2006 Highland Park 12 Year Old “K&L Exclusive” Cask #5036 First Fill European Oak Sherry – Scotch Whisky News

Among the Finest Whiskies Money Can Buy
2006 Highland Park 12 Year Old “K&L Exclusive” Cask #5036 First Fill European Oak Sherry Hogshead Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($159.99)
“This will easily be one of the best whiskies of the year at any price point.”
— David Othenin-Girard, K&L SoCal Spirits Buyer

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While $160 might seem a lot for a 12-year-old single malt, the cask highlighted here is no ordinary bottling. First, it comes from Highland Park, one of the most celebrated distilleries in all of Scotland. Second, it is aged in a first fill European cask that was shipped directly from Jerez, and casks of this quality come at premium based on their exceptional quality and scarcity. Third, it clocks in at a staggering 132 proof, making it a spirit of unparalleled potency. Add all this up and you have one of the most thrilling opportunities we’ve seen this year. As the tasting notes below will attest, this is a multi-dimensional affair that delivers all the best Highland Park has to offer. The fact is, a whisky of this pedigree could cost three times the price and still be considered an outstanding buy. Because we have a strong relationship with Highland Park, we have access to some of their very finest casks, and this is undoubtedly among the best we’ve encountered. Simply put, this is a single malt no serious whisky collector should be without. It’s not often magical expressions like this one come along, making this a rare opportunity to own one of the best 12-years money can buy.

2006 Highland Park 12 Year Old “K&L Exclusive” Cask #5036 First Fill European Oak Sherry Hogshead Cask Strength Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) ($159.99)

After last year’s successful campaign of single casks from Highland Park, this exceptional distillery is back at it again. Last year, after years of being denied of the privilege, we finally secured a cask of the venerated Orkney producer’s finest. That was a single second fill hogshead and it was, by all accounts, a monster. How could we possibly top that glorious offer? Well, since we sold out in a matter of weeks, we figured we probably never would. But Highland Park pulled out all the stops and searched deep in their warehouses for something that could possibly match the unctuous character of that amazing bottle. We’re very lucky to have a great relationship with the owners of the distillery, so we had first crack at this year’s offerings. This first fill European oak sherry hogshead is a stunner. On paper it looks similar to the previous cask, but you’ll note the distinction in the source of the wood. European oak is much rarer than American oak when it comes to sherry and it’s reserved typically for only the highest quality wines. American oak is abundant and cheap and more forgiving, offering stronger vanilla notes and softer tannins. The bold richness of the European oak requires decades on the bodega’s soleras to soften and because they’re so expensive and prized by the producers, less of it gets discarded for use in Scotland. Put the finest spirit into the finest wood and you’ve got a recipe for something magical. That’s exactly what we’ve got here. Don’t forget to add a splash of water.

Andrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 23, 2020

A veritable powder keg. This whisky is as beastly now that it’s bottled as the day we first sampled it. It’s wound up tight just waiting to burst forth. The European oak is simply stunning. The depth of the sweet baking spices is rivaled by the bright fresh cracked pepper and balanced out perfectly by Highland Park’s signature heather peat smoke. The nose is bold and dry at first – raisined fruit and citrus peel fight against a beautiful oxidized nuttiness. The rich orange marmalade comes out with a touch of water as do the sweeter more candied sherry notes. The finish is a long dissertation on chocolate and nuts and how well they go together. When you take something as great as Highland Park and select out only the finest barrels of the highest quality and bottle them at full proof – it’s pure magic. Truly a bottle to hang your collector’s hat on.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: June 22, 2020

Some bystanders might glance at the price of this cask and balk, but anyone who’s more concerned with getting the best possible quality than pinching pennies will take a second look. Not many blue chip distillers are willing to bottle single cask for us and Highland Park isn’t throwing us their leftovers with this program. This is top-tier single malt with pedigree. In addition to that, this product is the exact same price as last year’s cask and comes from even more prized stocks than last year’s. It’s first fill, meaning it was dumped in Jerez after years of maturing sherry and immediately filled with this spirit on arrival in Scotland. It’s European oak, a rarity that costs both the bodega and the distiller a significant premium over the much more common American oak hogshead. And finally, it’s a whopping 132 proof, bordering on hazmat. The resulting whisky is beyond what I would normally describe as a bomb. It’s more like an ICBM. Let’s have a taste. The color is mahogany. The nose is unusually restrained considering the color and proof. It’s almost asleep at first pour. Subtle hints of chocolate powder, dried fruit, cinnamon and clove. But, one tiny sip and you realize the immensity of this whisky is completely masked. It’s thick. Coating the mouth and offering endlessly deep layers of oloroso, hints of salty, clean smoke, dried apricots, hot candies, caramelized pecans. Complete devastation. Just a few splashes of water and the nose opens to meet the palate. Unusually, I think there’s a careful balance to reach on that front, with the power and depth of the whisky and the great complexity meeting somewhere between 110-120 proof. Add slowly and let it find itself. Once it’s there, expect that on the nose chocolate powder will to turn to molten fudge. Candied mango, sultanas, the finest old teak, far away pipe smoke, and hints of the ocean smashing onto rock. On the palate, now we have all the spices, Manuka honey, a perfect wafting background smoke. A steep, strong whisky that requires a good deal of time to fully appreciate, but once you reach the top, you’ll find few better views. This will easily be one of the best whiskies of the year at any price point.

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