Whiskies aged in first-fill Sherry butts are especially so, and those drawn entirely from such sherried stock are invariably known as “sherry bombs” for the potent flavors the malt whisky has derived from its time spent mingling with the sherry-soaked wood. The ‘Sherried’ character, therefore, is down to the Sherry itself, but also oxidation and the way in which the Sherry has interacted with and changed compounds in the oak. All of these then interact over time with the maturing spirit.

The Sherry and wood form a pincer movement that stamps out distillery character or any sense of identity in the distillate itself. For me, a great Sherry-matured malt should possess a balance between distillery identity, fruitiness, earthiness and a lick of spice. Sherry bombs almost always eschew this tightrope balance in favour of heat, density and aggression of wood flavor.

Established in 1798 on Orkney, Highland Park is the northernmost Scotch whisky distillery in the world. Slow-burning, aromatic peat from Hobbister Moor; hand turned floor maltings, Sherry seasoned European oak casks, cool maturation in our temperate island climate and a long and unhurried harmonisation process.

Highland Park combines peat and sherry in a way no other distillery can match—and its 18 year old is the ultimate exemplar of the house style. An elegant melding of peat, stewed fruits, and toffee, wrapped up in a velvety mouthfeel.

ABV: 43%. Color: Natural cask-driven color, clear, bright, burnished gold

It’s mostly sweet notes, barley sugar, marzipan, baked apples. A profusion of ripe floral notes and fresh blossom with a delectable fruit salad. Notes of honeyed exotic fruits with a little botrytis. The smoky arrival, fruity palate blowing in your mouth. Gentle peat, soft toffee, floral notes, and honey on the beautifully fragrant nose.   

Quite sweet on the nose but less so on the palate. Some bitter marmalade, grassy notes, dried fruits (but not sherried), a slight hint of ginger biscuits, a solvent note. Creamy and full with fruit conserves and espresso. A creaminess with cinnamon and allspice. Notes of toffee with thick black forest honey with a touch more citrus.  Cherries, dark chocolate, marzipan, heather honey and aromatic peat smoke. Along with some grassy and herbal notes.

Long, dry and well sugared with bitter tanins and a herbal edge. Smoke and more toffee mingle in the long, elegant finish with lingering spice and smoke.

Balance, Body & Feel
Does the sweet to dry thing, although less so than other Highland Parks. It’s not sharp but you do detect powerful spice and citrus. Adding couple drops of water really opens this Scotch up. Very pleasant but not complex.