Highland Park 30 1989 The Kinship 2020 Hunter Laing

What was the occasion: A store that I know of had a tasting for the Kinship Collection 2020, and between my life being chaotic as hell, I haven’t gotten to them. So every so often, when I get a chance, I pick out one of them and review them. And it’s been taking awhile.

What whisky did we review? Highland Park 30 1989 The Kinship 2020 Hunter Laing, a single cask bottling of Highland Park that was bottled by Hunter Laing under the Kinship line.

The Kinship collection is released for Feis Ile 2020 festival, the large jazz and whisky celebration for the Island to bring in whisky nerds who spend a ton of money. This is well, well above my normal drinking habits. I had to debate buying small samples of it.

What’s the distillery? Highland Park is not on Islay. It’s an Island distillery on Orkney.

Which falls into how you define Scotch regions, really. For a long time there was no “Islands” region. There was Speyside, because that’s where the majority are. There was Islay because that sells a lot. There were Highland and Lowland because those were historical and still had enough distilleries. For a while Campbeltown didn’t seem to exist at all, as they went from tons of distilleries to what seemed like 2, tops.

So Highland Park is owned by the same people as Macallan, have some high end releases, and have recently had a lot of “Orkney” releases hit the independently bottled market. Yes, there are two distilleries on Orkney, so any “Orkney” release could be either. However given how much more whisky Highland Park makes, the descriptions of the whiskies by reviewers, and that Scapa usually allows the distillery name on it’s releases, there’s been a lot of Highland Park released.

What’s my bias? That brings me to my bias on Highland Park: I burned myself out y’all. And not in a “I should keep buying these up”, but in a “I bought a really good one, had 2 okay ones, they are everywhere, I’m done” way. Kinda like superhero movies and TV. Or Star Wars stuff: You may enjoy the final product, but there’s been so much that you’re pretty satiated. And you stop caring.

I say that as someone who’s watched 99% of all Marvel stuff, by the way.

So I had a really nice Orkney, I had some less nice ones, and then… I got satiated.

That’s not to say I don’t like Highland Park. I guess I just see the distillery as middle of the road. So much so I spent… oh god, like 3 years avoiding drinking anything from them.

Huh. Seems like a mistake I’m only realising now. So it did impact this review (I had an idea of what Highland Park was, this didn’t meet that, I made a mistake, I had to rethink what I had written).

So with that bombshell, let’s see how this tastes, shall we?

Price: $8K for all 6 bottles (CAD)

Region: Island

Vintage: 1989

Bottled: 2020

Number of bottles: 439

Abv: 43.1%

Colour: 5Y 8/6

Nose: Pear, grass, vanilla, cashew, tobacco ash

Fruity, grassy, nice vanilla, some ashy notes that come with Highland Park.

So in my head, I have this idea of an acidic note that’s not here. Looking back at other of my own reviews, that’s not always there. This is where bias can get you in trouble.

The ash will throw some people off. Also for a 30-year-old Highland Park, there’s been some greedy angels on the dram, so the nose is lighter and it can be a bit hard to pick out the complexity of the flavours. That said, it’s not half as bad as other drams I’ve had since or before, so I won’t ding it too hard for that.

Taste: Guava, ocean, char/fennel, oak, toasted pecan

Ok, that’s a salty, tropical fruit, charred oak and nutty whisky. Nice toasted notes, lovely tropical aspects, and it goes together.

Man, I love toasted pecans. For a long time baked goods with nuts used them as filler, so I didn’t really use them ever.

Finish: Brown sugar, violet, oak, clove, toasted sesame oil

Interesting. At the time of drinking this whisky, I really found it different from the Orkney… er, I mean Highland Park whiskies I have had over the past. I completely forgot this was a style you could find with Highland Park. More on that in the conclusion.

Floral, umami, spice, vanilla, and brown sugar. It reminds me of a chocolate chip white miso cookie I bought at a local coffee roaster one time, in that it was balanced while still being a solid chocolate chip cookie. It gives me ideas for future baked goods, and fear in the minds of friends who are trying to lose weight.

Conclusion: At first I thought (and announced) that I felt this was off brand. That was completely incorrect and speaks to the break I took from reviewing Highland Park after a certain amount of Orkney bottles popped up. I say this as a reminder it’s always a good idea to never be the smartest person in the room, and thank goodness some whisky people pointed out I was, in fact, wrong on that.

This is filled with umami, nutty, and spice, each balanced and tasty. It’s very close to the old Highland Park 25 offering, which I liked a tiny bit more. It keeps giving these vibes of something better coming, though giving it time and water did not give it up.

Really I think this should have been an okay whisky, but they left it in the barrel just a bit too long. There’s elements that people will go gaga over, easily, like the sesame note at the end. If this is the introduction to the Kinship Collection, it’s nice and tasty, and makes me interested in trying Highland Park again, but not “wow this is 6 bottles worth 8 grand of Canadian maple bucks” amazing, so I’m underwhelmed so far.


Scotch review #1625, Island review #174, Whisky Network review #2353

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