Whitlaw 2014

The Orkney islands are off the northern tip of Scotland: beautiful, rugged and remote. There is a strong Scandinavian influence here, and this Whitlaw whisky has some Viking in its DNA. As well as a honeyed sweetness like mead, Whitlaw uses locally sourced peat to dry its barley. Orcadian peat is dryer and less medicinal than the peat used on Islay, so the smokiness on this whisky is gentler and more floral.

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Cask Details

DistilleryHighland Park
RegionIslands
Age7 years
Distillation DateJune 16, 2014
Cask TypeRefill Bourbon Hogshead
Peated?Lightly
Re-gauge ABV60.40%
Re-gauge Litre of Alcohol (RLA)140.9 litres
New Bulk Litres233.3 litres
Re-gauge Date2020
Bottles333
Cask Number419

The Wood

It is worth considering that this distillery has demonstrated time and time again that their whisky can benefit from an extremely long maturation. Owners Edrington have built up excellent relationships with suppliers of both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks and have a system of selection to ensure that it is only the best-in-class casks that hold spirit from distilleries within its portfolio. The mellowed honey notes from patient hogshead maturation get deeper over time. This high quality of oak allows for that process, as the volume of liquid will be greater when the spirit is ready to bottle, when compared to that of a regular barrel.

The Spirit

The water used in the production of this spirit is drawn from Cattie Maggie’s Spring, half a mile away from the distillery – it is held in a disused Walliwall quarry before being piped to the distillery. This spring provided an oasis for generations of distillers on Orkney well before the establishment of an official distillery.

The peat used is cut from the roughly 500 year old Hobbister Moor, a stretch of land maintained by the distillery. The lack of trees on Orkney encourages the peat to form mostly from heather, giving the spirit a distinctly floral and heathery smokiness. Projections based on current usage show that this source of peat is likely to last for a further 300 years.

This distillery is one of only seven in Scotland to still make partial use of its own floor malting – an impressive achievement considering the significant production capacity of 2.5 million litres of alcohol per year.

The Masters

The distillery manager when this cask was filled in 2014 was Graham Manson, who’s whisky career spans over 25 years, having worked for Bell’s, Diageo and latterly North British Distillery, where he was the engineering manager since 1997.

“Having worked for North British for the past 15 years, I was seeking a fresh challenge where I could put all my skills into practice whilst genuinely making my mark on a business.The Highland Park role presented the perfect combination for me.”

— Graham Manson, Highland Park Distillery Manager (2012)

The Verdict

In addition to the unique spirit of this secret Orkney distillery, their modernised approach to marketing has allowed them to permeate into further markets. An example of this is renaming their core range with reference to the Vikings who settled on Orkney and an increase in non age statement whisky.

This cask is approaching its seventh birthday and was 63% ABV at its last regauge, demonstrating that this cask has the potential to continue maturation for many years without sacrificing bulk volume and ABV. The smokiness of this whisky will fade over time and become fantastically integrated with this distillery’s unique spirit.

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Auction Details

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