Class: Island Single Malt Scotch
Reviewer: Brett Mullins
Highland Park's 15 year whisky is the next step up from the 12 year in its age stated range. You can see the full review of the 12 year, as well as more in-depth distillery information here. Highland Park uses its geographic location on the Isle of Orkney to the north of the Scottish mainland to its advantage, utilizing the islands's peculiar peat along with Oloroso sherry seasoned casks to produce a unique whiskey that is both sweet and a bit smoky. They keep the peat level in moderation by only peating about 20% of their barley, while the rest is kept unpeated.
The 15 year old expression was originally released in 2003 as a travel-exclusive bottling, but it was later made a part of their year-round standard range. Unfortunately, earlier this year Highland Park decided to discontinue the 15 year in order to free up stocks to go towards its older bottlings as well as its several new NAS releases. For now, the 15 year can still be found on most store shelves (here in the US) for around $70-90, but once its gone, it will be gone for good.
- Aged in sherry seasoned American oak casks. Note that Highland Park's other bottlings make heavy use of European oak, making the 15 year unique in its wood type.
- No color added, but chill filtered.
- Bottled at 43% (American release)
Nose: The American oak shows itself first with vanilla and a bit of tropical fruit, followed quickly by dark stone fruits and brown sugar. Underneath all this lies a faint licorice note and a hint of smoke. More complex than the nose of the 12 year but less sweet than the 18.
Palate: Vanilla custard again asserts itself upon entry. As it develops, plums mingle with a bit of malt. Then a gentle, sweet smoke moves forward and blends it all together. At the end, oak and spices move in. The balance of the American oak and Sherry influences is perfect.
Finish: The oak, baking spices, and light smoke linger into the medium finish, leaving evidence of both the American oak and the peated barley.
Buying Recommendation: Buy it now (while you can find it). This is a unique expression of Highland Park that is worthy of any scotch drinker's time. It will not disappoint. Some urgency must be added to this recommendation before this bottling disappears from store shelves for good.
The Rating Scale
At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:
1-49: Varying degrees of bad
60-69: Better than average
90+: truly exceptional
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