Monday, April 29, 2019

Review - Highland Park Twisted Tattoo

This whisky is a new single malt from the Orcadian distillery of Highland Park. It features spirit matured in first-fill ex-bourbon casks and ex-Rioja red wine casks - the first time they have used such wine barrels for maturation - and is bottled at 16 years of age. The packaging is inspired by the Nordic legend of the Midgard Serpent and features bespoke designs by tattoo artist Colin Dale. He is renowned for using traditional freestyle non-electric tattoo techniques and is inspired by the lost skin art of Inuit, Native American and Nordic cultures.

Highland Park is located on the Orkney Islands, close to the capital of Kirkwall, and is Scotland's most northern whisky distillery.The distillery is also one of the oldest still producing whisky in Scotland and was established in 1798 by Magnus Eunson, an interesting character who is said to have been known as the 'whisky priest' - this was because he was a priest by day and an illegal whisky distiller by night. Highland Park is currently owned by the Edrington Group and has an annual production capacity of 2.5 million litres. The range of single malts is extensive, covering both domestic and travel retail markets.

The Highland Park Twisted Tattoo 16 years old is bottled at 46.7% ABV and is non chill-filtered. It is available worldwide in selected specialist retailers and will retail for £80/ €95/ $105 US per bottle.

Our tasting notes
The colour is light gold and the nose has a sweetness and vibrancy to it. There are immediate aromas of vanilla and golden syrup, followed by dried fruits (think of sultanas and currants especially). These are backed up by an earthy and savoury quality, plus some malt and woody spices (cinnamon and all-spice in particular). A whiff of sweet peat smoke and a pinch of cocoa round things off.

On the palate this whisky has a soft creaminess to it. There are notes of vanilla and heather honey alongside milk chocolate and fudge. Underneath are elements of robust malt and damp earth, which give depth and structure. Then comes some dried fruit (especially the sultanas from the nose) and these sit comfortably with dried green apple and cranberry, plus a dollop of apricot jam. Underpinning everything is a sweet and soft peat smoke, which comes across more than it does on the nose. Hints of tinned peaches, cinnamon sticks, cocoa and ginger powder add complexity, as does a final drop of clove oil.

The finish is long lasting and warming. The robust malt and soft peat smoke are the main characteristics to linger longest and these give everything a savoury, almost leathery, edge. This is especially true once the sweet vanilla, heather honey and dried fruit notes fade away.

What's the verdict?
This is a delicious new whisky from Highland Park, which has long been one of our favourite distilleries. After a couple of recent underwhelming new releases, the Twisted Tattoo 16 years old signals a real return to form in our view. It is also one of the better single malts that we have sampled that has some ex-red wine cask influence. These can be a bit 'hit or miss' from our experience and this shows good balance, characteristics and integration. A lovely single malt.

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