torsdag 9 februari 2017

Highland Park – FIRE 15yo 45,2% ABV

Friends and followers! Last weekend I had the great pleasure to once again work the Linköping Whiskyexpo for Edrington. This means taking care of Highland Park (among many other great whiskies in the Edrington portfolio). The first thing I noticed when I arrived to the festival was that we had Highland Park FIRE in the stand! Now, since FIRE has not yet been launched and released here in Sweden, working at the festival was a great opportunity for me to try it before the release. And of course I grasped that opportunity, and I'm very thankful that the nice people of Edrington let me :)

FIRE will be available on the swedish state monopoly on Friday the 17th of February (1331 bottles, and you can view it here). 

Just as ICE is a very special expression of Highland Park (read my post on ICE here), so is FIRE. What is special about it? Well you see, FIRE has been fully matured in refill Port wine seasoned casks and Highland Park has to my knowledge never released a whisky matured in casks that previously held port wine. Adding to that, during the festival I spoke to Martin Markvardsen about the maturation process of FIRE, and if I understood Martin correctly (and if I remember correctly), the whisky has first spent 13 years in port pipes and was then transferred to port hogsheads for a final 2 years of maturation. 

For info on the concept and idea behind HP FIRE, please do check out this great video, where Martin shares the story of FIRE. Ok! Let's see what we have here! 

When opening the bottle and nosing, the first thing that comes to mind is actually something a bit ”burnt”, sort of. Maybe something like burnt dark raisins intermingling with peat. Pouring a dram into the glass and nosing from a distant (ten centimeters or so) I first get a very slight and soft touch of oranges, not really orange juice, rather orange peel (you know the way your fingers smell when you’ve peeled an orange?). There’s even some light milk chocolate with a scent of oranges. Also there is light liquid honey, a honey that is quite summer-y and flower-y, very nice and soft… But wait, there are more fruits in there, overripe yellow kiwi and something reminding me of… is it peach candy or is it mango? Anyways, moving closer so that I have my nose in the glass I first get a whiff of medium strong alcohol, surrounding that is that slightly ”burnt” note again, but this time something like burnt sugar rather than burnt dark raisins. Nosing even deeper into the glass, interestingly enough I do pick up sweet liquorice candy! At the same time, there is also something salt-y going on here. So, even though the nose all in all is complex it’s also very ”calm” if you know what I mean? The only thing on the nose that pops out from the general fruity-ness, honey stuff and burnt raisins and the burnt sugar, is that peedie bit of medium strong alcohol, meaning, it smells just a bit ”strong” although it is only 45,2% ABV. Okey, moving on to the taste!

Martin to the left, SamuelWhisky to the right
Wow! First, it starts off on light liquid honey, but then, Boom! Everything goes very salt-y! Sea salt in fact, also of course a fist full of heather-honey-peat, and that’s with an emphasis on peat. Now, this first part of the taste is initial and quite fast, say 2-3 seconds. After that, when swallowing, it moves very quickly into bicycle inner-tube, some kind of vegetal and/or herbal feeling intermingling with rubber/”plastic” and metallic notes, in turn intermingling with peat. In the early aftertaste, the bicycle inner-tube thingy and the vegetal/herbal stuff, moves on (within a time period of 5 seconds or so) into a mix of heavy almond paste, and even more vegetal/herbal stuff… In the late aftertaste a sort of distant creamy-ness together with ashy peat becomes more and more apparent, finally becoming the center of attention together with someting like the kind of ”mould” that is on brie cheese. In terms of texture the aftertaste can be described as being lightly dry (not heavy dry, not medium dry, but lightly dry). From swallowing, the length of the dram is about one minute long but it starts to fade  softly after thirty seconds or so. 

To sum up:
So, what’s the most interesting and good thing about this dram? 
1). For me, something that makes a dram interesting and intriguing is the quality/characteristic that the nose is basically completely different from the taste, meaning for instance that none of the fruity stuff on the nose is there on the taste. 
2). Both the nose and the taste is very complex, and complex in different ways. 
3). The move by HP to mature in a type of casks and seasoning it has never before done is absoutely brilliant which makes both the nose and most of all the taste very hard to anticipate.

How is the concept of ”FIRE” visible or obvious on the nose and the taste?
On the nose we have the peedie bit of medium strong alcohol but most of all the burnt raisins and the burnt sugar. On the taste everyhing signals ”FIRE”, apart from the honey and the creamy-ness as well as the brie type ”mould”.

Could there have been even more ”FIRE”?
Yes, but I think that it would have to entail first of all a higher strength and second of all the use of first fill port casks. 

Is this a good whisky? Yes, definitely. Why? Well first of all, the fruity stuff on the nose is absolutely beautiful! And second, you will never have tasted a HP such as this one, and you will very seldom come upon a nose and taste so different from each other than it is in this dram

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