- Brand: Highland Black
- ABV: 40%
In Spring 2017, there was much ado about this Highland Black 8 Year Old, a blend that – according to the international press – took home the top award in a blind tasting. Top award? It got a silver medal. Surely that is not the top award? The bottle is dirt cheap, less than 20 EUR, and available from the discount supermarket Aldi. Now, I feel one must always be cautious with such awards, even (and maybe mostly) the likes of the International Spirits Challenge. If you know that the judges awarded a gold medal to Scottish Leader, Loch Lomond 12, Highland Park 25 and Talisker 10 – which surely are quite in a different league amongst themselves and are only four examples out of a list of more than 60 gold medals awarded – how are we supposed to take this seriously? Well, I suppose it takes a smart PR-guy to give this Highland Black such press coverage with its silver medal. My whisky buddy Marcel from Holland challenged me to give it a go. I told him ‘bring it on!’, something I now regret.
On the nose – which I find to be particularly sharp – I get loads of nail polish remover (or aceton, if you like) and some nettles before some unripe banana and toffee appear. Caramel, a pinch of pepper and some cinnamon. If you leave it to breathe for a while, the aceton evaporates… but you will have to be very patient. Having said that, this is not a pleasant nose.
It fairs little better on the palate. Only a little, though. Very sweet on barley sugar, toffee apples, loads of oak and a hint of dark chocolate, but the body is quite flat. A touch piquant and again quite sharp. And something chemical lingers, which is quite unpleasant indeed.
The finish is a letdown as well. Much too bitter with only a little bit of sweetness and unfortunately quite long.
Come on! This is a bottom shelf blend! To be avoided. Look, at the other results of these awards – to make the comparison to malts with which I am, to say the least, a bit familiar – the Auchentoshan 12 received gold, while the Auchentoshan Three Wood, Blood Oak, 18 Year Old and 21 Year Old were awarded with silver (along with over 150 other bottles!). And the likes of Ardmore Traditional Peated & Deanston 12 returned home with a bronze medal. That says a lot about the credibility of these awards. I rest my case… (Marcel, my revenge will be upon you soon!).