For someone whose every day is a taste adventure, I will say a recent, private Russell’s Room tasting at Bourbon & Branch of Highland Park scotches was one of the most memorable I’ve ever been privileged to be a part of. There were only two such tastings in the country: here and in New York. I felt lucky to be one of less than 10 around the table (and only 2 women – scotch remains predominantly a man’s world?) tasting HP’s awesome 18, 25, 30 and 40 year scotches. But the magnificent centerpiece was a just-released, $3999 per bottle, limited-edition 1968 vintage.
At Whiskyfest last year, HP’s 30-year was among my favorites. To take it two steps further (the 40 year alone is a $2000 per bottle imbibement), was my Scotch dream come true.
HP brand ambassador, Martin Daraz, is a charming, hilarious host. Add in pairings from cheese guru, Wil Edwards, of SF Cheese School, and it was unforgettable. All five cheeses were thrilling, from a gorgeous, balanced Abbaye de Belloc, produced by Benedictine monks, to the butterscotch notes of Saenkanter Gouda. Who could choose favorites among such uniquely different cheeses? I couldn’t believe the grainy, melt-in-your-mouth intensity of a goat’s milk Bleu du Bocage… surprisingly, it did not overpower HP’s 25-year scotch. Isle of Mull Cheddar (from Scotland, naturally), is a memorable ivory-colored cheddar made from happy cows who’ve been ingesting spent whiskey grain. If this is an example of the wide-reaching range of cheeses Wil can lead you through, I’d sign up for one of his classes at the Cheese School now.
Back to Highland Park's ‘68 vintage... it literally defined “smooth”, with a gentle sweetness, refined toasted oak notes, and hints of spice. I don’t know how else to describe the finish other than that it keeps going. One layer unfolds after the other… as I was in conversation after our last glass, wave after wave of flavor continued to roll over my tongue. If you ever get near a bottle, taste and consider yourself lucky.