Presented with an invite to the launch of the Highland Park 15 and 30-year-olds at Whisky Live I prepared thoroughly: took some Sudafed to get rid of a sniffly nose... then forgot to get some decent grub inside me.
We were ushered into the tent where the tasting was to be held and it was a bit like wandering into the distillery barrel store: the smell was astonishingly strong.
No wonder. There were 60 places set for the Whisky Live tastings to be held later in the day and it was meaty stuff. Enough to make the head swim on an empty stomach.
Disappointingly the HP 15yo left no impression, and my notes say simply: unmemorable.
I may live to regret that as the 18-year-old was a complete contrast and an immediate favourite and I have perfect memory of how much I enjoyed it. Big nose, full and some seaweedy-tangy. Honey, vanilla and - cigars (maybe not such perfect recall) - on the palate. Wee bit peat later on. A glorious dram. I'll buy a bottle.
The 30-year-old left me unmoved. It was rummy sweet and I was still slavering over the 18-year-old. A guy could get locked up for that!
Brand ambassador Gerry Tosh runs a fine tasting and left me hoping to get up to Highland Park for a visit round the distillery itself. I'll make sure I'm well fed beforehand!
Macallan was next up with a tasting of its Fine Oak range.
12-year-old Fine Oak - Pale straw, fruity. Luscious. Sherry, vanilla becoming toffee.
15-year-old Fine Oak - Rich straw colour, full aroma - possibly roses. Rich chocolate and orange on the palate (host mentioned raisins but not for me). Lingering flavour with rich chocolate, dried orange. Sells 12,000 cases in the US. Chocolate/orange comes from European oak casks
21-year-old Fine Oak - Light amber colour or deep straw. Very rich vanilla-ish aroma, almost aromatic - someone mentioned ripe melon. Rich and spicy on the palate - not such a kick - softer, woody? (I've also written peaty, but loads of questionmarks beside that). V.soft and v.easy to drink, especially with water - 75% whisky, 25% water.
30-year-old Fine Oak - Wow! Burnished gold colour. Woody, more mature - orange, but much much more. Loved this one. I could drink it all night. Satin smooth, slips tumbling through the tastes. Preferred it neat.
1965 - a special treat. From bourbon barrel. Deep dark colour with "bits". Em - custard! Vanilla on the nose and apple - but custard and apple. Woody on the palate, but a short finish.