So many whisky distilleries released some of their oldest expressions in 2023 that we’re still playing catch up. Better late than never, as the saying goes, and it certainly applies here. Indeed, Highland Park Master Whisky Maker Gordon Motion may have considered that very idiom when he chanced upon 10 relatively ancient casks inside one of the warehouses back in 2008. Already decades old, the spirit spent another 14 years inside first-fill European ex-sherry casks before bottling, resulting in the distillery’s oldest and rarest expression to date. Introducing Highland Park 54-Year-Old.
Long before this release, Highland Park whisky was already something special. Located on the Orkney Islands in the Northern Isles of Scotland, the distillery draws from its rugged coastal surroundings when crafting its award-winning single malts. Between the pounding waves and merciless winds, the local plains are bereft of trees but rich in grass, flowers, and Hobbister Moor peat.
Peat, as you may recall, is the decaying vegetation matter used across Scotland to smoke malted barley and thereby infuse the whisky with a smoky flavour element.
As a result of the unique landscape from which it’s derived, Hobbister Moor peat is utterly singular in terms of both composition and character. Being made entirely of decaying grass and flowers, it yields a floral and heathery smoke during the burn process. Combine that with ex-Sherry cask maturation and you get Highland Park’s signature taste of honeyed sweetness, with fruity overtones, intense floral accents, and a backbone of subtle smoke.
Despite their relatively consistent approach to production, Highland Park offers plenty of diversity across their entire range. It’s then quite safe to say that the new 54-Year-Old generates a true one-of-a-kind flavour profile for those lucky enough to try it. As if marrying all the qualities for which the distillery remains best known, the liquid rides in on rich and complex waves of lychee fruit, pistachio, kiwi, and warm spice, to reveal a decadent heart of chewy caramel, hazelnut, and floral peat smoke.
Every long-running Scotch whisky maker tells a story of its surroundings and that’s certainly true with Highland Park. Whereas the distillery itself dates back to the 1800s, the Orkney Islands are significantly older than that. How much older? You ask. Oh, just about 400 million years older, give or take. Each decanter of Highland Park 54-Year-Old pays tribute to this epic history by way of stunning topographic details, the same that can be found in the local Cliffs of Yesnaby. Of course, the real legacy is waiting within.
Limited to just 225 bottles, Highland Park 54-Year-Old is available worldwide at a suggested retail price of $54,000. For those who score a bottle, we don’t envy the decision-making process that follows. To open or not to open? We say go for it!
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