Highland Park 26 1988 Cadenhead’s Small Batch Cask Strength

HP C 26 1.jpg

Thanks to /u/HD355 for setting up the bottle split on this one. And letting a moderately sized Canuck boy join in.

This was done in the style of Stuart McLean, a favourite artist of mine. Thank you for the indulgence of vocabulary.

Whisky is one of my main hobbies. From the first time I tried it at the young age of 11, and decided “there’s something to this”, I have had a fascination with the flavourful water of life that sprang forth to some enlightened man in ancient Celtic times.

My journey has brought me from the seediest bars to the less seediest bars to the seediest bar of them all, the Internet. I set my sights on trying to get better way back when in the halcyon days of yore.

What I’m saying is I’m old, but I’m still going strong.

I have the odd person walk up to me and say “/u/TOModera “, which is odd, because that’s a reddit handle, but still; “/u/TOModera , you have written lots of reviews, and a handful of them aren’t complete shit”, which again, I’m confused why they start with a burn, but let them continue; “aren’t you going to run out of whisky? What will you do then?”

And I usually laugh, because in this fictitious vignette I am a jovial person rather than the rage fueled fool, and tweak their nipples, because that’s normal as well. And then I usually say something akin to “Motherfucker, I ain’t even started yet”. Note it’s something akin to that, as I usually keep my jive talk for holidays.

But the question still dogs me, and I look out to the whisky world and am always happy to see new things. It leads me back to those times when I was young and impressionable, thinking “there’s something going on here.”

Today we get another answer to the question “What are you going to drink?” with Highland Park 1988 26 Cadenhead’s Small Batch Cask Strength. That’s a lot of words. Let’s break it all down like Reagan at the wall, shall we?

Highland Park we all know. They use multiple different methods, learning from their fore bearers and other fore bearers and combining it all so that young farm lads of Orkney have something to be proud of other than Geography and History. And while I may not have liked all the Highland Parks I’ve had, I’ll still tip my hat to them for making some consistent drams, like a mailman who actually puts the mail in your mailbox every day.

  1. That’s a year. I’m sure some of you knew about it. Or, given my slow grind towards oblivion, may have been born in that year.
  2. You’ll note that I stopped putting “years old” in all of my names. It’s a quirk I have, probably caused by roughhousing near a brick wall and proving that all the energy a 5 year old can make can’t move the columns of a garage, no matter how hard he throws his head at it.

Cadenhead’s is a private bottler, all wrapped up in the same company that owns Springbank, Longrow, and probably, given the diversification of companies these days, a local dance studio for youngins to take their energy out with plie and grace.

Finally we have the last 4, as I’m sure you’ve already skipped the meandering talk I’ve done in order to recreate a famous Canadian comedian’s style, Small Batch Cask Strength. Small Batch notes a whisky with the name Small Batch on the label. Pretty straight forward there.

Cask Strength means they haven’t messed about with some run off into this one. They’ve left the sherry casks to do their thing, and put it in the bottle. A nice endeavor indeed in these watered down times.

So now that we’re all on the same page, let’s see how all that hard work tastes, shall we?

HP C 26 2.jpg

Price: $299.99 (USD) in the US. It’s not allowed in Canada due to a feud between rival herring drivers that goes back so long it nearly loops upon itself. Nearly.

Number of Bottles: 1082

Region: Island

Abv: 55.2%

Colour: 10R 5/12

Nose: Plum, oak, strawberry, smoke, licorice, pepper, creme brulee, brown sugar, orange, butter, dough

I both love and hate the term “fruit forward”, as it perfectly sums up both my thoughts on the amount of fruit in the nose, and my believe that some snob is sitting back, stating that while asking his guards to beat the poor people outside.

My own needlessly foolish beliefs of a combination of words put aside, the amount of slowly adapting, well put out flavours here is great. It’s complex in the amount of flavours, with the consistent Highland Park profile of acidic and Xmas spices jumping forward.

Makes me wish I had some right now rather than the Cinnamon tea I’m sipping while asking security to beat the impoverished outside.

Taste: Grape, strawberry, butter, cocoa, oak, root beer, cream, molasses, raisin

Initially quite tart, as time goes on the sweet, deep, dark flavours. But what are dark flavours, really? I speak it every so often, expecting you all to know it like I’ve known you since war times, it a secret code that we shared in some light forsaken mountain hole while angered men do angry things for reasons that none of us quite know.

Dark flavours, I guess, means that molasses flavour. The flavour of a good coke or a great root beer and an average plum. It rings a low know to your taste buds. That’s here.

Or perhaps I’m full of shit, as I jokingly say to allow for some hubris. I’ve only just started learning how to be an adult and it seems right.

Finish: Dry, mushroom, pepper, pear, dusty, cranberry, orange, BBQ sauce, ginger, birch sap

Part of me wants to add in a dry joke here, yet the crass nature of the joke doesn’t really jive with the style I’m aiming for. I want to be crass, yet still have that folksy, story telling way. And then I’m left bereft of words, like a man in the desert is bereft of water.

He’s that dry. And I’m that dry. And perhaps this is that dry too. It’s quite dry, is what I’m saying.

The dryness is unbalanced. Not in that “My aunt was unbalanced” way, more so in that “Charlie Manson may need some help” unbalanced fashion. It doesn’t sink the dram, rather it makes itself know to you, and then keeps letting itself known to you, knocking your door and leaving pamphlets for your immortal soul saving.

Conclusion: Were I younger, like back when I first tried whisky and enjoyed it, would this dram have sent me on a different path?

Certainly. The sherry influence is powerful here, yet not enough to dampen the spirits (heh, pun) within. It pairs well, adding fruit to smoke and taking the brown sugar notes to grandmas for Xmas treats.

I’ve had better, but when can anyone of us not say that? Just once. And then we’re done. So rather I’d say that this is a dram for those of you who love cask strength whiskies, or sherry bombs, or even big fans of Highland Park. I’m happy I bought a dram, and I’m happy that this is part of my first 700 reviews.


Scotch review #435, Island review #35, Whisky Network review #699

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