It’s been a while since my last review here so … I decided to go all out!!
First off, let me tell you how excited I am about this. My love for Highland Park is no mystery to this world; I collect as many editions as possible and have made the trip to Orkney all the way from Canada to see the distillery. The Highland Park The Dragon bottlings are known to die hard HP fans like me to be some type of unicorn only few people ever had the chance to try.
Second exciting thing about this is that the following whiskies (unsure if this should be whisky singular, you’ll see why in a second) were all distilled the same year I was born… 1990! The year Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison and East and West Germany were reunified!… But I digress ! Now to what you guys are here for… the whisky!
What I have in front of me as I am writing this, is 3 (or 1) whiskies distilled at Highland Park in 1990 and laid down in a single Olorosso sherry cask (#7616), hence why I am not sure if I should refer to it as one or three whisky. Then, many years later, this unique cask was divided in three bourbon casks, and numbered (900001, 900002 and 900003), being now three whiskies…simple right? And all bottled at the same time, at 19 years of age. So! That being said, what I have in my glass, is a unique expression of the uniqueness of every single whisky cask and that even if 2 casks were filled with the same whisky, distilled from the same batch, laid down side by side and bottled at the same age at the same time, the product will be different. First proof of that, all ABV% are different, respectively 54.9%, 52.7% and 52.4%.
These extremely rare releases were bottled by the S &JD Robertson of Kirkwall (or Robertson Group) which, you guessed it, are from Kirkwall, Orkney at a walking distance from the distillery. This group was not really in the whisky business, but was rather buying casks for personal use (i.e. drinking, private collection, corporate gift, etc.). Only a handful of the casks they have bought were release for public sale under the name The Dragon (distributed by Hebridean Liqueurs as they didn’t have a liquor license). Interesting enough, the man who officially founded the distillery in 1798 was also a Robertson, and as the Orkney Islands being so small, a connection certainly exists there.
Now let’s get down to business and see what I thought of these unicorns I hunted down for so long:
Cask 900001 (19yo, 54.9%, 1990)
Color: Old Gold
Nose : Fresh and tropical, pineapples and vanilla notes with a light sea breeze.
Palate : Rich and creamy, subtle peat smoke, butter biscuit and honeycombs sweetness and hints of fresh mangos.
Finish : Peppery on the tongue, fairly short, but it leaves a nice oily feeling on the pallet. A bit unidimensional
Comments : A very interesting dram, that comes in with a bang, but dies off a bit too fast without leaving much to savor.
Cask 900002 (19yo, 52.7%, 1990)
Color: Deep Gold
Nose : Richer aromas, floral, honey sweetness and sweet sherry notes with hints of iodine.
Palate : This one definitely has more to offer, rich mouth coating oily texture, heavy sherry notes, fruit cake, raisins, leather, peat ashes and nutmeg with sweet custardy pastries.
Finish : Long, flavorful and sweet, lingering sherry and melted brown sugar with warm baking spices.
Comments : This one, although the same age, definitely feels older than cask 900001. Much more complex and worthy of some of the best Highland Parks.
Cask 900003 (19yo, 52.4%, 1990)
Color: Deep Gold
Nose : Rich as well, definitely the best nose of all three. Old leather, preserved lemons and old sherry.
Palate : Similar to cask 900002 but with more freshness. Stone fruit salad, caramel and vanilla ice cream, sweet heather honeyed peat and baking spices. Imagine eating a dried fruit milk chocolate bar that’s been smoked with Orkney peat!
Finish : A finish that keeps on giving, more sweetess and a bit peppery, dry oak and some dried raisins.
Comments:The perfect balance between Cask 900001 and 900002. My favorite of all three, this version has all the fruitiness, is fresh and rich, has a great sherry balance and just enough of the typical Highland Park heather/honey peat.
Final Comments: Well folks, that was one hell of a ride, and you know what?! I kept some for later. The Dragon certainly did not disappoint. Hope you enjoyed and could live the experience through this text. Thanks for reading and … Until next time!