Thanks to /u/throwboats for this sample
This is a continuation of my ongoing series that I’m calling “Scotch Malts, Wife’s Selection”, in which my wife goes through my backlog of SMWS (Scotch Malt Whisky Society) samples that I haven’t reviewed yet, pours them blind, and then I review it blind.
Recently I’ve been trying to take better pictures of the whisky I’m having. Was pushing myself to run Instagram, not just use my phone for most pictures, take time, and add in my miniatures.
I’m not so great with photography. Add to that my wife, who is quite good at photography, mentions that either the lens I’m using or the camera itself is having focus issues, and I become quite annoyed in myself when these reviews aren’t as good as they can be.
Where I do think I do well is in the writing. I like to evoke mental images. Which is where Highland Park SMWS 4.198 “Pigs in plaster” comes in.
Names that evoke a particular scene are my favourite, and Pigs in plaster is perfect. The idea can take two forms.
The first is the saner, calmer version: The idea of plaster pigs, with their emotive facts, staring up at you with big smiles is quite cute. You could imagine an older, maybe Southern US lady, her larger than normal house, and the pigs that accompany it. She likes pigs, and stopped eating pork due to her love. She’d never own one, of course: However Wilbur and Jerry are always there for her to talk to.
And then the second one is the idea of live pigs, screaming in horror, embedded into a plaster wall. The overwhelming horror as they dig against the wall, white powder flaking off. You scream in terror, however it can’t take out the screams of the pigs. Then you realize you had a ham sandwich in your hand, and somehow that’s when one of them makes eye contact. As tears fill your eyes, you wonder:
Why the hell would anyone bring this up in a whisky review?
I’m just saying, the name has some fun connotations. But how does the whisky taste? Not all names match their drams.
So let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: Sold out
Date Distilled: 15.10.1999
Age: 14 years
Cask Type: 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel
Colour: 5Y 9/8
Nose: Licorice, peach pie, cereal, mint, smoke
Initial nose is a nice mixture of anise, fruit, and butter. It jumps between herbal and butter. It’s not super complex beyond the peach pie, though works.
So less the horror show I described above and maybe more the nice old lady with her statues.
Taste: Mint, caramel, beef burnt ends, pear juice, lemon zest, wood
Nice dab of mint again. The taste opens up more than the nose did, with the fruit amping up. The stone fruits have stepped up more, are less sweet, though nicely rounded.
There’s some nice caramelized sugar, meat aspects that have popped up. But not in the horror way above.
Finish: Mint, lemon, black tea, cream of mushroom soup, black pepper
Too much black tea on the finish for me. It takes over a bit. Well a lot. There’s a big amount of umami at the end. And recently I’ve had another whisky that was like this. That “the beef stew has too much broth”, or that “I added too many mushrooms and used the incorrect ones” taste.
Conclusion: Not a horror show, though also not a short that makes you cry and also tries to sell you a credit card or a movie theatre. Because nothing is true, the world is fake, and there’s no happiness.
Well that was dark. Maybe I didn’t take my failure at my pictures as well as I should.
None the less, this whisky is an interesting deconstruction. The nose is nice and works. It’s nothing crazy.
Then the taste amps up the complexity, and really brings it in the right directions.
Finally there’s the taste. And frankly, I think if you typically drink lots of black tea, then this is perfect for you. I, personally, found it unbalanced and the sheer amount of tannins was too much.
This is a polarizing malt. Yes still has the Highland Park character to it. So try before you buy.
Guess: A strong peat influenced Highland Park
Actually: Highland Park SMWS 4.198 “Pigs in plaster”
Scotch review #814, Island review #96, Whisky Network review #1325