Highland Park 25 is another one you can’t get in South Africa. And not because we don’t have an appetite for single malts (we drink a lot of whisky), but because we don’t have the disposable income required to actually buy a bottle. Spending this much money on liquid in fancy packaging is something we reserve for replacement printer cartridges.
In fact, we only officially get the 12, 18 and Dark Origins – the 15, 21, 25, 30, 40 and all the limited edition releases are conspicuously absent, which is surprising given the fact that you can quite easily find a bottle of 60-year-old Glenfarclas and 50-year-old Glenfiddich. Odd.
Anyway, I haven’t done much research into the older Highland Parks, but (like the 18 over the 12) the 25 claims to include a slightly greater proportion of first-fill sherry casks. So I’m expecting piles of sherry up front and a fair amount of spice. But let’s hope those extra years in the casks haven’t crushed the life out of an already near-perfect spirit. Here goes!
A deep, rusty bronze.
Oh ho ho ho ho!
Once my brain finished rebooting, a few words came to mind: Shocking. Unspeakable. Tremendous.
Just… dammit. Soft, warming sherry. Spices – nutmeg, paprika. Glazed oranges. Toasted almonds. Maple syrup. Less zesty than the Spice Tree, but impossibly more complex overall. Soft on the nose despite the ~48% ABV. Old leather, dark chocolate and plenty of oak.
Okay, so this is new. It seems I now know what pure spiritual enlightenment tastes like. Huh. Surprised they didn’t put that in the tasting notes on the bottle. I immediately poured some Spice Tree to compare, and finished by tasting them side-by-side:
Highland Park 25 is incredibly flavourful, rich and complex. Smells and tastes line up completely: spice, citrus and maple syrup. A potent but not overpowering sherry, red fruits, pineapple, a little grassy, faint wood smoke and a meaty chewiness (a la the 18-year-old). Utterly special, one-of-a-kind.
In short, I have a hunch that drinking this stuff unlocks the precognition required to accurately conduct interstellar travel.
I was brave enough to cut this down to 43%, which honestly didn’t affect the flavour much – perhaps a little more fruity and bitter, and a little less smoky. Water according to preference, but be careful!
If the world is ever overwhelmed by nuclear war, the person who holds the last bottle of Highland Park 25 will be crowned God-Emperor, with ultimate authority over the mutant hordes and warring tribesmen that ravage the once beautiful cities and forests.
Highland Park 25 is so, so good.
Rich, complex, potent – a truly hedonistic sensory experience. Goosebump inducing. Involuntary eye-closing. The fear of choking while trying to take a sip and gasp simultaneously.
Of course it’s too expensive for a reasonable person to own. But this is one whisky you need to try before you die. Find an open bottle at a bar, steal one from a private collection or beg for a glass from a rich and obnoxious friend. (If you happen to be someone’s rich and obnoxious friend and are looking to buy a mind-blowing single malt, then Highland Park 25 should be near the top of your list. And while you’ll naturally be tempted to hoard it for yourself, do some poor soul a kindness and share a glass or two.)
Here goes: Highland Park 25 is the best whisky I’ve ever tasted, officially unseating The Spice Tree from its former throne. No other whisky has actually left me speechless (for an unnervingly long period of time) and huffing the empty glass like an executive producer doing lines at a wrap-party. In the space of a single 50ml sample, I feel genuine nostalgia and reverence for it, something that typically takes months attacking an entire bottle.
If I play my cards right, I’ll have another glass before the world turns to radioactive sludge!