|Unassuming yet delicious|
Before it changed to this bottle design:
|Sleek and stylish - and still delicious|
That's right, I'm being that guy. You know, that guy that says "I had it before it was popular!" as if I had foresight or special "insider" knowledge of this distillery. I did not, in fact, have any insight but it was (relatively) cheap and I hadn't tried it yet; these were the factors that influenced my purchase. When I bought the 12-year, it was retailing for about $40. It was the best damn scotch I had ever had (at the time) - especially for $40. Then Wine Enthusiast published an article about non-Islay, island scothes and rated the Highland Park whiskies as some of the best deals in the single-malt market.
Fortunately, due to this new media coverage, the local distributor made sure that the employees of the store I worked at could try Highland Park's 18-year scotch (still, one of my favorites). UNfortunately, the price of Highland Park whiskies began to increase too. This increase in popularity brought about the new bottle design as well. Nevertheless, Highland Park remains a great distillery in my mind.
Therefore, I try to keep Highland Park in mind when buying scotch - especially when buying those released by independent bottlers. However, on my recent return-trip from Bavaria, I found some "exclusive" Highland Park bottles at the Duty-Free Shop in the Munich Airport. These "exclusive" bottles are only available "for Global Travel Retail" - at least according to the packaging. These "exclusive" releases are labeled with vintage-dated (1998, 1994, 1990, 1973) rather than the standard age statement labeling (e.g. 12-yr, 18 yr., etc.). What does the vintage matter for distilled spirits? Cognac producers say it means nothing, but Armagnac producers disagree. Personally, I think that vintage does influence the distillate, but only marginally; but I'm digressing. I decided on the 1994 as it was in my price range. As I was returning from Germany, I felt the best use of my unspent Euros was on merchandise rather than selling them for back for U.S. dollars; I would essentially be throwing money away since I had already exchanged my U.S. dollars for Euros and would be losing money in the re-conversion. Furthermore, I felt the money would be best spent on something that I could not buy back in the States - hence this purchase.
I've been waiting to try this scotch for quite some time now. I had inflated its value in my mind due to it's "exclusivity" so I was waiting for the perfect time to try it.
However, anytime is the perfect time for scotch.
I opened the bottle the other day - and was disappointed. Granted, I had inflated expectations of this scotch as it was "exclusive" and I spent about €65 on this bottle (roughly $81 at the time). However, for a roughly 15-yr whisky (distilled sometime in 1994, and bottled sometime in 2010), it wasn't the quality I had expected from Highland Park. That's not to say it's bad, but it's not fantastic by any means. While it has the aromas and taste of dried fruits and nuts macerated in sweet sherry (like the filling in a Lady Baltimore cake) followed by a briny smokiness, it falls flat quickly. It is not quite insipid but it lacks follow-through. I'd expected more from what had been such a great distillery in my mind.
This is not to say I've written-off Highland Park completely; I'm willing to give them a second chance (maybe even a third... or fourth). However, don't always be fooled by the "exclusivity" of the bottling. I thought I had learned that lesson but I guess not.
Learn from my mistakes - "exclusive" doesn't always mean "superior."