This is from a 30 mL sample I purchased from Master of Malt. I don’t usually like to review small samples like this because there is so much you just don’t know. The great thing is that it gives a sense of if you want to buy a bottle. I would much rather judge a sample from a place like Master of Malt then my experience of a pour at a bar. I think the variables at the bar can influence your experience way more. In no way am I trying to give a “definitive grade” to this bottle. I much prefer to have a bottle and write down notes on 3 or 4 occasions. But since I won’t be buying this bottle . . . here is my experience.
Nose: At first nose you really notice the distilleries theme – sweet sherry and malt. Not as much citrus fruit as the 18yo. The 25yo is much closer to the 12yo, but with way more depth and density. Fresh spring grass, lemons, and mature malt. Now, honey, honey suckle, clean lawn, and maple syrup. I am finally getting to that dark layer that lurks underneath. It is super earthy and dirty – not muddy but black dirt – not clay. A slight hint of smoke and mustard – wish there were more of both. (The glass empty after nose is quite smoky. Where was that in my scotch?)
Taste: Sweet sugar cane, almost like saccharin. Now malt, and lemon. Getting slightly soapy. Sad.
Finish: Slightly soapy . . . Not overly huge. Kind of a medium to medium short finish. It is thick and very voluptuous; very sweet. The sweetness is on a different level then the 18yo which had a deep baritone sweetness while this 25yo has a mezzo soprano sweetness. It is a mixture of high, complex and brooding. Lovely but not astounding. I get that it is thick and complex . . . I just wish more were coming out. Water didn’t help
Balance, Complexity: This is a very complex malt, and it is well balanced compared to the 12 and 18. Where the 12 had some things turned up to much and the 18 and notes turned down to much this one is well balanced. I still wish more smoke and peat were being used in this mix to make it the “all rounder” that Highland Park use to be. But, it is still a fantastic dram.
Aesthetic experience: Medium bodied. I love Highland Park for historical reasons (name and history). Love the 25 year old age. Love the 48.1% ABV. Hate the new bottling. Hate the coloring of each age (although this is my favorite color of the bunch- white with black. But the price . . .
Conclusion: This was on the way to being awesome. But I honestly got soap on the taste and finish – and I just can’t abide that. Could it have been from the sample bottle from Master of Malt? Possibly. Could it have been from my glass? Doubtful, I clean it by hand without soap. I was trying two other whiskies this night in similar shaped glasses that I cleaned the exact same way. This is the problem with samples . . . I just don’t know if it is the whisky or something else along the way. And I can’t try it again. And for this type of money I won’t gamble on it.