Highland Park Valknut “Sweet Home Valhalla”

Everyone loves to talk trash about Highland Park, more so than Macallan. I think it’s largely in part to how far they’ve leaned into this whole Viking mythos, coupled with the sheer volume of new releases.

I personally don’t mind the whole Viking thing that much. What’s at issue along with other Edrington properties is that one feels as though the marketing department has taken over all aspects of the product. Anyone who’s watched early episodes of Mad Men will be familiar with the kind of cynical marketing techniques that cares very little about the actual product itself.

With this series they’ve combined several tried and true marketing techniques. “limited” editions (15,000 to 20,000 bottles isn’t really that limited), creating a new series of 3-4 scheduled releases and finally a story or myth to bind them all together. With the promise of more “sherry” and more peat what could go wrong? Let’s lean into this one.

Nose: Burnt hay, peameal bacon, it’s a bit closed at first, then opens up with vanilla & seaweed. The sherry eventually shows up and takes over the proceedings. Lots of dried grape, and grape candy, yeast, a bit of ink and plasticine and sulfur.

Palate: Ashy, mineral very sweet like glycerin and honey. Further time brings, vynil, old books, wine gums, faint smoke a touch of BBQ pork. Sour oak, stir fried broccoli, then the return of a lot of sweetness.

Finish: yeasty, grape reduction, a touch of balsamic and seaside. The finish is medium in length but mouth drying.

Blab: Underdeveloped nose. Sharp and stuffy peat. There’s sulfur but no depth to the sherry. Plenty of that weird plum/grape sweetness that is almost cloying like PX. I never thought I’d say that I missed dark origins but I do.

Benromach Peat Smoke 2006/2016 “Orchard Fire”

While Benromach has won over many with their old school style malt, it hasn’t quite stirred up the frenzy that each Springbank release has caused. It might seem unfair to compare them but I believe them to be related in many ways. Family owned, longer fermentation styles, less automation, good cask policy, both are the distilling arms of Independent bottlers. The 10yr old and it’s Imperial strengths counterpart are confirmed winners, let’s dive into the range.

This 2006 Peat Smoke is part of what they’ve dubbed their contrast range, peated malt in the 67ppm range (no source listed), first fill bourbon casks, 46%, no mention of chill filtration though.

Nose: Farmy, earthy peat when first poured, then abruptly a surprising note of pears, apricot paste, it’s very unusual. Underneath all of that the it’s very close to the grain, a touch of old lemons, glycerin & talcum powder.The smoke is there but not overwhelming once it subsides there is a bit of oak and vanilla but surprisingly isn’t dominant for a first-fill bourbon. A nice nose, very round, the peat doesn’t dominate.

Palate: Sweet, dark, jujubes, that instant peaches & cream oatmeal with smoke blown over the top. There is a bit of citrus, linseed oil & powdered sugar with loads of grain and a touch of oak, the texture is a bit thin.

Finish: It keeps bouncing between earthy tones, plantain, mezcal and a strange sweetness, almost artificial, like those swirled strawberry and yogurt candies. The oak is most present at the end.

The Blab: It’s a nice take on the genre (young heavily peated bourbon cask) its different than the Islay style in that it has no maritime influence but I think it’s much closer than peated whiskys by Glendronach or Balvenie for example. Yet it’s not distinct enough, it doesn’t really pull you in like the 10 yr old, perhaps if it was at higher proof like some of their single barrel releases it would be more effective. The 10 yr old is a tough act to follow, it’s a testament to how well it is vatted together.

Benromach Peat Smoke 2006-2016

46%ABV

83/100

Mortlach 12-The Wee Witchie “Basic Witch”

Mortlach is one of those Diageo stepchild distilleries that was used mainly as blend fodder, for years it had no regular output under its name save one lonely 16 year old Flora & Fauna release.

It gained notoriety as a darling of the Indie scene, many praising the almost meaty, full bodied characteristics of it’s distillate especially when applied to ex-sherry casks. It’s precisely this trait that made it such a great asset to use in blending.

The distillery engages in a complex distilling scheme where the tail runs from its first two wash stills are accumulated and distilled several times in their smallest spirit still (the eponymous Wee Witchie). This is done in order to produce a small quantity of heavy style distillate that will be then included with the other two stills spirit runs. Add to that the use of worm tub condensers which also contributes its unique sulfury character and it explains the meaty, heavy adjectives that are often used to describe Mortlach.

Let’s see if we get any of those signature flavours in the new 12 yr old.

Nose: initially a bit feisty, stone fruit, Yellow plums, a bit of gooseberry. Underneath that first wave there is barley, gristy cereal notes, a good dose of vanilla. There is a touch of sulfur and a phenolic feeling overall & sweet citrus. As the nose opens up further I get a kind of sweet, red delicious apples, a touch of cardboard.

An interesting nose, there’s lots of spirit left attached to it but it’s got a lot to keep you interested.

Palate: Lemon lozenge, astringent, sharp oak, a bit sour, overproofed bread, mineral, chalky. Almost gritty, a feeling of dry vermouth.

Finish: Sour oak, a bit of vanilla, lemon scented cleaning products, fades fast leaving mostly a slight mustiness

Blab: The nose is rather full and round but overall this isn’t memorable. The finish is short and leaves behind the more cardboard like elements. It starts of promising but overall this is a let down I don’t get much in the way of what we think of as sherry character either.

Mortlach 12-The Wee Witchie

43.4% ABV

81/100

Longmorn 16 (2018) “Grab The Bull By The Longmorn”

Longmorn is a Speyside distillery that is Owned by Pernod Ricard and is mainly used for blending, the official range is composed of and NAS (Distiller’s Choice) and a 23yr old. I believe there might be some older expressions also, I had heard mixed reviews on this whisky although more in the love it than hate it camp. It is a whisky mostly known for the backlash when they pulled the 16 off the market for a bit only to replace it with a version at more than twice the price, yikes!

Generic product photo as I don’t know what happened to the one I took

Nose: Fresh, malty, mixed nuts, loads of apples, apricot paste and beeswax. Like a Glenfiddich but with more guts. This has a great sherry integration, spice, currants, vanilla, the richness of oak and cedar but also a firm sharpness.

Palate: Dried herbs, roasted nuts, jam made from stone fruits. It then is almost like Fino sherry is some ways with that slightly sour yeasty side. It’s tingly on the tongue almost effervescent.

Finish: It’s long and mouth coating, almost cognac like, minus the sweetness. There’s a lot of oak here but the fresh sharp aspect keeps it from being crazy. The ABV delivers the right intensity that is needed to push the flavors forward.

The Blab: Why is this so expensive? No but seriously, I really love this whisky it is a superbly crafted malt but there’s no way it’s worth the 260$ (Canadian) they are asking for.

I used to think a lot of the backbone of the good Chivas Blends I had tasted was Aberlour I realize that Longmorn is probably the one giving them some weight.

Longmorn 16

48%/ABV

87/100

Glengoyne 15 “Highland Fling”

Glengoyne might not have crossed your radar, yet they’ve managed to amass a steady following in the last few years. This former Edrington property was developed into a successful single malt brand by new owners Ian Mcleod, they banked on the beauty of the site as a tourist destination but also the sherry heavy maturation profile that former owner’s we’re know for.

They have quite a nice range of products most are age stated and thus far have managed to remain within reach of the average consumer.

This release is said to be composed of 50% ex-bourbon casks, 30% 1st fill American oak ex-sherry cask & 20% 1st fill European oak ex-sherry casks.

Enjoy this photo of the store where I tasted this whisky as I sadly forgot to take a photo of the bottle.

Nose: Funky sherry, dunnage notes, a bit of mustiness mixed with sweetness. Dried fruit cake wrapped in wax paper, there’s some sulfur in the form more of spent match but it is light. Vanilla, some yeasty notes, the oak brings a bit of spice, a touch of ginger and mace.

With time it becomes really waxy, with apples and chicory coffee notes.

Palate: Nice round entry, cake batter, malty, spicy gingery oak, a touch of autumn leaves, sultanas, toffee, a latte with too much milk, a bit of toasted almonds. The mouth feel is a little thin.

Finish: A bit of marzipan, grassy, green sap. crystallized fruits, a touch of pineapple. Whole wheat bread. Slight cured ham funk, a touch of meat.

Blab: It’s a good whisky, it offers some of the more potent sherry notes you find in more expensive or older whisky, yet still has zip on the palate. A good solid performer except for the texture and finish where the lower proof 43% might make it lose a bit of power. I have tasted most of the range barring the 25 yr old and I prefer the 15 I think it captures the best of what the distillery has to offer, the 21 is solid too. No surprise in today’s whisky world I believe this expression is going to be removed from the line-up.

Glengoyne 15

43% ABV

86/100

Bruichladdich Black Arts 6.1 “Arcane Rambler”

Black Arts has become the oldest regular expression of the Bruichladdich portfolio. It is basically composed of 20± year old pre-closure stock that had been matured or finished in various types of casks with a heavy emphasis on wine/sherry/fortified wines. It is then vatted into a secret recipe know only to the head distiller.

This is the second edition that has been crafted by Adam Hannet since he’s taken over the role of master distiller.

Nose: Old books, slight sulfur and dried berries, as it opens up you get grape syrup, fresh oak a bit of pickled ginger & waxed orange rind. There’s an interesting note like a cross between sour cherry and marzipan also present is this background freshness and something akin to peated rosewater?

This edition seems to start off not quite as tight and funky than past ones I’ve tried, there is some sulfur but it’s balanced with a touch of sea spray, it almost feels like that’s the element bringing the freshness.

Palate : Oily, bitter herbs, sweet cured ham & cold coffee. musky fruits like melon, grape skins, fresh pastry, a slight sherry vinegar sharpness and then that aged sherry barrel funk. A Musty Concrete Basement collides with broken jars of mustard fruits and grape jam.

Finish: Sweet, Water biscuits, marinated stone fruits and blackberries with saltwater and a trace of smoke. Cooked jam, a tinge of paraffin and cologne. Loads of yeast and tobacco in finish a good amount of oak and a trace of incense.

Blab: This is big whisky and yet it feels fun, unlike the 4.1 which I reviewed recently which was kind of heavy sulfury and messy. 6.1 has those heavy low end notes but all that is pulled up by this freshness on the nose that other versions don’t exhibit. There is an interplay between the sharp acidic wine elements and the fruit, It’s rather pleasant and prevents the whole affair from becoming too stodgy.

Expensive but I feel like this one is actually worth paying for, great blending a fairly unique profile as well that sticks with you.

Bruichladdich Black Arts 6.1

46.9% ABV
88/100

Glenrothes 18 – “Bazooka Joe Needs a Personality Test”

Part of the re-vamp of the Glenrothes line, it was recently sold back to Edrington group by Berry Brothers & Rudd. They have decided to move from using vintages to age statements.

Although if we follow Edrington’s Modus Operandi, a flood of NAS releases will follow they just need to find the right angle or hook. Pretentious fuckboys and overuse of the word luxury are already taken by Macallan. Viking porn and the raping of mythology is the domain of Highland Park.

I shouldn’t be so sarcastic, age statements are a good thing in this current era of whisky marketing and this current range could provide Glenrothes with a bit of needed sex appeal.

Nose: Grape gum, paraffin, faint spices, cloves and nutmeg, creamy vanilla and a bit of mint. Grapes on the stems, marshmallows, bazooka Joe gum including the waxed joke attached to it.

Palate: Spicy oak, sharp, full & sweet arrival. Canned peaches, dried figs, raisins, sticky toffee pudding, oranges, a bit of pepper and cocoa.

Finish: Quick, the texture is very light, very grapey, ginger, jasmine tea and creamy vanilla.

The Blab: It’s a pretty good whisky, it doesn’t have any major missteps, the flavors tend towards bright sherry, lots of almost grape juice concentrate. You will find none of that dark, savory, leathery sherry here, it felt like it was a bit sherry by the numbers, very muted, it doesn’t have much in the way of personality. Despite it being 18 yrs old you would be just as well served by any number of 12-15 year old expressions from Glengoyne, Tomatin or Glendronach for example. which have more dynamics and vigor.

The Glenrothes 18

43% ABV

83/100