Gordon & MacPhail – Connoisseurs Choice Highland Park 2004 – 13yo.

First Fill Sherry Butt, Cask Strength at 60% abv.

One of 655 bottles of cask number 3812

The G&M entire range has undergone a rather dramatic facelift.  Always a firm favourite with the whisky buffs, G&M always means quality, I have never had a whisky from G&M I didn’t like.  No matter which distillery, no matter which age, you cannot deny that G&M means quality and consistency that many other bottlers can only dream of, with experience that spans more than 120 years, they have built up an impressive range of casks, contacts, and one hell of a liquid library!

img_8952This is one of the first offerings from the new range, it’s a Highland Park, a much sought-after distillery with quite a fan base, it’s 13 years old and hails from a first fill sherry butt, a single cask offering of 655 bottles.  It’s priced at around £90 across the board, although we did see it at £85.

Right, you’ve got the basics, lets see what G&M have to say about it.

What they say

For more than 120 years Gordon & MacPhail has pursued a singular path to become the master of single malt Scotch whisky maturation.

Connoisseurs Choice

Passion for single malt Scotch whisky has been at the heart of our family business for four generations. This range is an ever-changing collection of unique perspectives on distilleries’ own bottlings, non-chill-filtered single cask and small batch expressions bottled at cask strength and exceptional one-offs.

For the malt whisky explorer, it promises a journey of discovery through different flavours, finishes, strengths and vintages.

Highland Park 2004 Bottled at 60% Vol


  • Distillery: Highland Park
  • Region: Island
  • Distilled: Monday 21 June 2004
  • Bottled: Thursday 22 February 2018
  • ABV: 60%
  • Years Old: 13
  • Cask No. 3812
  • Cask Type: First fill Sherry butt
  • Outturn: 655 bottles
  • Batch: 18/016


G&M Official tasting notes:

Colour: Dark Gold.

Nose: Fresh, sweet, balanced: hints of seaside moss transform into tangy lemon, sweet meringue, and silky butter shortbread. Soft toffee notes unfold over time.

Taste: Creamy leading into warming spice, hints of milk chocolate and toasted hazelnuts mature into warm cinnamon buns glazed with brown sugar and sweet raisins.

Finish: Medium with a delightful and lingering wood smoke edge.

What we say:



Some newly melted milk chocolate is the first thing you notice.  This is closely followed by some berry fruits, almost blackberry and raspberry jam like.  These die down and a fresh feeling can be found, clean, sharp, like the wind on your face of a fresh breeze.  This is all cloaked by the red hot mist of the unmistakable ABV of this whisky.


The milk chocolate from the nose is there, along with the berry jams.  As these die away your tongue starts to tingle as spices dance around.  Not peppery thought, more like popping candy, jumping and popping on the tongue.  You can tell this isn’t the standard 40% but it isn’t as sharp as the nose first indicated.


The finish is middling, not overly long, but enough to know you have had a nice dram.

Overall Thoughts:

This is a highly sherry influenced whisky, which isn’t always to my taste, but if I was to go for a sherried whisky, this is the sort I like.  Lovely berry jams all the way through and the right amount of spice makes this a whisky wort returning to.  A great introduction to the new CC range.

The price point of £85 may seem steep for a 13 year old single cask, but it is a sought after distillery and the ABV will play a part in that.  If you want my opinion, this is well worth buying.

Stewart Craigon – @StewartCraigon



Usually the first note is an easy thing to pick out, however that wasn’t the case here.  I was convinced that the first note was the robust earthiness of autumn leaves, then, that it was the sweet, creamy notes of warm melting milk chocolate, before deciding it was the sharp yet sweet notes of lemon zest, quickly becoming sweeter and more gentle, more dessert like.  Think lemon curd topped with meringue pieces that came to the fore.

The three flittered in and out tussling and jostling for first place.  Returning to the glass once more it was the earthiness of dew covered moss and crunchy autumn leaves turning to dust under foot, as the air, hanging heavy with mist encircles your face, both refreshing and musty all at once, which won out.   Not far behind  the sweet, dense, creamy milk chocolate started to make itself known, bringing a honey drizzled sweetness with a rich, chopped Brazil nut notes, and roasted chestnuts edge adding a grown up, savoury dimension.

Blood oranges with a dusting of icing sugar and just a hint of winter berries appear, with sticky brambles and damson, and a beautifully lively spiciness, with sweet dessert spices of nutmeg, cinnamon and five spice appearing first, followed up by a slight heat, like a dry rub on steak, meaty and yeasty, all paprika and peppercorns giving a prickle that dances around like the flames of a campfire, imparting a little smoke as it goes, giving a slight nod to the abv.


The berry fruits from the nose burst on to the plate, the rush of sweetness so great it makes your mouth water.  There’s blackberry and raspberry joined by wild strawberries, apricots, stewed plums and sticky dates.   Lemon marches in, cutting through the sweetness, sharper than it appeared on the nose, yet soon it takes a turn for the dessert trolley once again, with notes of lemon drizzle cakes, with a rich vanilla buttercream.

The orange is there from earlier on, with a rich, sticky, marmalade quality, with softer notes of mandarins lurking behind it.   Before it all becomes overrun by sweetness personified the spices and earthy notes from the nose combine, bringing it quite literally back down to earth.   Think digging fresh, damp soil in the garden, uprooting turnips and potatoes with a touch of the hessian sacks you will fill, and thick fishing nets, salty and damp, with just a touch of the sea.

The spices make this such a vibrant whisky, and they aren’t found on the back of the tongue where you would usually expect to find them, instead they dance on the very front of the tongue, tumbling and churning like waves crashing on the shore.


It is easy to dismiss this as a relatively short finish at first, however the spicy notes linger gently on the lips, making them tingle, like a kiss from a lover, making you smile long after the glass is empty.  The fruitiness from the berries is replaced by the sweet caress of milk chocolate and lemon meringue pie, fading out to a warm crepe suzette, those orange notes refusing to disappear, with just a touch of bitterness of chopped brazil nuts and polished mahogany.  Which takes this spritely, sweet, almost childlike dram, to sophisticated and grown up with just a hint of mischief.

Overall Thoughts:

I like this a lot.  Its not a typical first fill sherry whisky at all, but that is no bad thing.  13 years in a first fill sherry butt would lead you to expect a sherry monster that hits you round the head and almost overwhelms you with a youthful exuberance.  This is far more gentle, and in fact I’d go as far to say that this is a first fill sherry whisky for those who would not normally reach for such a dram.

It is beautifully put together, with notes that are strong enough to stand alone, yet are far better combining in a beautiful crescendo.   It starts out with the rich base notes of the earth, before middle notes of autumnal fruits and then high top notes of all things sweet and sing like the most beautiful melody.  Truly an orchestra of flavours.

The new look Connoisseurs Choice range is much like this, its grown up and sophisticated, no nonsense labelling tells you all you need to know and embossed coins and heavy bottle adds a touch of luxury.  The price is £90 and at first I struggled to decide if I thought it too steep, however quality will always out, and that it’s what G&M do so well.  Excellent spirit, fantastic casks with top quality wood and perfect maturation.    There’s a reason they have coined the #maturationexperts and I for one would not disagree with this self awarded accolade.

Buy this whisky, it’s from a popular distillery with a cult following and upon trying this, it’s easy to see why.

Kirsty Clarke – @KirstyClarke29

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