With gale-force winds that would make Mount Washington shiver, and scant winter sunlight, the northern Scottish islands of Orkney
provide little reason to spend much time outside, unless it's for the annual game/riot of Ba'
. But while not ideal for sunbathing, those conditions do lend themselves to other pursuits, namely, distilling whisky-which is what Highland Park
has been doing since 1798. As we told you last October
, Highland Park announced the release of the oldest island region single-malt yet, a 50 years old bottling housed in five kilos of hand-made silver designed by fellow Scot, Maeve Gillies
Gillies, along with Highland Park's Martin Daraz and Gerry Tosh, were in town recently to share a dram of the precious release, which the US will only see five of this year, currently priced at $17,500.
Having spent a half-century in Sherry oak casks, the nose and palate evidenced the pleasantly expected notes of almond, clove, and candied orange. And while mellowed by age, I nonetheless picked up a healthy amount of vanilla and wood, which Daraz pointed out was most likely due to the fact that after 50 years in cask, the liquid moves beyond the portion seasoned by the Sherry and deeper into the wood staves. At just 2% peat concentration-which Highland Park still cuts by hand-the smokiness hovered at the periphery of the tongue, never feeling intrusive.
While obviously meant for the collector, both in terms of aesthetics and content, Gillies pointed out that her bottle design holds a reward for increasing the ullage: When viewed from behind, a rose window design becomes visible on the reverse of the Highland Park sandstone emblem as the level drops. "So you can pray to God for more," quipped Tosh.