A 20-Year-Old Single Cask Exclusive from Highland Park for Only $150 at K&L California – Scotch Whisky News

An Otherworldly Single Malt at an Unbelievable Price
1998 Orkney (Highland Park) 20 Year Old “Thompson Bros.” K&L Exclusive Single Refill Hogshead Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($149.99)
“We’re not seeing anything on the market anywhere close to this caliber in this style.”
— David Othenin-Girard, K&L SoCal Spirits Buyer

Fans of Highland Park take note! This very special 20 Year Old comes to us from our new partnership with the Thompson Brothers and is one of the finer Orkney expressions we’ve encountered. Of course, when one sees Highland Park with such a significant age statement there’s the expectation of a hefty price tag. Remarkably, we are able to offer this K&L exclusive cask for under $150. This is an absolute bargain for a dram of this pedigree and standing. Made in a classic island style, it delivers a seemingly ceaseless array of sweet smoke, sea spray, savory herb, dried fruits, and a delightful complement of mineral—essentially everything one could hope for from this venerable distillery. Single casks from Highland Park grow scarcer by the day, so it’s possible we won’t see a cask like this again and certainly not so affordably priced. Given the strong demand for Highland Park in all its various forms, we expect this rarity to sell out in a matter of days, if not sooner. Single malt fans will serve themselves well by adding this very special 20-year-old to their collection.

1998 Orkney (Highland Park) 20 Year Old “Thompson Bros.” K&L Exclusive Single Refill Hogshead Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) ($149.99)

The wonderful Dornoch Distillery sits hidden on the main drag in the tiny town of Dornoch. Behind the majestic Dornoch Castle Hotel and its famous whisky bar sits one of Scotland’s tiniest and most exciting distilleries. Founded by brothers Simon and Phil, the distillery is completely contained in one tiny stone shed. While the brothers might not have the resources and capital of many of Scotland’s new distilleries, they do have an incredible vision and the unwavering support of the single malt-loving community. In that little shed a truly unique experiment is underway. The Thompsons are trying to make whisky the old way. The distillery was funded without any outside investment and pre-sales of the first casks were crowd sourced online. The contrast between extreme forward thinking and commitment to tradition makes the Dornoch Distillery one of Scotland’s most exciting new distillers bar none. We’ve got years before their malt is ready to go and in the meantime the brothers are distilling and selling an incredible malted gin and trafficking in some seriously delicious single casks. This HP is part of the great wave of unnamed Orkney that’s hit the market recently. They nabbed some of the very best and somehow offer it up at a reasonable price. Other bottlers offer versions of the same whisky for twice this price and none we’ve had taste as good as this. It’s got everything, balanced excellently. Delicate Orkney peat, bold malt, gorgeous maritime quality—a real island dream.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 10, 2019

We’ve had some up and downs with Highland Park recently. We’ve secured some incredible old stock with the distillery name on it, but also had offers for no named stuff at ridiculously high prices. Needless to say we’re always game for some HP. It’s really one of the very best distilleries out there and these incredible “no name” bottlings have been some of the very best values on the market today. Yet some of our suppliers feel comfortable charging well above what another no name might cost from another distillery. Of course, they’re looking at this like a business opportunity. They have high quality juice that can be implied to be from one of Scotland’s great distilleries, and most people are probably willing to pay their prices, but we’ve mostly avoided these offerings since we’ve been securing “named” versions in the $250-300 range consistently for the last two seasons. It wouldn’t make any sense for us to sell a similar product no name for the same price. These products must offer value. So we’ve passed on several casks due to the very high prices. But now it seems our supply of distillery bottlings is becoming more and more scarce. We had to say no to a 21-year-old hogshead this year from Old Particular due to the incredibly high price. And at the same time, our friends in Dornoch came knocking with this stunner. The fun labels poke fun at the new aggressive Viking style of the distillery bottlings, but do nothing to prepare you for the awesomeness that’s inside the bottle. The nose is the ultimate coastal curiosity: salty sea spray, coastal shrubs, crushed rocks, smoldering heather, floral peat, golden honey, ripe pears. Craggy rocks being battered by the ocean. Lots and lots going on, extremely layered and complex, but not brutish or explosive. On the palate there’s brown butter, wild honey, stewed grains, more peat. This is how I imagine gold tastes when it’s melted. More minerals more smoke, but not hard smoke. Soft sweet smoke. We’re not seeing anything on the market anywhere close to this caliber in this style. Nearly perfect.

Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: November 23, 2019

HP20 is going to be delicious no matter what. At 150 bucks, it’s all the sweeter. This number is particularly interesting as it is a hogshead filled from same day vattings before it was sold off onto the independent market – a number of these casks have come up as Edrington has divested stocks, rumor has it, to pay for the budget sucking massive new Macallan distillery. It’s classically salty and has that beautiful medium intensity heather driven peat that the distillery is known for, although it shows most on the finish and not up front. Apricots and other stone fruits in varying levels of dehydration play across the entire experience from nose to palate and intermix beautifully with the floral smoke on the finish. Coming in at an even 50% ABV at cask strength, it’s a very sippable whisky neat. With a touch of water the oils come crashing out of solution as do the grain notes. The aromas suddenly explode with honeyed barley and a whole new drinking experience begins. An extremely good first showing from our new partners in Sutherland, the Thompson Brothers.

Will Blakely | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 08, 2019

Perhaps I’ve grown jaded or entitled (or both) from so many high-proof cask-strength offerings of late, so when I saw this clocked in at only 50% ABV, I was less enthusiastic. This gorgeous whisky made quick work of showing me what a fool I’d been. Turns out that in the 20 years of barrel aging, its alcohol reduced to 50% naturally, packing all that exquisite flavor into every coveted drop. This isn’t your hedonistic sherry bomb or caramel-sweet bourbon barrel like the distillery-released 17-year—what tumbles elegantly out of this bottle is superbly refined. Sultana, baked apricot, sea spray, and windswept grain build on the palate with the perfect amount of heat and ashy smoke. The finish is long, but not rushed, lingering with that oily texture we’ve come to love from properly aged Highland Park. Considering the price, this should be on everyone’s short list this season.

Alex Schroeder | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: November 21, 2019

I was just calling our Bunnahabhain 30 single cask our best whisky when Andrew plopped a bottle of this in front of me. Now I’m reconsidering. A single cask of 20-year-old Orkney Highland Park that is smooth as milk at 50% abv, with a very bright and distinct apricot, honey & apple core with a very subtle gravelly smokiness enveloping the fruit. I just can’t stop nosing it. The Thompson Bros. label is big bonus, too.

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