This 1998 23 year old Highland Park was the first (there’s been three to date I believe) Orkney Sponge releases – a sub-category of a sub-category within the greater Sponge lexicon of spirits releases. I’m not going to add a new bottler into the Dramble’s CMS quite yet – but should the Orkney Sponge releases keep coming down the pipe, no doubt I’ll recategorise them all in due course.
This release is a single refill hogshead (lots of refill oak in this particular review session – that makes me happy) from a 1998 HP distillation. You can still find it over at The Whisky Exchange – though it’s far from cheap.
Nose: Salted butter is spread over bran crackers whilst freshly brewed tea is joined by lamp and flax oil and woolly jumpers. Heathery, floral peat is derived from burning hillsides (more than one might expect) whilst lemon gel and Danish pastries sit alongside touches of honey. The addition of water moved things into a more fruit-led form with guava and peach joining ripening bananas. Quite lovely.
Taste: This just makes me smile. Faultless now. Lemon balm and salted, buttered crackers sit with pan fats and sunflower oil whilst salinity, developing polish and dunnage qualities are offset against samphire, herbal honey and asides of chalk and granite. Water isn’t needed, but doesn’t make the whisky flinch either – olive brine and sweet peppers together with manuka, lemony polish and walnut oil.
Finish: Long with salinity and fading sweet and sour honied lemons.
Sadly this is too expensive as I really do want it in my life. Elegantly old-styled, distillate forward, no cask messing and served as is comes. What’s not to like (other than the price)?