Whisky: Blair Athol & Highland Park

Quite some Whisky samples have amassed again over time so I thought it is Whiskytime again, at least from time to time. I will do small groupings of a few distilleries to have comparisons as much as possible. Today we shall start with Blair Athol and Highland Park.

bawhb (2).jpgWhiskybroker Blair Athol 1997 21YO (Highlands, 53,5%): Apparently this has been diluted from about 61%. With Whisky I usually don’t mind these drinking strengths, as opposed to rum. Freshly picked flowers and other aromatic plants, kiwi, marzipan and some cherry liquer make for a rather interesting nose. It’s getting increasingly sweeter with more time in the glass. The palate is just about as sweet and I get galia melon, a mix of canned fruits, some oak, blood oranges and other citrus fruits. Not bad, even though this is still a bit too sharp for my liking. Finish: Medium long, slightly bitter with quite some wood and coconut. I kinda like the Blair Athol profile but I feel that there’s still plenty of room for improvement. (84/100)

bahl (2)Hunter Laing Old Malt Cask Blair Athol 1995 21YO (Highlands, 48,9%): Same age, similar abv but distilled about two years earlier. Nose: Slightly floral with a bunch of tropical fruits such as pineapple, kiwi or mango and Spanish oranges. Behind that a fresh bouquet. At the palate we get a potpourri of tropical fruits, honey- and watermelon, sweetened canned fruit mix, some Maraschino liqueur and especially the kiwi again. Really nice and rather unusual. The finish is medium long with some oak, the mix of fruits and Maraschino. A very interesting Whisky I must say. It has some minor shortcomings but the profile is just extremely lovely. You might call this a rumdrinker’s Whisky. (86/100)

batwc (2)The Whisky Cask Blair Athol 1991 25YO (Highlands, 52,5%): A standard bourbon hogshead. The nose is extremely fruity with the apparently typical melon mix (Mindori) and tropical fruits (mango, ripe banana). This just has to be the distillery’s character as I’ve now had it across three different vintages and it seems strong enough to assert itself against the wood. Palate: Honey-, Galia- and watermelon, Mindori, kiwi and other tropical fruits, fruit salad, pepper, oak and then very sugary, candyfloss-like notes. The finish is medium long with some spices and a subtle bitterness. There are many things about this which I really like but the Hunter Laing was just a tad better in my book. (84/100)

and on to Highland Park… for some time I’ve believed that this is one of the more hyped distilleries but these days I get the exact opposite impression. As always, it’s best to see for ourselves.

hpsmws (2)SMWS 4.249 (Highland Park) “The mermaid’s marmalade” 2004 13YO (Islands, 64,6%): This one has aged in a refill ex-Oloroso Sherry butt. Nose: More smoke than I remember Highland Park having. Slightly maritime, salted toffee, charcoal, dark cherry flavoured chocolate and peanuts. Palate: Even smoker than the nose with a certain ashiness, spices, salted chocolate, plain crisps and ginger. Solid. Ah right, the Whisky is incredibly smooth, no comparison to the Blair Athols at lower strengths. Finish: Rather short with toffee, caramel, smoky maritime notes and oak. If only it were longer. Some people might want to kill me for this but I don’t see why you’d love, say, Port Charlotte but ignore this. (83/100)

hpns (2).jpgNorth Star Spirits Orkney (Highland Park) 2000 17YO “PX Finish” (Islands, 55,2%): Some ashy smoke in the nose but not quite as much as with the SMWS. All in all this smells simpler and not as complex. I get a combination of licorice and beet syrup, Marmite, wood lacquer and dark chocolate. The palate starts with the licorice, Marmite, beet syrup combination but now also reveals some of the typical PX notes. Besides dark chocolate and leather I also get sweet red fruits, red Vermouth as well as mixed berries- and orange jam. The finish comes with ash and the sweetness from the Sherry finish. A Whisky that will have its fans, that’s for sure. For me, the finish doesn’t really work here but we have to acknowledge that this is good stuff. (81/100)

I tend to be rather selective with what I am trying in Whisky but there were no dissapointments today. What I learned is that the Blair Athol profile is really to my liking but I do get the impression that it probably does not get a whole lot better than what we’ve had today. Highland Park can produce nice stuff as well and doesn’t really deserve the hate they receive these days. If there were a different, say Islay-based, name on these bottles they would probably earn a lot of praise. Just my two cents.