Talisker Storm

 Talisker Storm
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Best served:
New spirit, wet dough, peat, sea salt, diluted 
In a nutshell:
Brittle and unexciting on the nose, this whisky was dominated by the stench of new spirit as peat and a salty ocean breeze struggles to surpass it. On the palate it seemed a little watery with bursts of peat alongside sea salt and earthy jagged rocks. The oak plays a minor role, as this whisky portrayed a youthful theme that seems out of touch for a Scotch whisky.  
Youthful theme, new spirit smell, brittle, watery

Highland Park 30 Year Old


Score: 97/100

ABV: 48.1%
Region: Islands (Orkney), Scotland  
Body: Full 
Perfect, heavenly  
Best served:
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

Dislikes: None
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” list.
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?

You can read more about Highland Park and my blind tasting of other Highland Park expressions here: Highland Park 12, 15, 18, 25 and 30 Year Old blind tasting.
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.

Highland Park 12, 15, 18, 25 and 30 Year Old

This page is all about my blind tastings of Highland Park 12, 15, 18, 25, 30 and 40 Year Old. It is particularly exciting to be able to taste and review all these Highland Park expressions side by side in blind tastings, so on a few occasions I lined a row of five crystal cognac glasses and meticulously blind tasted these five expressions.

This post is about my blind tasting results, but you will also find links to the full reviews by clicking on the name of the whisky you would like to read about (links will appear as the reviews are published).
Highland Park 
Highland Park is nestled on an island that sits near the northern tip of Scotland, Orkney. Once home to some Vikings, Highland Park adopts a Viking theme with the marketing of its whiskies; with the most notable in my view being the Highland Park Leif Eriksson who is regarded as the first European to land on American soil about 500 years before Christopher Columbus.

Visit Highland Park here:

Distinctive Highland Park 
Highland Park is famous for its distinctive high quality whisky. Its flair for making whisky may have many reasons, but some include its practice of hand turning malt which is dried over Orkney island peat and then used to produce spirit that is aged in high quality sherry casks that sit quietly in the icy cold Orkney island… waiting, ever so patiently, to have an Australian whisky blogger relish in their character!
Blind Tasting – Highland Park 12, 15, 18, 25 and 30 Year Old 
The row of cognac glasses glistened under the light beaming down. I could barely contain my excitement about blind tasting the main Highland Park expressions in progression. I blind tasted the expressions over several tastings (the 40 year old was tasted later, but still in progression with the other expressions and on a blind basis), and I was surprised with the results, which were:
I was surprised by this result for two main reasons. First, and most obvious, they are in perfect order in terms of age. Second, the 25 Year Old struck me as more oak influenced than the 30 Year Old in the blind tastings, and in fact I guessed the 25 Year Old was the 30 Year Old but obviously I was dead wrong. The 40 year old definitely smelled and tasted OLD, but it has moments of vibrancy that enlivened its seriously complex character. When I flipped over the yellow post it note to see “HP30” written on it I was surprised because it seemed less “oaky” than the 25 year old.

The density of the whisky’s character was the main difference between the ages (the HP 25, HP 30 and HP 40 were much more fragrant, while the others were dull and almost non-existent in comparison while their malty alcoholic content was amplified); a great example why some aged whiskies are well worth their price (they need to be tasted and compared with whiskies that you might think are great but which may, once tasted together with an aged whisky, seem very ordinary indeed). I did not know what I was tasting during the blind tasting, but after the whiskies were reveled it was clear that – in this case – age does matter. I need to emphasise that this post is about comparing the different expressions. The 12, 15 and 18 year old are very good on their own, but when compared to the 25, 30 and 40 year old they are dull and lifeless in comparison.

The 12 year old was dull and malty with the distinct aroma of new spirit, the 15 year old and 18 year old were slightly more interesting but did not leap out of the glass … but then there was the 25 year old, 30 Year Old and 40 Year Old. All burst with character and while the 25 Year old was a little too oak influenced with dry bitterness the 30 year old and 40 year old were heaven, with fireworks of character and boasting a powerful presence in the glass that was almost like a dense fog. Clearly, in this case, age matters I think.

So it happens… I have been introduced to a new league of whisky in the Highland Park 30 Year Old and 40 Year Old. You can see from the Malt Mileage Whisky & Spirit Rankings that they are in a league of their own.

A Brief Comparison 
Blind tasting of HP 12, 15, 18, 25 and 30
By clicking on the name of each whisky, you will be taken to the full review (links will be added as the reviews are published).
Highland Park 12 Year Old had a dull and unimpressive nose, with malty notes that lacked any fireworks. Its taste saved it, because while it was also quite dull (in comparison to the HP 25 and HP 30, remember) it had shimmers of lovely fruit and licorice with the foundation of new spirit. It did not leap out of the glass.
Highland Park 15 Year Old had a slightly more impressive nose than the HP 18 Year Old, but its taste was a little uninteresting when compared to the HP 18. It had moderately more energy than the HP12, but still it was dull.
Highland Park 18 Year Old had a less impressive nose than HP 15 Year Old, but it had a wonderful character on the palate that burst – albeit gently – with fruit and licorice all moderated by dry oak.
Highland Park 25 Year Old was lovely on the nose with a spirited demeanor and notes of berry encased in soft oak, cigar tobacco and the musty smell of library books. It was certainly less impressive than the HP 30 Year Old on the nose and on the palate. On the palate the HP 25 Year Old was quite dry with bursts of bitter oak which developed on the tip of the tongue and then receded to the base of the throat. I felt it was slightly skewed to the bitter dry oak side, which seemed to detract from the balance. Now, I should stress that with a whisky like this, I am simply highlighting a negative which, in the grand design of this whisky, is minor; though it is still a noticeable negative in my view which means it is not perfect.
Highland Park 30 Year Old is magical… simply heaven. In fact, on nosing this whisky in the blind tasting I wrote one word: “heaven!”. On the nose in the blind tasting I detected fireworks of orange and all kinds of berry with notes of vanilla and varied spice. It was strong and vibrant and 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 island is a mysterious wonder, a magical event that transformed an alcoholic beverage into a heavenly nectar the angel’s chose to leave behind. It also gave off the mustiness of library books, and on the palate it exploded with perfectly balanced character and the smoothness of silk. It was dense, rich and extremely palatable. The finish was spectacular, long and dry. The HP 30 is in a league of its own; it is like when Juventus played in the Serie B.

Highland Park 40 Year Old is either a masterstroke or serendipity, but either way it works its magic. It retains that dense rich old library smell identified in the 30 year old and retrains a Highland Park theme, but the difference is that it emits some beautiful vibrant Christmas themed aromas and tastes that act as a counterbalance to the musty and sometimes duty aspects of the whisky’s character. This is a breathtaking creation by Highland Park.

Talisker 10 Year Old


Score: 89/100

ABV: 45.8%
Region: Isle of Skye, Scotland
Body: Light-medium 
Texture: Medium-oily 
Best served:
Theme(s): Spicy cocoa bean fuming with mild smokiness!
Likes: Soft peat with bursts of spice and fruit

Dislikes: Bumpy finish
Price: $60

Talisker is the only distillery in the Isle of Skye, which is located far up north off the Scottish mainland. This is an island whisky which offers the soft breeze of peat and smoke fuming off diverse cutting spiciness that is moderated by sweet bursts of fruit and the most gentle – almost unnoticeable – sea breeze. It is this lovely balance of flavours that makes Talisker 10 Year Old a brilliant whisky for those cold nights!


Gentle fumes of smoke deliver mild mannered peat that wafts up with juicy orange and bitter-sweet zest. The earthiness is also noticeable, as the oak cuts through the fruitiness with its sparks of spiciness. Cocoa pierces the nose as vanilla caresses it, almost apologizing for the spicy onslaught!


On the palate hot coals glowing red burn dry grass, as the spark of gentle peat releases a mild smokiness that is delightful. Moving on without disruption from the nose is that citrus fruit – orange and some lemon – which adds sweetness to the mild spice rack on the tongue; cocoa and cinnamon with bursts of cayenne pepper. The saltiness of cured meats also develops gently with the gentlest sea breeze.
I recall being disappointed by the finish, but then as though aware of my disappointment the whisky glowed brightly on the tongue suddenly like a lantern in the night. The spiciness continued to warm my tongue and then it retreated.

Arran 14 Year Old

The Arran distillery is located on the Isle of Arran, which lies off the west coast of Scotland. It is a fairly young whisky distillery by Scottish standards and the Arran website explains that production commenced on 29 June 1995. This whisky is bottled at 46% alcohol volume.

This whisky has a very light colour, almost like a rich white wine.
The nose on this whisky is light and pungent, giving off a dry peat and smokiness that grapples with sweet apple, pear, and the dry waft of chardonnay. Some dry twigs also present with a lush green grass and some dew, while a brine and saltiness is a constant theme.
On the palate this whiskey is strong and it does not muck about. An explosion of peat and smoke is met with a dense dry grass and earth. There are some shimmers off sweet fruits like apple and pear but these are lost in the dense fog of smoke and chocolate layered nuts. Some sparks of spice, especially cinnamon, shine in that fog.
The finish on this whiskey is thoroughly enjoyable. It has a long finish, though the only negative would be that it is a little unbalanced towards the dry side. For a whisky of 14 years it has a youthful spark to it, and although some very minor creases still need to be ironed out this is an excellent whisky with lots of character and depth.
I did not particularly enjoy the texture of this whisky, which seems a little too watery and this in my view results in quite sharp and grainy flavours on the palate.

Jura Superstition

Jura is situated on the Isle of Jura, which sits off the west coast of Scotland. What seems like a stone throw away sits the famous Isle of Islay to the north east… and we all know what that means, PEATED WHISKY!
The Jura superstition is a peated whisky with a mysterious character that is not easy to figure out; its gentle flavours are almost cryptic as they need lots of attention to fully appreciate. Some whisky experts do not like this whisky very much, but I find its smoothness to be a welcome shift away from some of the ferocious peated whiskies on the market. Much like Smokehead, it offers a lovely peat experience without the overkill (Big Peat, Johnnie Walker Double Black are examples of peated whiskies that, in my view, are simply too intrusive on the taste buds and inundate them with peat which unbalances the experience). Interestingly, the whisky expert that does not much like the Jura Superstition enjoys very much the Big Peat and Johnnie Walker Black Label.
In creating the Jura Superstition the Jura distillery have not mindlessly followed the peated whisky crowd. Instead they have scrubbed away some peaty roughness to produce a mild mannered peated whisky that courteously allows the taste buds to realize what is happening before the smoky peat comes rolling in! The smoke then develops on the palate with sparks of honeyed sweetness. It may be overly smooth for some, but if you enjoy a suave and sophisticated peated whisky that needs some careful exploration this might be for you!