Thanks to /u/Throzen for pouring me a sample of this.
In a previous review, I mentioned, erroneously, that Highland Park is the only distillery on Orkney that peats. Fun story: Scapa used to peat way, way back. And then stopped due to hating us. Or whatever reason. I’m totally not taking it personally.
Anyway, that leaves us with Highland Park being the only ones who still peat their whisky on Orkney. Recently there’s been a veritable deluge of releases from independent bottlers with Orkney bottles hitting the market. It’d be mean, cruel, and perhaps petty to leave out SMWS, who has been releasing them steadily throughout the decades.
Which brings us to Highland Park SMWS 4.236 “Island Holiday Snapshot”. It’s been a while since I ate an Island Holiday Snapshot, as my mother told me not to eat photos after the first one.
But I’ll make an exception to try another Highland Park, especially one at cask strength that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: Sold out
Date Distilled: September 5th 2002
Cask Type: Refill Ex-Bourbon Hogshead
Outturn: 279 bottles
Colour: 7.5Y 9/6
Nose: Brine, caramel, tropical fruit, vanilla
Initially malty and caramel, which is nice, and that tropical fruit I associate with the Highland Park profile. The ex-bourbon cask only maturation differs from their OB vattings in less acidity.
Quite shy, even at the high percentage. Water brings out more cask influence, but little else.
Taste: Pineapple, caramel, wood, brine, pear, cinnamon
More of the standard fare here on the taste. Less shy now, but more woody and caramel. Dare I say I’m wondering at this point why this was picked up? Or even sold? It seems to have more wood, true, but it’s following the Highland Park beat for beat. Which in turn would mean it’d be used in their standard releases.
Water opens up to some nice cinnamon and pear going on.
Finish: Orange juice, caramel, butter, cereal, baklava
Hey, a bit of acidity, and some more butter/cereal. But every so slowly the honey/cereal notes hit me where it counts: Baklava.
I’m allergic to walnuts. I sometimes, stupidly, risk the minor pain of eating walnuts just to enjoy baklava. This is winning me over, in other words, and I’m biased as fuck. As it won’t make with the killing me to drink this. I hope.
Conclusion: I expected more, given the amount of Highland Park that’s on the market. But damn that baklava note kinda wins me over a bit.
The nose and taste are just what you’d expect from a standard ex-bourbon only Highland Park. It’s not going to blow you away, there’s more of the cask going on, and it does brine well.
One could argue that some people want that. And I’d argue that’s fine, it’s just kinda fun to have single casks and get something different, not just a little different.
The finish is what’s different here. I give it extra points for it. But frankly, I can see anyone skipping this if they didn’t love either the number of tropical notes or that really interesting cereal/honey development on the finish.
Scotch review #1034, Island review #119, Whisky Network review #1620
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