Highland Park Brings Forth A New 50 Year Old Scotch

The Highland Park distillery, located in the somewhat remote Orkney Islands of Scotland, has been distilling whisky in one form or other since 1798, when it was founded. Every now and again the distillery team there digs deep into their aging warehouses to pull forth something somewhat ancient, such as its newest 50 year old single malt.

The new Highland Park 50 Year Old, according to those behind it, is the third such release of its kind across the distillery’s 223 years of history. It has been created using a traditional solera system – best known as a method of maturing Sherry – which takes a small quantity of the whisky produced from a previous batch and marries it together with the new whisky. More specifically it is said to have “been carefully selected from nine refill casks, originally laid down in 1968, married together in 2008 then re-racked into a handful of the finest first-fill sherry seasoned oak casks.

“Then, after a further 12 years of maturation, one of these limited casks was selected and married with a small quantity of the whisky from the last 50 Year Old released by the distillery.”

Highland Park 50 Year Old (2020)

Highland Park 50 Year Old (2020) (image via Highland Park)

“This 50 Year Old whisky is one of our oldest and rarest releases and I’m very proud to have been a part of its journey,” said Gordon Motion, Highland Park, Master Whisky Maker, in a prepared statement. “The whisky is spectacular, when I sampled the whisky from the re-racked casks, the whisky it contained – aged for a little over 50 years – had absorbed the rich sherried flavours of dried fruit and sweet toffee from its final first-fill cask maturation, but still retained all the delicate fragrance and flavours driven by the original refill casks.

“I introduced a small quantity of this cask to some of our 2018 batch of 50 Year Old, which I’d held back specifically for this purpose, to create a further layer of depth and complexity. As the 2018 50 Year Old also contains some of our 2010 batch of 50 Year Old – our first in the series – this approach allows me to maintain the core DNA of our oldest Highland Park whisky through each extremely limited batch release.”

This whisky is presented in a hand-made wooden box, crafted from walnut by Scottish Master Craftsman, John Galvin, and encased in an embossed heavy-weight glass bottle featuring a design inspired by the Norse heritage of Highland Park’s Orkney island home. The box also includes a hand-crafted crystal decanter and leather-bound book detailing the story of the Scotch.

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Plans call for just 274 bottles to be made available globally, each pricing around $30,000 (by comparison, the 2018 release was $15,000). It is bottled at 43.8% ABV, and you’ll find official tasting notes below.

  • Intensely sweet and fragrant: Natural cask driven color, deep autumn russet
  • Nose: Delicate aromas of ripe black cherries, sweet Muscovado sugar, peaches and rich dark chocolate are conveyed on a whisper of new leather and soft peat smoke
  • Palate: A complex and vibrant intensity of flavors follows with exotic spices, candied orange peel, toasted oak and ripe apricots delivering a deliciously rich yet fragrant sweetness
  • Finish: Dry spices and the impression of dark espresso coffee linger at the finish, enrobed in aromatic peat smoke