Whisky Review: Highland Park Cask Strength Release No.1

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by Highland Park. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Renowned Scotch maker Highland Park debuted earlier this year their first ever cask strength whisky. This release will be joined by other cask strength editions, each featuring unique flavor profiles, on an annual basis for the foreseeable future. This expression is matured for the most part in sherry seasoned American oak casks. Barrels of different ages were hand selected and married by Highland Park’s Master Whisky Maker, Gordon Motion.

Highland Park is the world’s northern most single malt Scotch distillery. They are located in Kirkwall on the Orkney islands where the Atlantic meets the North Sea. There, the salty wind batters the islands with such frequency and force that trees cannot take root. Because there is a lack of tree life the peat that is burned to smoke the distillery’s malted barley is comprised of densely compacted Scotch heather. The heathery peat is what gives Highland Park Scotch the harmonious balance of sweet and smokey for which they are known.

Cask Strength No.1 will have more of this distinctive heather peat flavor than has ever been tasted. It is non chill-filtered to ensure that the natural flavor and color of the whisky is preserved in each dram. Many of us will enjoy this whisky straight up, regardless of the eye-popping 126.6 proof. Others will choose to dilute with a little water and both are just as the maker intended.

Motion said in a statement when it was released that “a cask strength whisky is very much made the traditional way but it doesn’t have to be enjoyed so. Its full flavor allows you the control to discover the taste and strength that appeals to your palate by adding ice or water according to your preference.” 

Highland Park Cask Strength Release No.1

Highland Park Cask Strength Release No.1 (image via Highland Park)

Tasting Notes: Highland Park Cask Strength Release No.1

Vital Stats: This single malt Scotch whisky is 126.6 proof (63.3% ABV). No age is stated as it is blended from casks of varying maturity. $90 per 750 ml bottle.

Appearance: The color is light gold.

Nose: The nose is toasty with brown sugar and peat. The fragrance of a lemony crepe topped with powdered sugar is followed by the faintest hint of ethanol. 

Palate: There is quite a shock of hot pepper and nutmeg on the front that does not linger beyond the mid palate which is buttery and rich like a dark honey. Maple syrup is present with  a little sea salt. Peat shines in the lengthy finish complimented by lemon zest.

The Takeaway

Summary

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This whisky delivers the structured flavor development that Highland Park is famous for. There is less peat than expected outside of the exaggerated finish but plenty to occupy the senses until it shows up. I appreciate the crescendo of flavors that arrive just after the first sip. All around this was an enjoyable Scotch and I did not mind the high proof.

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