single malt scotch whisky

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!

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


Review: Mortlach Core Range (12-yr, 16-yr, and 20-yr)

Ah, the Beast of Dufftown. Mortlach, the Speyside distillery known for its rich sherried whiskies, has recently updated their core lineup to include 12-, 16-, and 20-year-old expressions.

All whiskies are bottled at 43.4% ABV. They all have something else in common – none of these expressions feature lightly peated malt.


The entry level expression is a 12-year-old single malt called the Wee Witchie. Available for $50, this whisky is rich and fruity on the nose with hints of overly-ripe apricot, oak spice, and sweet malt. The palate bears creamy vanilla notes as well as toffee, ripe pear, sweet malt, and a sprinkling of baking spices. The medium length finish leaves sweet malt, toasted oak, and candied citrus. This whisky is big and oily. The sweet malt is slightly dominant at first, but some airtime allows other flavors and aromas to shine. 7.5/10


In the middle of the new lineup lies Mortlach 16-year-old ($110). The nose is big and aromatic; much heavier than its younger sibling. It’s also much darker, with loads of dried fruit and a heavier helping of baking spices, especially cloves. Those spices carry over onto the palate. Waves of cinnamon and cloves hit first, followed by waves of stewed fruit and astringent oak. Dark toffee and tea tannins lead us into the long, sweet, earthy finish. Big and meaty, this 16-year-old expression might just be my favorite of the bunch. 9/10


Finally, we have Mortlach 20-year-old, available for $250. The nose is slightly subdued but starts to come alive with a splash of water and some airtime. There is a lot going on here. Hints of stewed stone fruit concentrate, spice, and aromatic wood lead to fermented tobacco leaves and dark toffee. This is an oily whisky. It’s palate coating, for sure. An initial earthiness leads to big caramel and stone fruit notes. Cocoa and honey give way to old oak and dried figs. The finish is long and features lingering notes of licorice and dried fruit… the official tasting notes are on the money for that last part. Mortlach 20-year-old is a fine whisky, but might be too heavy and meaty for regular drinking. Call it a special occasion whisky. 8.5/10

Thanks to Diageo for the samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Highland Park 30-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Photo courtesy of Highland Park

I get to taste lots of wonderful whiskies. Sometimes, a whisky on my “must taste” list comes across my sample table. I can now scratch Highland Park 30-year-old off that list.

Aged at least three long decades in mostly first-fill Spanish and American oak sherry casks as well as refill casks, Highland Park 30 utilizes the distillery’s traditional 20% peated / 80% unpeated spirit. That peat is from Orkney and carries the distillery’s signature aromatic heather note. It’s bottled at 45.7% ABV and not colored.

The nose is dark and sweet, with hints of dark toffee, dried figs, nutmeg, cocoa, and some citrus. Taste-wise, Highland Park 30 carries some weight. This is not a light summer whisky. It’s oily, with hints of dark toffee, roasted nuts and dried fruit while being imbued with rancio and Highland Park’s heathery peat smoke. There’s a touch of baking spice and old oak heading into the long finish. There are lingering notes of dark fruit, spice, peat, and oak.

This whisky is stunning… simply stunning. For carrying such a high age statement, Highland Park 30-year-old still has a bit of vibrancy in the form of come citrus that helps cut through the darker, heavier notes. This rich and decadent whisky comes at an equally high price. A bottle will cost you $900. I’d better start saving.


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