To the H to the I to the T! Today I’m polishing off a Highland Park 12, a Cadenhead Inchgower 12yo, and the inimitable Talisker 18. First, to Orkney!
The last time I tried HPs core range 12yo was in 2017 [WLP184 & WLP284], so another revisit it due – especially in light of its inclusion in the inaugural OSWAs as nominee in the ‘Best Entry Level Single Malt’ category. This is a bottle from 2018, however, a freebie courtesy of Whiskylive for the price of an email address. What a deal that was.
- N: Given how seasoned/acclimatised us malt enthusiasts are to > 46% abv bottlings, this minimal-strength offering comes across as rather tame/limp, though despite its temperedness, it does still speak of a juicy fruity [even meaty] maltiness alongside dry yet squidgy vanilla and very slight saltiness. Then there’s the straight-ahead Caol Ila-like peatiness and an agreeably subtle sherry influence which pairs well with the savoury-sweet dry vanilla wafer.
- T: Same again really. What there is of this minimally-presented Island malt indicates it certainly deserves the bump in abv. We would certainly pay more for what Ralfy regularly refers to as an ‘integrity presentation’. On the plus side, we’ve super blending of casks that add flavour without trouncing the spirit. Furthermore, it tastes like there’s 14-15yo juice in here at times. Positivity and frustrations come in equal measure.
- F: Peat after more fruity honeyed malty/grassiness, but the phenols are very slight in comparison to the far peatier and oilier if drier grassy Talisker 18yo [coming up].
- C: Very good, yes, but there’s no getting away from the feeling of an opportunity missed. I used most of this half bottle as a base for a new infinity bottle, as it wasn’t doing anything for me initially as a single malt in its own right. At 46%, I can imagine this being the best [age-stated] entry-level single malt, but if that were to happen, perhaps Diageo fear that fewer people would stretch to the 18yo? It looks like the 16yo at 44.5% [WB] speaks to the enthusiast the loudest.
Scores 84 points [as is].
Inchgower 2009/2021 12yo Cadenhead’s [288 bts] 54.7% WB86.60
- N: Not dissimilar to a recently enjoyed 10yo sherried Edradour from Signatory [WLP84]. We have been seeing and enjoying this contemporary if less clinical sherried style of single malt for a few years now. Namely, a dry-ish squidgy herbal-sawdust-y raisin-y [flor-like] > sooty-ish oily roasted [salty-ish] nutty-skin savoury-sweet number. Then there’s the raspberry > strawberry Cornetto [ > less the cone], with the lightest afterthought-sprinkling of ‘dunnage dust’. I pick out a slight lemon bleach note too, but then you could argue its sour lemon Gormeh Sabzi with mandarin peel, lighter fluid, icing sugar,… Plenty to look out for. The more you look, the more you see, so it seems.
- T: A sour ~ = ~ sweet arrival with steady if not over eager raisin-y leathery dank-fresh warehouse vibes, accompanied by an established if mild pepperiness. Months later, I hone in more on the salted toffee front, still a leathery touch,…. sage,… elderflower,… and dusty liquorice wood/pepperiness as if its just the husk of the corns. There is something of a muddled peppery/spearmint/cinnamon/clove heated situation/bite in the middle stages, but this is alleviated somewhat with smaller sips. Don’t forget the rich vanilla too, the sherry being just a cask finish since 2020 after all. Telling us the full maturation history is always appreciated yet frequently neglected. I assume if it’s not stated, it’s fair to assume the previous cask[s] – before a finish – have been ex-bourbon.
- F: Cellulose-[soggy leaf]-vegetal leathery raisiny fruity-lactic/tannic sour-cream fruity-fresh > with a continuing waxy-dry squidgyness. At the death, sweet n salty caramel/soft toffee [which can’t be bad can it], alongside a sawdusty barley sugar dustiness and a passing pine needle whisp. Boozy > metallic < soft cheese concludes [if you layer it enough], and a congealed cinnamon woody finish.
- C: An all-sorts kind of ride from start to finish. Heavily steered by the sherry cask finish, the distillery seems largely irrelevant. Despite my subjectivity allowing plenty of leeway and much forgiveness, there are some muddling issues and a certain predictability to this one. Having said that, it’s still recommended, and add a splash of Mackmyra’s Skordetid [WLP85] for a point or two more.
Scores 85 points
The last time I reviewed Talisker 18yo was in 2017 [WLP83,… along with HP12 btw], and a year before that with a score of 87 [no notes]. This is a bottle I bought in 2014 for £67. Hasn’t it kept its price-point well given what we’ve witnessed of whisky prices since. Let’s see if my view of it in 2017 was particularly miserly?
- N: I’d forgotten just how good this was, an oily sea-salty citric leathery fruitiness with a drier phenol level higher than remembered, characterised as salty smouldering ash. It’s more savoury than I remember it too, and with a homemade element to this as if a part-blend with Springbank and Longrow.
- T: Here, we’ve a more unusual example of where the palate is easily as good as the nose. Like the nose, it’s far more phenolic [medicinal and sooty] than my memory recalls. The arrival leads to a moreish bitter-savoury~sweet cellulose-citrus dry grassy developmental chew,…. more medicinal phenols with some woody bitterness slowly becoming more creamy and woody on the turn whilst all the time maintaining its salty spirit intensity – something HP12 simply can’t do at 40%. There’s no doubt that even after 18 years of maturation, the light fruity barley spirit is still easily identifiable. That’s quite something after 18 years, and there’s no immaturity nor overbaked-ness. I’d love a 3cl of Talisker’s new make to have alongside.
- F: Dry-not-drying peated finish barley sugar finish with soft echoes of what’s gone before. Adding just a few drops of water promotes the menthol-y salty malty > aniseed along with a suggestion of clove and nutmeg.
- C: Currently my ‘wet the whistle’/goto dram, this is a medium-heavy peated malt that imparts little phenolic content to corrupt the next dram. It’s somewhat more predictable on the second pour, but I love it for one first dram. Currently at a bargain price too. After the 18yo, unless you are loaded, forget the official older bottlings.
Scores 89 points [I’m looking for slightly more body and length for a 90]
Check out Ralfy’s review which has since come out since I wrote these notes. If Ralfy is right, we should stock up sooner than later. On the other hand, precarious times are hard to predict and responses to them even harder as demands and fashions change with the wind.
I bought another bottle just in case [bottle review in due course].