Region: Islands (Orkney), Scotland
Balance: Perfect, heavenly
Best served: Neat
Theme(s): Dense shades of orange and berry with layers of dark chocolate and sparks of spice against dry old wood and the mystique of age
In a nutshell: HP30 is a mysterious wonder, a heavenly nectar the angel’s left behind
Likes: Dense mystique of age with perfect balance
Price: $500 in Australia
I received a sample of this Highland Park 30 Year Old two months before my 30th birthday, what a treat! Eager to add to the list of whiskies that are (barely) older than I am, I wasted no time to start blind tasting this very special Scotch whisky. This whisky has been sitting patiently in a cask for 30 years, and that is something very special in itself.
Several blind tastings made it clear that the Highland Park 30 Year Old is in a league of its own, because every whisky I paired it against paled in comparison. This whisky is very much like Juventus when it played in the Serie B. It is fragrant and bursts with character, and other whiskies I tasted it alongside were dull and almost non-existent (except for the Highland Park 25 Year Old) with harsh alcohol rather than a lovely aroma and character; a great example why I always try my hardest to blind taste whiskies side by side, because a superstar whisky can suddenly make a once favourite whisky seem quite ordinary. My task now is to find whiskies that might be able to compete with the Highland Park 30 Year Old, because there is a big gulf between it and the other whiskies I have tasted to date; a gulf you can see in my “TOP WHISKY
Highland Park 30 Year Old bursts into fireworks of orange, blackberry and cherry with notes of vanilla and varied spices. Strong and vibrant, it filled the glass with its noticeable age, though it was in no way dominated by it; the age of this whisky gives it a power that perfectly balances the spark of youth with the mystique of age. Whatever went on in that cask for 30 years over in Orkney islands is a mysterious wonder, a magical event that transformed an alcoholic beverage into a heavenly nectar the angel’s chose to leave behind.
Highland Park was founded in 1798. As an Australian, I find that to be amazing. The perfect place to savour this Highland Park 30 Year Old would be overlooked the smashing waves carried by gusts of salty sea breeze. So here I sit, with my Scottish King Charles Cavalier by my side, about 17000 kilometers away from the icy cold coast of Orkney enjoying a whisky a stone’s throw away from Altona Beach, Melbourne (Australia). Perfect. Altona Beach is part of Port Philip Bay, which was first visited by British ships in 1802. That is about 4 years after Highland Park was founded! Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
Tasting Notes – Highland Park 30 Year Old
This whisky is vibrant and powerful in the glass, bursting with complex character that permeates with the musty density of age and the bright spark of youth. It boasts impeccable balance, and the influence of oak has perfected the balance with shades of flavour that glow on the tongue with fireworks spitting out seemingly endless character. Because oak has many phenolic compounds that influence or alter the character of a whisky, it is abundantly clear that this whisky has spent 30 long years in the icy cold Orkney islands patiently drawing out the complex character of superb quality oak. It is the combination of the perfect cask, with the perfect whisky and the perfect aging time that creates the perfect whisky; the Highland Park 30 Year Old.
Each time I nose this whisky, I think of one word: “heaven!”. It is sheer bliss, and unlike anything I have nosed before. It has perfect balance that radiates class; lovely dense musty age with fruity sweetness and bright youthful sparks. Put briefly, the smell of shades of orange and chocolate brighten the backdrop of dry and old wood as an array of spices and berries add bright sparks to a dense musty foundation of age.
Big bursts of orange are most noticeable. This is not just any orange, but every shade of orange imaginable. First it starts with bitter-sweet orange zest as it pierces the nose with citrus oil, but this morphs into the sweet spray of freshly squeezed orange and then a rich orange cake smothered in dark chocolate. Even the chocolate has shades, as dry cocoa merges with buttery couverture chocolate and then transforms into a rich mud cake.
|Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Waves of berry also develop, as blackberry and blackcurrant weave in and out of soft vanilla which mellows the sharp sting of spice; nutmeg in particular. Mild smoke also developed with sprigs of peat, though this is not at all dominant as the complex flavours merge to deliver one symphony of perfection.
In the backdrop is the mustiness of library books and old wood, very much reminding me of my time in the college library while I studied law at Oxford University. The smell of leather bound law reports, over a hundred years old, with the dusty wooden tables and cold British breeze… such a lovely time. Fitting, because my college in Oxford is where my love for whisky started during a “whisky tasting” evening in the postgraduate common room; and in the years since that tasting I have never experienced a whisky as wondrous as the Highland Park 30 Year Old.
The nose on this whisky is strong, vibrant and fresh with the wonderful charisma of age! It is that “X” factor we all cannot quite explain, but can identify in the blink of an eye and gulp of a dram.
Powerful and dense, the Highland Park 30 Year Old gently radiates its energetic charisma – that unexplainable “X” factor – with impeccable balance that boasts the perfect influence of oak. The flavours on the nose move seamlessly to the palate (they are all there), as they develop into a dense fog that slowly breaks down into a dry smoke. The energy in this whisky is supreme, as it spreads throughout the palate and the nose with bravado while at the same time retaining a gentleness that does not overpower the senses.
The rich dark chocolate layered on dense sponge cake buzzes on the tongue, as orange zest develops with nutmeg and dry old wood to balance against the bright golden honey and sweet bursts of berry. Perfectly balanced, no one aspect of the whisky overpowers and instead all its voices speak in perfect synchronisation and harmony; the perfect display of complex flavours working together while at the same time expressing their individuality.
Sensational! The finish on this whisky is long with a dry wood lingering on the base of the tongue but amazingly without the slightest hint of being unbalanced towards the bitter side.