*Thanks to SF and the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.
In the literature from the importers and other reviewers and sellers, I’ve seen this one listed as the 1995 “North Highland” 20 Year Old. As you can see below in the bottle shot, the label just says “Highland” and dispenses with all that confusing directional/compass stuff. In the interest of less, or possibly more, confusion, I’ll just refer to this one as the Exclusive Malts 1995 Highland 20 Year Old…just like the bottle says. Far be it for me to get overly specific in terms of geography. After all, I live in Minneapolis, where the twisty Mississippi can disorient the most stalwartly oriented, where the Uptown neighborhood is actually south of Downtown, the North Minneapolis part of town is more northwest, and wonderful Northeast is pretty much due north. Not to mention that east of Northeast, in the shadow of the mighty University of Minnesota (go Gophers), there’s a neighborhood called Dinkytown.
Where was I? See? I’m so easily disoriented. Be it North Highland or just Highland, this 20 year old, fully sherry cask matured (no mention as to whether it’s American oak or European) from the Creative Whisky Company’s Exclusive Malts range comes from an unspecified distillery. If they’d wanted the distillery specified, specifying would have happened, you can be sure of that.
The Nose: Very nice, heavily sherried (as one might expect from a whisky matured in an ex-sherry cask), rugged and not overly sweet. Fruity in a dark and red kind of way, dried fruitcake fruits, and tart cherry pie with a bit of cherry cough syrup (a good thing) as well. Slightly burnt caramel sauce and pecan pie with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. There’s also a bit of baker’s chocolate, and weighty spice notes of polished oak, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Adding water replaces the slightly burnt caramel sauce with dark honey and calms those big sherry and spice notes a little.
The Palate: Great, thick, oily mouthfeel, The fruit is a bit more citrus-y, but there’s still a lot of jammy red fruit – there’s both chocolate-covered and maraschino cherries, along with some stewed prunes. The nuttiness is more salted on the palate with continued notes of unsweetened cocoa. Lots of grippy oak, pepper, coriander, nutmeg rise up towards the finish. A little water adds more juicy citrus, tones down the chocolate, and adds a beguiling, almost spearmint-y edge to the spice and the finish.
The Finish: Lots of lingering, slightly bitter spice, smoked peppercorns, cinnamon, tannic oak, and dark, dark chocolate.
Thoughts: A very nice, very enjoyable, robust whisky with a few interesting twists and turns. Definitely sherried, though not overpoweringly so, this one is wears its time in wood on its sleeve. I enjoyed it more at strength, though adding a little water released some pleasant, unexpected surprises. I’ve seen mentioned that this might be from Glenmorangie or Dalmore. I have no idea, really, though if I had to guess, I guess I’d say Glenmorangie. At around $175, this is definitely pricey, but I think this would be a satisfying one to explore and get to know.
The Exclusive Malts 1995 Highland 20 Year Old, Highland, IB, +/-2015