Notes from Round I of the recent Signatory tasting with Ed Kohl at San Francisco’s City Club. This was a great evening with excellent malts, tasty appetizers, and good company. I owe a big thank you to Sam Filmus of Impex Beverages and JVS Imports for the invitation!
Being one of only two whisky distilleries on Orkney Island (the other being Scapa), Highland Park is the northernmost Scotch producer in all of Scotland. They distinguish themselves by combining a rather heavily peated Orcadian malt with a rather non-peated mainland malt to get their signature flavor profile. I was excited to try this one as Highland Park is one of my favorite distilleries and it’s always interesting to try a single cask independent expression of their whisky. This edition is 765 bottles strong and was matured for 18 years in a Sherry butt. Stop giggling, that’s a perfectly acceptable and on-topic use of the word “butt”.
The Nose: A really pretty floral nose with a good whiff of slightly under-ripe banana and hints of spiced apple sauce. A tinge of smoke and raisiny peat hover in the background. While reminiscent of Highland Park, this was lighter and less honeyed, not as rich and complex as I was expecting, nor was the sherry influence very strong.
The Palate: Ah, there’s some of the expected richness. Honeyed grain with some apple cider notes come early, then lots of oak notes emerge fairly quickly, spicy and increasingly drying, but with a nice continued sweetness. That dry leaves, Orcadian smoke emerges towards the end.
The Finish: Honeyed tannins linger as does that breath of Orkney smoke
Thoughts: Highland Park’s 18yo is such an incredible whisky it’s hard to taste an independently bottled HP18 and not compare it on some level. This one was very good, a little oak heavy and grainier than the distillery offering with less fruity depth. While it certainly had aspects of HP, and was interesting in its emphasis on the wood and grain, I missed some of that richness and complexity.
Signatory 1991 Highland Park 18 Year Old, Island, Orkney
I’m guessing this nice little 10 year old snuck in to the tasting because the same importers (TBS) that handle Signatory handle Edradour here in the U.S. Edradour’s one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, producing just 12 casks of whisky a week. Not only is Edradour’s output very small, they also have the smallest stills allowable by law. According to British law, once a still gets too small, the authorities think that the size could be portable…and production from portable stills is illegal and quite possibly the greatest affront to all mankind. That, and if you’ve ever tried to make a good spirit while riding a bicycle, you know just how hard it can be.
The Nose: A very sugared nose with nice, smooth vanilla tones. There’s a lot of sweet citrus and tropical fruit as well, sugared orange and pineapple. A few floral notes creep in as does just hint of dry wood smoke, but mostly this is all about the sweet and fruity.
The Palate: Very sugary and syrupy mouthfeel. There are some opening mild tropical fruit notes but they’re soon overtaken by vanilla bean, hints of roasted nuts and a little tobacco leaf. Towards the end a wisp of smoke wafts through as a slightly spicy dryness grows.
The Finish: Medium and still sweet with continuing smoke, nuttiness and that dusty Edradour dryness.
Thoughts: This starts out with a relatively easy going, sweet, fruit forward nose and transitions nicely into something a bit more rugged and interesting towards the end. I liked the simple complexity…or maybe complex simplicity of this, though it’s a bit too sweet and almost cloying at times for my taste. Is that dusty finish an Edradour trademark?
Edradour 10 Year Old, Highland