Highland Park recently inaugurated a new line of “batch releases” intended to expand its core range, the promise being that “each batch shares the same underlying character in the whisky but with different flavours coming to the fore based on the cask makeup.” This is actually pretty big news: Cask Strength Release No. 1 is the first full-proof release of Highland Park ever to appear in the core HP lineup. For this first release we’re getting a non-age statement bottling that is matured primarily in sherry-seasoned American oak casks (but presumably also some bourbon casks).
Highland Park at full strength is quite an experience. The nose is heavy as expected with sherry notes, nutty and sharp with an intensely winey character that speaks to spices and oiled leather. It’s intense and Christmassy, a perfect olfactory sensation for this time of year.
On the palate the heavy abv makes itself known immediately, and while the whisky is quite hot, it’s manageable at full proof. Again, the hallmarks of sherry are in full effect: Bold citrus, spiced nuts (heavy on the cloves), and dark mahogany wood. Water tempers the heat but doesn’t really dull the flavor at all, though neither does it really transform the whisky into anything new and unexpected. The finish keeps the pedal down on notes of juicy orange, sweet honey, aggressive spice, and caramel sauce. It simply never lets up, with those cloves showing as the last element to fade.
This is lovely on its own, but I also recommend trying it as the main event in a twist on an Old Fashioned cocktail.