Oh, the good old days! Thanks to the kindness of one of the most important italian whisky collector, Mister Franco Dilillo, today we have the privilege of tasting an official Highland Park distilled in 1958, put in a green and dumpy bottle 17 years later, in 1975, imported in Italy by Ferraretto. No need to point out that it is a piece of history and that is increasingly rare to find bottles like this nowadays… Luckily there is Milano Whisky Festival, luckily there are its exhibitors. And luckily we always bring our samples with us…
N: What a charm! It’s very compact and still ‘alive’, lively, not burdened by time. We like to start from the sharp side, that however- we want to emphasize the concept– doesn’t stand above the other aromas. They are perfectly equal: and therefore we have a light and waxy peat, without smoke, with very clear coastal and marine notes; as well as suggestions of damp wood, cellar. Immediately then we climb on the citrus, both orange peel and pulp. A great fruity sense, incredible, in huge growth, with a lot of yellow fresh fruit (juicy peaches, even a touch of mango!); but also cooked apples and apple pie. Barley, almonds and almond milk (and why not marzapane?). Simply delicious. After a while we are able to feel a veil of smoke; then also tobacco and a box of pipes; maybe leather.
P: medium bodied, but it’s oily and chewy. At first we have a slightly earthy and coastal peat. There is some kind of soft bitterness that is perhaps the result of bottle oxidation during over forty years of aging in glass (Serge also writes about this topic on the malt maniacs website here). Even if not deflagrating, there are fruity notes, consistent with the nose: then yellow peaches, apples, apple pie; orange juice (and a bitter peel); still a fantastic sense of malt, brioche and almonds paste. Again a veil of smoke.
F: long and persistent, it swings between its three souls: fruit, peat, wax/old furniture, and we are delighted. Very impressive.
After all this time, this Highland Park has an extraordinary complexity and an incredible aromatic intensity. Even if we still have some doubts about OBE, we weren’t expecting that shy fruity notes on the palate because, judging only from the nose, we would have said we would have encountered epic fruit bombs. In the end, if we have here a 95 (and more) point on the nose, the palate is “only” 90 – first world problems, we know. So our personal compromise is 93/100. Thanks to Franco (and Giorgio and Riccardo) for the sample.
Recommended soundtrack: Roger Waters – The Last Refugee.