Review: Highland Park Cask Strength Release No. 4

Review: Highland Park Cask Strength Release No. 4

It’s been three years since Highland Park inaugurated its Cask Strength Release — the first full-proof release the distillery had ever put out. We reviewed the second edition a year later, and now we’re finally on to Release No. 4.

It’s not the same old story, by the way: Cask Strength No.4 is quite a unique conflagration, “featuring a combination of first-fill sherry seasoned European oak casks, ex-bourbon casks, first-fill sherry seasoned American oak casks, first-fill ex-Port hogsheads, and a small quantity of refill casks – all hand-selected by Highland Park’s Master Whisky Maker Gordon Motion.”

Whew! That’s quite the mix of barrels. And on top of that, the proof is creeping up — we’re now over 64% abv — so let’s see where all of this takes us.

Punishingly hot on the nose, this whisky melds the cereal-driven charms of an island single malt with the fire of a cask strength release, effectively masking some of what lies beneath. Time in glass is essential for some of the booziness to blow off, at which point a bolder sherry note comes into clearer focus, more nutty than citrus-driven, featuring late-arriving notes of oily furniture polish.

It’s bold and sharp on the palate when tasted at full strength, but also chewy and honeyed, which helps to temper some of the heat. It’s spicy with gingery baking spices, warm cider, and a curious, emerging note of dill pickle things get increasingly racy as you experience the whisky. Water is a pro move here and don’t be shy with it, helping to coax out a lot more of the underlying malt and more general sweetness, here showcasing cookie dough and juicy orange oil notes. The more H2O I add, the more classic Highland Park character emerges, with a finish that vaguely nods at the Port cask influence in the whisky while finally bringing out the gentle peat quality that’s always been part of the HP experience.

This is a whisky that is at once classic enough to please the Highland Park faithful while offering something that’s just different enough to merit a spot on the shelf next to your other Orkney-born bottles. If you can find it, give it a whirl.

128.6 proof.

A- / $100

Highland Park Cask Strength Release No. 4




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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