Orkney

Review: Highland Park Twisted Tattoo

Recently released from Highland Park, Twisted Tattoo sees a unique twist from the Orkney-based distillery. The 16-year-old expression features a large percentage of whisky matured in first-fill Spanish Rioja wine casks. Highland Park is historically known for its use of ex-sherry casks for maturation of its whiskies. Though recent years (and the current whisky climate) have seen the distillery experimenting with other cask types, such as bourbon and port casks.

Highland Park provides the exact cask breakdown on the Twisted Tattoo packaging, which was designed by Danish tattoo artist Colin Dale.

153 casks laid down between 11th May 200 and 29th October 2001, filled into 220 litre first-fill Rioja wine casks in January and March 2016 at 59.5%

70 first-fill bourbon casks from 1999, filled at strengths of between 63.6% and 63.7%.

Casks married together in September 2018 and filtered at 4°C.

It sounds like more than two thirds of the whisky here is rested in Rioja wine casks for a couple of years. That’s just enough time to season the whisky with Rioja wine influence. Twisted Tattoo is bottled at 46.7% ABV.

The nose is aromatic as one would expect from Highland Park. It features hints of that signature heathery peat, vanilla, bright red fruit, and toasted oak. The palate starts with a sweet vanilla, heather, blood orange, and raspberries. Wisps of smoke appear mid-palate. Some oak spice and wine tannins lead us into a long, warm finish.

Readers of this blog know Highland Park is one of my favorite distilleries. I love tasting their non-sherry cask expressions. Not all these experimentations are as delicious as Twisted Tattoo. The bourbon and red wine cask maturation work really well here, as the former really allow the aromatic & slightly smoky spirit shine and the latter doesn’t overtake said distillery character. Rather, the red wine cask maturation compliments it nicely. Very highly recommended!

Highlandparkwhisky.com

Thanks to Highland Park for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Review: Highland Park The Dark Single Malt Whisky

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The first of two themed special edition releases from Highland Park, The Dark is a 17-year-old single malt whisky that matured exclusively in European oak sherry-seasoned butts.  The 28,000 bottle release is bottled at a hearty 52.9% ABV and can be found for around $250.

The Dark takes inspiration from the winter solstice on Orkney.  Highland Park’s follow-up release, The Light, focuses on the contrasting spring season.  The jet black bespoke bottle is a departure from Highland Park’s recent bottle rebranding.  The tall bottle features an embossed dragon on the front and comes in a black oak box.  Highland Park’s Viking and Nordic heritage is certainly on display here.

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Highland Park is generally known for its use of American and European oak sherry casks.  Recent releases saw the distillery play with different casks for their maturation, including bourbon and port.  As I mentioned earlier, The Dark uses only European Sherry-seasoned oak casks, which deliver more spice notes compared to American sherry oak casks.

I recently hosted Highland Park Global Brand Ambassador Martin Markvardsen on my Youtube channel for a Highland Park whisky tasting, which included Magnus, Valkyrie, Full Volume, Highland Park 18-year-old, and The Dark.  It was interesting to compare and contrast The Dark and the 17-year-old Full Volume, which was matured exclusively in first fill ex-bourbon casks.  Both feature the same distillate and are the same age, leaving the cask types as the only variable (painting in broad strokes here).  Full Volume’s bourbon cask maturation really showcases those bourbon notes of vanilla and tropical fruit, where The Dark leans in the dried fruit and smoky direction.  You can see that video below:

I don’t generally mention color in my reviews unless the whisky is all natural and free of caramel coloring.  That’s the case with Highland Park.  They don’t add any coloring to their whiskies.  The Dark is a beautiful copper color.  Those sherry casks contribute that slight red tinge.  A slow swirl around reveals legs that stick around for days.

The nose is bold but rounded, with hints of fruit cake, spice, heather and an Oloroso sherry nuttiness.  A slight tinge of smoked oak sits in the background.  On the palate, honey and dried fruit kick things off.  Cinnamon and cardamon develop soon afterwards, followed by vanilla pod and cognac-soaked fruitcake.  That wonderful Orkney island heathery peat comes in on the back palate, along with charred old oak and  a touch of smoke.  The fruity and slightly smoky finish lasts for days.  Put the water away.  The Dark is best enjoyed neat.

Highland Park is one of my favorite distilleries.  I’ve found myself thoroughly enjoying every one of their releases.  Not one has disappointed me, and I obviously enjoy some Highland Park whiskies more than others.  This one sits near the top of that list, along with their 18-year-old, 25-year-old and Odin releases.  The Dark is a perfect winter whisky, nicely balancing those dark, heavy dried fruit notes with spice and smoke.  I can’t wait to compare this to the upcoming The Light bottling.  By the way, the finish is still around two hours after tasting.  Time for another glass… 9/10

highlandparkwhisky.com

Thanks to Highland Park for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.