As is well documented, whenever a whisky is labelled as Unnamed Orkney, Secret Orkney or just plain Orkney, we can be fairly sure it is from the Highland Park distillery. Scapa is the only other distillery on the Island and their malts are very rare amongst the independent bottlers, so we’ll assume this is HP.
These Signatory Vintage bottlings are one of my favourite ways to try a whisky from any distillery, especially when it is ones that are not often bottled as single malts by the owners, such as Linkwood, Dailuaine and Teaninich. Everything is done so naturally and without fancy wood finishes, so you get the character of the malt in every bottle. The spirit in the bottle s is often cloudy to begin with, and the slightest drop of water in the glass will certainly create a very cloudy whisky indeed. This is what we want to see as whisky lovers. I’d be surprised if they use anything more sophisticated than a tea strainer for their filtration! Some distilleries claim their whisky to be non-chill filtered, but the mist is almost nowhere to be seen, but perhaps we will touch on that in another article and just get on with reviewing this one.
Nose : Very fruity and sweet with a burst of lemon, orange and sultanas. Menthol mint, espresso coffee and toffee caramel. Burnt rubber smoke, struck matches and petrichor (think of the first rainfall on a dry summer day) are also present along with vanilla and salt.
Palate : Rather powerful with lots of dark roast coffee, raisins and red fruits. It hits the palate sweet at first, before going more towards briny and astringent. Lots of white pepper spice coming through with oak wood smoke and tannins in the finish.
Conclusions : Not the most complex of experiences, but enough going on to be very enjoyable. The bottle has certainly been reached for a fair few times in recent weeks, which is always a good sign. The refill sherry butt hasn’t overwhelmed the spirit and left plenty of character from the distilate. There are sulphur notes in there, so if you are particularly sensitive to those it may not be for you. If your only experience of Highland Park is their official bottling of the 12 year old, then this is a completely different experience.
I paid less than £45 for this and that represents decent value for a 14 year old, naturally presented Highland Park. Most retailers sold out fairly quickly, but if you do see it then I can recommend picking up a bottle at around that price. A solid score for a solid and enjoyable whisky.
Score : 6/10
(Score descriptions can be found in the About page)
ABV : 46%
Non-chill filtered : Yes
Natural Colour : Yes
Maturation : Refill Sherry Butt (DRU 17/A65 #10)
Region : Island
Colour : Amber