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Recent releases, April 2010

Mortlach, 70 Years Old Single Malt (Gordon & MacPhail) (Scotland)
Last month saw the release by Gordon & MacPhail of the world’s oldest bottled single malt, namely a Mortlach which was distilled in 1938 (see ‘Whisky News’ for more details). It was filled into a first-fill, Spanish Oak, ex-bodega Sherry hogshead and was matured at Mortlach distillery in Dufftown until 1982, when it was transferred to Gordon & MacPhail’s own warehouse in Elgin, where the ageing process was allowed to continue. The nose is surprisingly lively, with fruity and waxy notes, Madeira cake, cherries and orange peel. The palate is waxy, with citrus fruit notes, pipe tobacco, gentle smoke and quite mild Sherry. The finish is lengthy and drying, but lacking the tannic astringency that might reasonably be expected of such a venerable whisky. An extraordinary survivor from a bygone age! Only 54 decanters and 162 20cl decanters (£2,500) made. 46.1% ABV, 70cl, £10,000, specialist whisky merchants.
Aberlour, Milroy’s of Soho Single Cask, 18 years old (Scotland)
This popular Speyside malt is usually notable for the use of ex-Sherry wood during maturation, but Milroy’s latest bottling has instead been aged in a former Bourbon barrel, giving it quite a different profile to most expressions from this historic distillery. Initially, ‘mashy’ on the nose, with cereal giving way to fragrant notes of wood polish and spring flowers. Full-bodied in the mouth, with fudge, milk chocolate and spicy oak. The finish is medium in length, with persistent spice. (314 bottles produced) 46.0% ABV, 70cl, £39.00, Milroy's of Soho.
Glenfiddich, Rich Oak 14-year-old (Scotland)
As reported last month, Glenfiddich has released an innovative new Rich Oak expression, finished in virgin European oak and virgin American oak casks, for 12 weeks and six weeks respectively. No other Scotch whisky distiller has previously used new European oak casks during maturation. The result is a Glenfiddich with a very different nose; initially herbal, with cloves, then jammy, fruit notes emerge along with newly-sawn logs. Very lively in the mouth, with vibrant oak and lots of herbs. Cloves remain to the fore, as on the nose. The finish is medium in length, ultimately quite dry, with oak and spices lingering to the very end. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, £30.99, specialist whisky merchants.

Highland Park Vintage Editions

Highland Park has recently released four vintage expressions into the global travel retail market, namely whiskies dating from 1998, 1994, 1990 and 1973. Highland Park has experienced a remarkable 88 per cent growth in the global travel retail sphere during the past five years, and, according to Max McFarlane, 'Whisky Maker' for Highland Park, "The starting point for this range was to look into our maturing stocks to find Sherry-seasoned casks which would showcase different dimensions of the classic Highland Park profile of honey sweetness and aromatic peat. I am delighted to have identified specific vintage years with exceptional casks." A company spokesperson notes that "The differences between the expressions lie in the extent to which first-fill or refill European and American Sherry oak casks have been used. The 1998 and the 1990 vintages emphasise the smokier notes whilst the 1994 and the 1973 highlight the sweeter characteristics."
Highland Park, 1998 Vintage (Scotland)
Highland Park says that “With an emphasis on first-fill American oak Sherry casks in its maturation, this vintage reveals the smoky side of Highland Park, attributable to the distinctively aromatic peat from Hobbister Moor. The yellow accent of the packaging is inspired by the Orkney sun which, at midsummer, never sets.” Lots of caramel and some smoke on the nose. Wispa bars. Medium-bodied, quite dry in the mouth, spicy and nutty. Sweeter and peatier with the addition of water. The finish is of medium length and features drying, smoky oak. 40.0% ABV, 100cl, €46, Duty Free & Travel Retail.
Highland Park, 1994 Vintage (Scotland)
“This vintage has luxuriated in the most expensive casks,” says a Highland Park spokesperson. “A higher proportion of first-fill European oak Sherry casks has imbued the whisky with a rich, dark colour which is mirrored by sweetness on the palate. The crisp blue of the label reflects the deep sea and big sky of Orkney.” Lighter on the nose than the 1998 variant, altogether less caramel and softer, fruit notes, notably ripe cherries. Less overt nose character. Fuller-bodied and slightly sweeter than the 1998 vintage on the palate, smoky and quite fruity. Lingering dried fruits and bonfire smoke in the finish. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, €65, Duty Free & Travel Retail.
Highland Park, 1990 Vintage (Scotland)
According to Highland Park, “A slight increase in the proportion of first-fill European oak Sherry casks underlines the balance between sweetness and smoke for which Highland Park is renowned by whisky enthusiasts the world over. In essence, this expression is a bridge between 18-year-old and 21-year-old. The light green tones on the packaging represent Orkney’s fertile farmland.” Soft fudge, fresh peaches, cedar and heather on the nose, which is ‘softer’ than the other expressions in this Edition. Very approachable on the palate, with fruity smoke and vanilla, becoming nuttier. More citric with the addition of water. Steadily drying in the subtly spiced finish, with a hint of aromatic heather in the mix. 40.0% ABV, 70cl, €99, Duty Free & Travel Retail.
Highland Park, 1973 Vintage (Scotland)
A Highland Park spokesperson notes that “When laying down a whisky for extended maturation, as with this vintage, there is a danger the cask may dominate the spirit. Every time a cask is used, its ability to impart an influence on the spirit is diminished, which is why at Highland Park refill casks are used for the older whiskies. The refill casks specially selected for this vintage allow the natural characteristics of Highland Park to come through; there is no over-dominance of cask.” The nose is rich and sumptuous, with worn leather, fresh fruit, brittle toffee and malt. Smokier when water is added. Lively spice and smoke on the relatively dry palate. More fruit and peat with water. Long and steadily drying, with slightly bitter, smoky oak, in the finish. 50.6% ABV, 70cl, €750.00, Duty Free & Travel Retail.

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