Highland Park Stones of Stenness 17 2003 Single Cask Nation

You may be asking yourself “Huh, I thought this was from the well known distillery Stones of Stenness, not some probably made up name like Highland Park”.

Stennes is a village in Orkney, Scotland, known for prehistoric monuments known as the Standing Stones of Stenness, a Neolithic monument, which may be the oldest henge site in the British Isles. There’s two distilleries on Orkney, including Scapa and Highland Park.

I know what you’re thinking: The ancient stones have gained sentience due to years of occult rituals and are releasing whisky, but using an independent bottler to release them. It’s time to unravel your tinfoil hat, sadly, as that’s insane. How would stones use a still? And without anyone noticing? Come on people, they don’t have hands.

Why am I sure that this 17-year-old ex-Oloroso Sherry Butt single cask single malt Scotch isn’t the product of vengeful ancient spirits? Or maybe from Scapa? Independently bottled Scapas are rare. And recently someone at Highland Park realized they needed room, so tons and tons of casks from Highland Park ended up on the market, and continue to do so. Why? No idea.

But you’re not here to determine if this comes from a company that brings out tons of whisky versus one that brings out very little, you’re here to see how it tastes. So let’s see, shall we?

Price: $195

Region: Island

Vintage: November 2003

Bottled: May 2021

Cask type: Oloroso Sherry Butt

Cask number 2398

Number of bottles: 360

Abv: 54.4%

Colour: 10YR 6/8

Nose: Caramel sauce, canned pears, cloves, strawberry, peanut oil

Big caramel notes, lots of fruit, spice, and Oloroso signatures. It’s the Declaration for John Handcocks, if the paper was whisky and the sherry cask was a person known for a lack of spatial awareness when writing.

That said I don’t get the sense it’s been overtaken by the sherry, or at least not as much as some whiskies I’ve had recently. Interesting notes, I sure hope it doesn’t go downhill as I write more.

Taste: Cherry, cloves, brine, apple, tannic/Orange Pekoe tea

Hey, it didn’t! Apologies for not firing Checkov’s gun in this particular review. Fruit forward and a ton of cloves though. Water is the only thing that brings up some brine and tea flavours. Apologies, I stopped drinking tea due to figuring out I prefer coffee, so I can’t really identify much beyond the tannic elements.

Finish: Strawberry, ginger, apple, tannic/Orange Pekoe tea, sulfur

More fruit, some spice, some sulfur just like I like, and more of the same. Nothing too crazy. Missing the nuttiness from the nose. Also the cloves seem dull now.

Conclusion: A clove heavy sherry dram. Well, while the cloves last, at least. I’ve spoken in the past of some of these Orkney drams being tasty and others that were released for obvious reasons. Sadly the sellers haven’t made much distinction between the two, and as such you end up with some IB Highland Park that are complex and interesting, and some that are not.

The nose is quite interesting and draws you in, however the rest feels a bit simpler. I should note I’m not the biggest Oloroso fan. But even still I would have liked some nuttiness in the taste (nuts in my mouth, gotcha), and maybe a bit more than just a ton of fruit overall.

It’s certainly drinkable and doesn’t fall into the issues that other sherried whiskies do. But for the price I would hope there would be better, and it reminds me of why I’m picky about Highland Parks in general.

77/100

Scotch review #1493, Island review #165, Whisky Network review #2198

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