(Thanks to /u/ounknownto for the sample!)
Marketing is, and always will be, an odd duck for me. As someone who studied it in University, and have been entrenched in it for the last 7 years, I am usually glib and condescending to the ideas brought forth by marketers. This is magnified as someone in the marketing research area.
One such area which always seems incompatible with marketers is the idea of a niche product. These products are taught in school, however don’t fit the mold of how one sells other products. They have very specific buyers, who pay specific costs, and assume a specific quality and value from this product.
Such is definitely the case with whisky. Over and over again we see differentiation on levels usually not seen in other markets. Quality, creativity, and value spikes abound in the whisky world, as each product fights for a new flavour.
In the second part of the three-part series I call ‘Zanadu 3: Titles that suck and the Zebras that ignore them’, I’ll be reviewing Highland Park 1998 Vintage, which is part of the travel exclusive series from Highland Park.
The Highland Park 1998 Vintage is now available outside of Travel Exclusive, however I’ll still treat it as such because of the nature of how it was originally created.
Highland Park 1998 Vintage was created using first fill American Oak barrels, rather than the typical barrels used in Highland Park. Also, and I have yet to find anything about this, I wonder if they use sherry casks in the making of this at all. I can’t find out anything either way, so let’s just say they sprinkle fairy dust on it and call it a day.
Price: N/A in Ontario
Age: 12 years
Nose: Salt, caramel, metal, oatmeal, charcoal, herbal
At first there’s a definite difference here. Salt and caramel rush out to meet you, shaking your hand…
And then they take a metal re-bar, hit you in the head and demand your wallet. The metal note ruins any faint caramel and salt. It’s actually really faint, and it takes quite some time to pick up much from this.
Taste: Marmalade, smoke, basil, tomato, butterscotch, milk
Really nice taste, actually. Reminds me of the Highland Park 12, yet has some different flavour profiles going on. Lots of Marmalade. Like you’re grandma made too much marmalade and you have to eat it or… I don’t know the mob will break her knee caps.
Gotta eat the Marmalade for Grandma’s knee caps there Sonny Jane.
Finish: Smoke, lime, generic Indian spice blend, wood, caramel
Boring finish. Really boring finish. Reminds me of a really boring blend finish, while being lectured on architecture of latrines.
Conclusion: Suffice to say that this is a whisky with a faint nose, boring finish, and unique taste.
The creators specifically took the standard 12 offering in a different direction, using more first-fill American oak casks, which in and of itself is worthy of a separate, and albeit exclusive and costly offering. Then they lowered the alcohol content to make it more profitable, and have lost any real good flavours it may have had.
More so with this one over the 94 offering, I believe they did it because it probably wasn’t all that great to begin with. Part of me even thinks that they may have lowered all the offerings due to the lack in quality of the 94, though that’s merely speculation, as I haven’t ones beyond the 94 and 98.
As with other niche products, the creators (and probably some marketers) missed the point on this product. They brought it out to a niche market and treated it like any other market, and gave us an expensive whisky that could be replaced by a $20 blend.
Scotch review #251, Island review #25, Whisky Network review #383