I am fortunate enough to sample some fabulous spirits. The Highland Park 40 Year Old is among them. It is not often $2000 liquors land on my doorstep with a “drink me” sticker attached. That being said, I only received a $100 sample. Only?! Wow!  I will reiterate…I am fortunate and appreciative. Let’s face it. If one is going to taste even the tiniest sample of the $2000 Highland Park 40 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky it pays to go into the tasting prepared. Do the research first.  Highland Park 40 Year - photo copyright Cheri Loughlin

The Highland Park website stockpiles a wealth of information. Gerry Tosh, Global Brand Ambassador, teaches step by step how to sample Highland Park in such a way to appreciate the intricacies of this classic spirit. A few things are necessary: an odorless, well lit environment and an appropriate glass with fresh, still water. 

First pour a healthy measure of Highland Park into the glass. I poured every drop I was graciously given. I learned that the next step of peering at the color of the whisky through light really does not tell us much about the spirit regarding age. Color merely shapes our expectations. The hue may tell us if a whisky has been in a Spanish oak Sherry Cask or Bourbon barrels depending if the whisky is darker or lighter. Interesting. 

Tilting the glass to a 45 degree angle will cause legs or tears to fall down the glass. The more time it takes for the legs to descend the higher quality of the spirit. The smaller the beads when they initially appear, the higher the alcohol content. 

Next add an equal amount of still water to the glass as there is whisky. This releases the entire flavor within the whisky without the alcohol sensation. Whisky should not be swirled before nose and taste sampling due to the alcohol content. With 40% alcohol content or more, whisky does not need any help in evaporating. 

Taste by chewing the whisky for 4-5 seconds to give every taste bud the chance to experience the flavor. Pay close attention to the after taste. This determines the complexity of the spirit. Quality whisky has a long, clean finish. 

There is more detail in the original downloadable version of Gerry Tosh’s “How to Nose and Taste Highland Park” online. Be sure to read its entirety. 

It is highly captivating to read about the Highland Park 40 Year Old on the website. This is not an “oops” uncovered it in the warehouse type of release. The Highland Park 40 Year Old is an intentionally thought out whisky. Highland Park uses a variety of casks of different sizes, differing woods and at varying stages in the life of the cask. The 40 year old has been largely matured in refill casks to ensure there is balance between length of maturation and the influence the cask has had on the spirit. Highland Park achieves all of its delicate coloring naturally from these refill casks.

There is in depth discussion about the amulet featured on the front of each bottle. The bottle design by Stolze Flaconnage denotes the heritage and appreciation of Orkney while also keeping with the tone of unusual and interesting to stand out among others on the top shelf of the world’s best bars. Commentary about the box is hugely fascinating as it takes one back to the 60’s when the Beatles  released The White Album and Let It Bleed by the Rolling Stones was popular. One cannot forget The Man in Black, Johnny Cash with his 1968 Live at Folsom Prison release either. All of this is under the heading of “Core Expressions” within the 40 Year Old subheading. Imagine what you might learn by exploring the entire site. 

As for tasting notes:

Color: Rich hues of russet and copper

Nose: Spicy and aromatic with a background of rich dark fruits, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon zest and darkest chocolate. The use of refill casks allows Highland Park’s trademark smoke to be retained, even after 40 years in wood

Palate: Beautiful balance of sweet toffee notes, dark chocolate, black cherries, honey, sun dried orange zest and aromatic heather peat smokiness

Finish: Rich, long, elegant, smoky and surprisingly sweet. Lingers forever

Since I am not a whisky maker or purport to be a professional whisky taster, I will not claim to be able to pick out all of the intricate nuances of this particular spirit. However, I enjoy savoring all types of liquor due to their diverse characteristics. The Highland Park 40 Year Old is lighter and more delicate in color than other single malts. The flavor is striking. There is nothing light, delicate or timid in the taste. Highland Park 40 Year Old definitely carries the essence of dark chocolate and rich fruit in the nose and taste. While some whiskies have caramel or vanilla rounded edges, the Highland Park 40 Year Old leans more toward the smoke and toffee as the master tasting notes suggest. Toffee tends to have just slightly more of an edge or hint of influence in it than caramel. There is an implication of sweetness without the thickness and feel of sweetness coating the palate. The flavor of Highland Park remains long after the spirit has swept over the taste buds. 

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the hefty price of the Highland Park 40 Year Old in balance with the tasting. It took 40 years to create this designed masterpiece. Can everyone afford the Highland Park 40 Year Old? No. However, that does not mean it is overpriced. A $40 bottle of whisky may be overpriced if it is less than satisfactory. The price of this spirit must be weighed in the palate of the connoisseur.

Highland Park 40 Year Old sample for review courtesy representatives of Highland Park.

Cheri Loughlin is a leading cocktail and photography resource for beverage companies, event planners, businesses and individuals. High resolution cocktail and beverage stock photography images are available in downloadable digital format in the newly redesigned Stock Photography Gallery at www.cheriloughlin.com.

Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon – str8upcocktails @ gmail.com – ©2012 Cheri Loughlin-The Intoxicologist, All Rights Reserved. All opinions, reviews and spirits’ coverage are the personal opinion and decision of Cheri Loughlin.

Highland Park 40 Year Old: Small Sampling Leads to Wealth of Information
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