Highland Park Gordon & MacPhail Cask Strength 2003


Some days, when looking over what I’ve reviewed, like some fat king atop a mountain of words, I find that I’ve done quite a few Independent Bottlings. And I wonder if people assume I’m just a collector who has a large space to store all these elaborate rare bottles.

And to that I say no, that’s the other people on this site, I just have a great bar to go to, and travel quite a bit. Also I live in a 900 sq. ft. Apartment, live in the third to worst province for whisky, and have 2 cats and live in an expensive city, so that’s keeping me off the beaten track of collecting.

However this year, I was offered to purchase an IB for the first time. And boy, was I excited. First off, you never forget your first one, so it had to be great. Second off, it’s an IB!

It had to be something that isn’t around a lot, and that I’d love to share with others. This review has taken a little while to put up, as I’ve been reviewing others and enjoying this dram quite a bit. I even wonder now if I should post it yet, or review it again this week and give it more time. I’m too excited though.

We’ll see. May need a drink, one of the cat’s goes in to be fixed next week, so… that may be a bother. Nevermind, I’m posting this now!

Getting back on to the whisky, I picked up Highland Park Gordon & MacPhail Cask Strength 2003. This is a younger bottling, however I wasn’t being all ageist on this one, and was fine with a young’in, kinda like the guys back in the town I grew up as a teenager (I think I just threw up in my own mouth).

Also I’ve wanted to try a Cask Strength Highland Park, and it was between this or Loki or Thor (Freya wasn’t out yet, and I don’t want to buy it as it has both of the boat arms). They are 3 times the price here, so… well, it seemed obvious I wasn’t going to pay that price for 6 more years of aging.

Also note that this is a Bourbon Barrel, and Highland Park is usually done in Sherry casks. So we’re just RIGHT off the beaten path on this one!

Here’s hoping it paid off and my cheap ways didn’t mar my first IB bottle.

Price: $115.00 (CAD)

Distilled: 05/11/2003

Bottled: 16/04/2013

Cask No: 6373,6374

Cask Type: First Fill Bourbon Barrel

Region: Island (Orkney)

Abv: 57.8%

Colour: Light Yellow

Nose: Lemon tart, alcohol, sweet “fruit” donut filling, blackberry, ginger, floral, strawberry, wax

Really powerful nose, hits you like a hurricane. Starts out exactly like a really sweet fruit dessert, then eventually has some floral/spicy notes. First one to have that fake fruit donut filling since Brora 18.

Taste: Lemon, anise, smoke, basil, lemongrass, caramel, burn, earth

The usual acidity from Highland Park is gone, yet there’s still some spice. The Bourbon Cask has added in a different sweetness now, yet the earth notes are still there.

It takes awhile to really enjoy this one. It’s young, and it’s full strength. I added a couple drops near the end, and that really helped open it up.

Finish: Mushroom, fennel, pork dumplings, caramel apple, ginger, piri piri, cocoa, dry

Where as the 15 year has too much earth, this one has enough sweet and heat notes to really stop it from going over the edge. Also a lot of ginger and anise spices near the end. It does not pull back at all. Really delivers a full strength punch to the taste buds.

Conclusion: This is the Mike Tyson in his prime of Scotch. It hits hard, all over the place, has a little bit of ear in it, and is spicy. Really powerful, needs a tiny bit of water and it becomes balanced.

Yet is it a Highland Park? I mean, it doesn’t have the sherry influence, so it misses something there. Not that the Bourbon doesn’t give it lemon, anise, and ginger notes, yet… I don’t know, I love it, I just don’t think I’m drinking Highland Park when I’m trying it. Odd sort of melancholic reaction.

As a whisky by itself, ignoring the name, it’s an experience like no other. Young, brash, strong, and tasty, yet probably not something you can have too much, otherwise you’ll be hurt too much. I love it, I think it’s worth the money, yet I think it can improve.


Scotch review #146, Island review #15, Whisky Network review #193

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