single malt scotch whisky

Highland Park Full Volume Whisky Review

Just in time for the holidays, Highland Park has released their newest creation – Full Volume. The distillery compares the creation of Full Volume to that of producing music. How’s that? It’s about keeping balance while delivering full, big flavors. Same with music. You want the final mix to sound balanced and, even when played at full volume, without distortion.

The distillery is known for exclusively using ex-sherry casks for maturing whisky. This is where Full Volume makes a left turn. It is created using only ex-bourbon casks. Two hundred barrels and 250 hogsheads, to be exact. The casks were filled in 1999 and the whisky bottled in 2017. Eagle eyed readers will notice the lack of an actual age statement. If this whisky were 18 years old, I think Highland Park would proudly tout that. Just putting that out there for those who care. Age statements don’t mean as much to me as the quality of whisky in the bottle.

The nose on this pale golden whisky is incredible. Bourbon barrel influences of soft vanilla and coconut complement Highland Park’s signature floral and heathery peat character. A bit of light toffee and sweet oak relax in the background. Bottled at 47.2% abv, Full Volume has oily legs for days. Creamy vanilla, lemon tart, and cinnamon toast form most of the flavor profile. Touches of light smoke and leather appear in the background. The finish is medium in length and rather clean in nature, leaving behind lingering hints of lemon custard, light baking spice, and a wisp of smoke.

Full Volume is a delightful deviation from the distillery’s profile of sherry cask maturation. Kudos to Highland Park for bottling this release higher than 40% abv. The blender was after balance and that’s what he achieved here, especially for the $110 retail price. Wonderful stuff! 8.5/10

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


Highland Park Valkyrie Single Malt Whiskey Review

There's something about the way Highland Park intermingles sherry casks and their signature heather-filled peat that excites me. It's one of my favorite flavor combinations. With their new Valkyrie release, the folks at Highland Park have ramped up the smokiness with the addition of more peated malt. Though Highland Park traditionally use only ex-sherry casks for its whiskies, Valkyrie sees a majority American Oak sherry-seasoned casks and ex-bourbon casks.

The bottle was designed by Danish designer Jim Lynvgild, who turned to Viking mythology as inspiration. Orkney, Highland Park's home, probably has more in common with its Nordic ancestry than it does with its Scottish one. Highland Park has fully embraced the Viking culture over the last several years, even redesigning its core bottles in 2017 to reinforce its Nordic heritage.

The nose here carries the classic HP aromas of sweet malt, dried fruits, heather and some freshly squeezed lemon juice. A touch of orchard fruit pops out of hiding from time to time. Those smoky and fruity notes are alive and well on the palate as well. An initial burst of red fruits lead to spice, dried fruit, figs, heather, and fresh ginger. A moderate wisp of smoke builds. The finish is long, with lingering notes of spiced fruit and light smoke.

Wonderful. Simply wonderful. Cranking up the smoke characteristics over the sherried malt base simply works. I like this NAS offering more than Dark Origins. Valkyrie doesn't come across as vibrant as that other expression, mainly due to its slightly lower abv (it is 45.9% here, by the way), but feels richer and more complex. It reminds me most of the 12-year-old expression with a little more zing. Nicely done! 8.5/10

Laphroaig 32-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review

Photo courtesy of Laphroaig.

Photo courtesy of Laphroaig.

This year, Laphroaig has reached a milestone 200th anniversary.  To celebrate, the distillery has released several limited edition whiskies.  Earlier this year we saw the (brief) return of Laphroaig 15-year-old, said to be a favorite of Prince Charles.  Laphroaig Cairdeas 2015 was introduced at this year’s Fèis Ìle.  Both great whiskies.  Then Laphroaig announced a bombshell – a 32-year-old expression.

A very limited release, Laphroaig 32-year was aged exclusively in ex-Oloroso sherry casks.  It’s been bottled at 46.7% abv and is available at a suggested retail price of $1,200.

Thirty-two years is a very long time.  After such an extended maturation process, that infamous Laphroaig peaty punch is gone from the nose.  Instead, lovely stewed fruit (tropical fruit & red apples), brown sugar and baking spices are most prevalent aromas.  The peat smoke here is secondary, lifting the fruit notes above all else.  On entry, there’s a whiff of smoke that leads to honeyed and spiced fruit, and a hint of orange zest.  A brief bitter note shows up.  It lies somewhere between coffee and dark chocolate.  The sherry cask influence is evident in the form of spice and a very light wine note.  The smoke lurks in the background and, like in the nose, is not dominant.  Old and slightly astringent oak shows up for the dry finish.

Amazing.  Simply amazing.  Everything in this whisky is so beautifully balanced.  My gripe is there’s not enough of this whisky to go around.  It’s sad, really.  Anybody collecting this bottle should really pop the cork and pour a dram.  To sit on a shelf and collect dust is the real sin.  After all, whisky is made for drinking.  For those with deep pockets, this is an easy recommendation.

(Note: A small review sample was provided by Laphroaig.)