Highland Park 21 1990 Signatory Vintage Cask Strength

Thanks to cake_my_day  for this sample.

We’re about at the tail end of a recent deluge of Highland Park (“Orkney”, “Kirkwall”) in the independent bottler market. Why? Probably because they needed to make space in a warehouse, and you may as well sell off some casks.

As we’re at the tail end, the best, seemingly, has been sold or will be higher, and we move on and wait for the next distillery to have too much whisky and not enough space.

Times like this can skew your view on a distillery. Because most of us will only try a few, if any, of the whiskies. We’ll only see a few, if any, of the reviews. If you’re hardcore into Highland Park maybe you’ll be buying up a storm. If you’re iffy on it or like other distilleries or only buy OBs then it’s a blip on your radar. A comment someone makes.

And then there’s the Highland Park offerings that come before or after. Like farting in a 2nd grade classroom any other offerings in a quantity over quality period will follow a distillery and become the thing of therapist discussions. Enter Highland Park 21 1990 Signatory Vintage Cask Strength.

Those among you who are quick at mental math will notice this offering comes from before the recent spike in offerings. Thus in reviewing it we have to remember what we’ve had with Highland Park, but also accept that some of those may have been sold as a batch for others, may not have been ready, or they didn’t have the space themselves.

We don’t know. And as such, I always say go into these with a fresh mind. Which I hope people do for me, because holy damn some of my old jokes just didn’t land right.

Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?

Price: €170

Region: Island

Vintage: December 13, 1990

Bottled: June 12, 2012

Cask type: Sherry butt

Cask number: 15701

Number of bottles 304

Abv: 48.8%

Colour: 2.5Y 8/8

Nose: Mango, floral, jujubes, burnt sugar, cotton

Okay, starts with some tropical, some light floral, and it starts to grow, some molasses coming, and then the floral goes to cotton and then…

It stops. You’re still getting through the lighter/beginning notes and it just ends. Leave it longer? Same thing. Water? Same thing. More water? Same thing. It’s nice, sure, but it’s cutoff. Weird.

Taste: Peat, brown sugar, plum jam, brine

Alright some of that HP Peat, love that, building up again with some simple brine, molasses, and the fruitiness is tart and balance and…

Again, it stops. Time, water, all that jazz… still not growing on me. Give it more time, still nothing. Sure, brown sugar and brine is nice, and I like the peat, but… where are we going here?

Finish: Plum, white peach, smoke, brine, herbal

Alright here we go, finally some payoff, if a bit late and a buck short. Tart, strong, sharp peach note, and more smoke and brine.

I don’t hate the finish. I enjoyed it. It feels like the only part that’s mostly complete, though it never really grows from where it’s sitting.

Conclusion: The whole whisky felt like half a sentence. There’s good starts here, and nice flavours, however (especially in the nose) it feels like I’m waiting for it to say something else and it doesn’t. And as someone who does that a lot more than he should, that’s concerning.

You drink this to get some of the interesting flavours and something that doesn’t have any rough moments. You pour it for people who like smooth whisky (which is totally okay).

For me? I’ve had better Highland Parks, either from this time or after or before. I feel like it should have been vatted with another cask or a few more casks to really get to something. As it stands? I’d probably skip, unless you’re looking for a cheaper option (in the past, who knows what this goes for now) than the OB 21.


Scotch review #1420, Island review #155, Whisky Network review #2100

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