Why This Bottle?
So it seems weird to say this about a Highland Park – but this is a bit of an underdog whisky. Back in 2020, the first release of Highland Park Cask Strength launched to a huge fanfare and massive sales. Folks were very excited about it, and rightfully so. Highland Park has continued to split their inventory in two – recognizing that they have two distinct strong fanbases – the whisky enthusiasts, and the whisky collectors. For every $800+ limited edition 16-year-old collectable in a strange wooden cradle and named after something viking-inspired, there’s also releases like Full Volume and Twisted Tattoo that appeal to the enthusiasts. The 18 may be skyrocketing in price these days, but they’re keeping the 12 very approachable.
So fast forward a year, and we get Highland Park Cask Strength Batch #2. There was no fanfare, no mass panic buying. Like most second releases, it’s not as sought after as the first. And in many cases that makes sense. Often the second release fails to capture the magic of the first. Even if it’s just as good, it’s no longer unique. It’s been done before, it’s old news. That seems to be the misconception plaguing release two of Highland Park Cask Strength, and that’s why I think it’s become a bit of an underdog. However, I’m here to tell you that if you’re one of the many whisky fans who have been thinking these thoughts – then I believe you’re wrong.
After having the opportunity to try batch #1 and #2 side by side, I HEAVILY prefer the sequel. Don’t get me wrong, Batch #1 certainly didn’t disappoint – but for me, it failed to capture the Highland Park Magic. Much in the same way as indy bottlings sometimes do, it just didn’t feel like a Highland Park. It drifted away from the standard formula somewhat and was a little unrecognizable. Batch #2 however was much more in line with the core range, perhaps due to the extra infusion of sherry casks. It’s more like what I imagine Highland Park 12 would taste at full strength, and for me at least – that’s something to get excited about.
Strath Panel Tasting Notes
The nose is both inviting and familiar. Soft and earthy smoke creates a stage set with roasted chestnuts and flambeed honeycomb. It feels nomadic, rugged almost. Reminiscent of hiking through the highlands and camping among the heather. On second nosing it showed a more biscuity side, with dried fruit. Fig Newtons came strongly to mind, and possibly a Garibaldi.
The palate gave us homemade granola, heavy with dried apple and pear, almonds, and fennel? Perhaps an odd choice for a granola, but one that works on this occasion. The finish is lengthy and luscious with an emphasis on the nuttier notes.