one of a kind HP, very special, and very good. I was not the only one feeling like it. Too bad Kfir does not care for it (as i told him, i will gladly accept this as a token of his friendship Smile ). I wish i could get one of the shelf (*hint*). only 600 beauties ever made. such a pity.

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Highland Park 12 Year Old Hjarta, 58.1% ABV, £95

Nose:  This is the 12 year old version on Steroids. Cask Strength, much more sherried. Dried fruits on the nose, spice and Caramelised sugar.

Palate: Big sweet barley and vanilla, with peat smoke. Massive.

Finish: The finish here was indeed disappointing. Quite short, for such a masculine, sweet nose and palate. too bad.

Bottom line :

Very different than the 12 year old version. I’m happy i managed to put my hands on this version (0nly 3,900 bottles ever made), and sold only on the HP site. A good addition if you have the basic HP and you dig HP (like Moi).

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Highland Park Earl Magnus 15 Year Old, 52.6% ABV, SOLD OUT (in minutes)

Gal had posted a very interesting and informative entry about this expression, which personally was my favourite HP of the evening, last June. You can find his notes and also the official notes from HP Whisky Maker in the Earl Magnus post.

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Highland Park 1990 Vintage, 40% ABV, Travel Retail Only

Nose: Nail polish,Citrus,Orange Peel,spice (ginger,cloves), Wood.

Palate: Sweet vanilla and some Crème Brule, with citrus,spice.

Finish: medium length,some spice, and wee smoke.

Bottom line :

for me this whisky was a disappointment. I had high expectations after having tasted the 21 year old before. This one is not very similar. Although we had a break between sampling the two cask strength versions (Hjarta,Earl Magnus) and this one,I do feel it may have been sampled in the wrong order. We’ll give it one more chance in the future.

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Enjoying the above mentioned whiskies

As I close all summits posts: Can’t wait for the next summit!

Slainte,
Shai

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