A Pair of K&L Exclusive, Age-Stated Gems – Laphroaig & Highland Park at Unbeatable Pricing – Scotch Whisky News

A Great Day for Scotch Collectors—Don’t Miss These Age-Stated K&L Exclusives
“Highland Park 20-Year is going to be delicious no matter what. At $150, it’s all the sweeter.”
— Andrew Whitely, K&L Spirits Buyer

“This is that perfectly idiosyncratic Laphroaig… A total dream and a secret that deserves to be kept.”
— David Othenin-Girard, K&L Spirits Buyer

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Today’s Scotch offer from the spirits team is a nice little bookend of sorts featuring a pair of gorgeous K&L Exclusive casks from two of our absolute favorite independent bottlers, one just hitting its stride and the other one singing its swan song and wrapping up a truly storied run. The Thompson brothers’ Dornoch distillery is a new venture with a focus on the past. While their own age-stated single-malts are still years from market, they’ve been supplying us with one stellar aged cask after another from one of Scotland’s most impressive collections, and at incredible pricing to boot. This 20 year old “no name” Highland Park hogshead drinks like a whisky twice the price. In fact, that’s the going rate for similar casks of named HP that we’ve been offered from other suppliers. As the old adage goes, why pay more? In addition, we’re offering one of the very last casks we’ll ever get from the beloved Chieftan’s label. This stalwart bottler is winding down operations and will soon no longer be offering up casks for sale. Those who have gotten their hands on other Chieftan’s releases will know how bittersweet this is. It’s too soon to say if we’ll get another one from them, but if this is how it ends, then it’s hard to beat a sherry-aged, 13-year-old Laphroaig. Needless to say, these outstanding finds are some of the best deals we’ll offer all year on age-stated Scotch, and at these prices our limited supply is sure to fly out the door. Collectors and aficionados, it’s your move. You know what to do.

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.

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

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 it, 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 with 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. One the palate the 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.

Jackson Lee | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 13, 2019

I can’t tell if the stick figure on the bottle is going into battle or partying but either way, it’s capturing what I’m getting from this unique Orkney single malt. I dig the label and I dig the juice. The nose gives off a pretty perfume of baked Bartlett pear, cinnamon, vanilla, toasted marshmallow, and sassafras. The palate provides that same baked pear profile combined with chocolate covered toffee with a full-bodied texture. The finish leaves you with a nice, spicy tingling sensation on the tip of the tongue with spicy cinnamon notes and as I begin to regain feeling a subtle juicy pear jelly belly note clings as the breath escapes. This is the kind of Scotch I could see myself drinking all day in a ski lodge surrounded by friends.

Jeffrey Jones | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 13, 2019

This single malt is elegant and pretty. It is very complex and this comes out when one first smells it. There are aromas of sea, beeswax and sweet malt. In the mouth it is again complex with malt and sea notes and a hint of savory. On the light side, this selection is about finesse and layered flavors. With a touch of water it becomes a little sweeter but it was very good without an addition of water.

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 release 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.

2005 Laphroaig 13 Year Old “Chieftain’s” K&L Exclusive Single Sherry Butt Cask Strength Unchillfiltered Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (750ml) ($159.99)

The magical distillery on the south shore of Islay, like all south shore distillers, is quite unlike any other. But Laphroaig has a certain place in the hearts of the hardest core peat lovers. They’re the last distiller down there to malt a portion of their barley on site. Their complex system of tiny stills create the most peculiar and enticing peated spirit in the world. The quality and consistency of their casks is second to none. But over the last decade, what was once a staple in the independent bottling repertoire has completely disappeared. Laphroaig is simply not selling casks any longer. And when we do find casks they’re usually in very inactive hogsheads and declassified to their trade name, “Williamson.” Now that’s not a huge problem because Laphroaig always tastes good, but since bottlers can’t replace even those few casks, the prices have gone absolutely bonkers. Signatory recently bottled a sister cask those we sold here just three years ago for $200, Laphroaig from the fall of 1997 for $700. And by God those bottles sell. But when we were offered a beautiful butt for a not completely abhorrent price, we jumped all over it. Thank the Lord of the Isles that we did, as it’s a complete and utter masterpiece. Some purists askew the idea of Laphroaig in active sherry, but much of their experience is limited to low proof distillery bottlings and finishes. It’s truly a stupendous find and is going to be one of those casks that people remember for years to come. Collectors and drinkers alike take note.

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

Every so often time stops, a dizzying array of pieces fall into place, and you’re left with one special moment. Such is drinking this masterpiece. Tragically, Chieftain’s is going away. One of the most storied and high quality bottlers in Scotland has pulled out all of the stops for its swan song. Aged to perfection, this cask toes the line perfectly between every facet of Laphroaig. It’s equally salty, malty, fruity, floral, and smoky in that amazing way that only Laphroaig can be. In addition there is a splendid cigar box spice provided by an amazing barrel of the highest quality and perfectly matched to the whisky. Not overpowering, it is just robust enough to blend seamlessly with everything on offer from the spirit. My best Laphroaig drinking experience was having John Campbell, Distillery Manager, walk me through the classic 10 year, a single cask bourbon barrel roughly 14 years old, and the legendary 30 year. The insights those 3 carefully chosen whiskies provided into the soul of Laphroaig is something I will never forget. It set off a personal and more in-depth study of the whisky behind the smoke and iodine that the distillery is so famous for. This one cask highlights the traits that make the the malt from this special place so complete and such a rarity in the flavor spectrum without giving up that core profile. Tasting this malt and then going back to Laphraoig 10 will forever unlock for the drinker the often overlooked and underappreciated glory of the classic expression.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: November 07, 2019

Laphroaig is one of those incredible spirits that is both polarizing and unifying, sometimes between the same people at the same exact time. I personally adore almost everything I taste from this special distillery. Yes there are some underwhelming distillery bottlings that might feel a bit over manipulated, but the whisky is never ever bad. The great heights that can be achieved by Laphroaig are truly unbelievable. And uniquely, some of the very best from this special distillery are not even very old. The very best Laphroaigs I’ve ever had the great pleasure of tasting were no more than 10 years old. Given they’d have been distilled 40 or 50 years ago, but the fact remains that Laphroaig is often more special in its youth. For years Laphroaig has felt like a bit of a secret that you weren’t sure you wanted to share with everyone you know. Particularly that was true of the special single casks that we’d come across in warehouses and whisky shops throughout Scotland. But in the current climate, where the distillery itself has no need or use for trading or brokering excess production, what was once a special secret to find and share is now an endangered species completely. So when we get offered casks like this we expect them to be unfathomably expensive. But even if this were twice the price I’d still have bought it. This is that perfectly idiosyncratic Laphroaig, apt to have you disagreeing with yourself. Deep wafting peat, a mix of bitter herbs, salty ocean trawler, candied apricots and diesel engine. Old leather furniture, Seville oranges, not quite tropical, but not so severe as it might be. On the palate a building sweetness envelopes the powerful smoke as it wafts toward the olfactory system. Dark chocolate, salted plums, menthol and magic. A total dream and a secret that deserves to be kept.

Stefanie Juelsgaard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: November 23, 2019

Laphroaig very infrequently releases anything new, let alone a single cask of something new. Fans of the classic Laphroaig style will not be disappointed here, but will also be pleased to find new tastes and expressions. Rich texture and creamy peat notes get a kick from a slight jalapeno pepper spice in the back. This extremely limited and special release could retail for much higher given its scarcity. Lucky for us it doesn’t.

Jeffrey Jones | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: November 18, 2019

Since barrels of single malt age differently and produce a range of flavors it is always a treat to taste something and see the variation on a theme from the regular releases.This tasty barrel is very interesting and fantastic. The nose has a burst of smoke that is almost pretty (a word not usually associated with Laphroaig) with toasty undertones. In the mouth it is classic Laphroaig with smoke, iodine, salt and malt. With water it opens up and becomes softer. There is a long finish with an interesting touch of spice. This single barrel is unique and interesting.

Jackson Lee | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: November 15, 2019

If my family drank, this is a bottle I’d take with me to our holiday dinners. This bottle screams autumn with notes of ume plum, burnt caramel, oak spice, and cinnamon graham crackers on the nose. The palate is fatty, savory, and sweet and I can imagine it going perfectly with turkey and stuffing. It’s warm and inviting. I just want to cuddle up with it next to a fire and look longingly at the glass.

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