Whisky Advocate

Guest Blogger: Jason Craig, Highland Park Whisky

August 19th, 2009

We’re fortunate to have Jason Craig, Global Controller for Highland Park, as our August guest blogger. He has some breaking news for us. And it’s good news! Plus he has a couple of questions for you.

I love the whisky business, I love the passion and I love the fact that wherever you go in the world people have opinions about best, worst, blogs, magazines, people etc etc etc. I have had the good fortune of working with Highland Distillers and The Edrington Group for over 10 years in the marketing and development of some of the finest whiskies available. As a guest blogger on Malt Advocate I have considered long and hard what I should blog about and I concluded that it should come down to a couple of issues which should provoke debate – Strength and Natural Colour…….I can hear the intakes of breath and the stretching of the fingers ready to tap into the key boards across the globe.

I am in control of the hidden gem which is Highland Park. The production story behind this brand is for another day….(as John would only edit it out!!!), but basically all distilleries are water, barley, yeast and a giant chemistry set. The process is very similar, some discuss water type, some discuss still height, some discuss climate, for some it is casks, others it is peat – for Highland Park it is all about sherry seasoned casks and unique Orkney peat. We have a glorious production process which we have kept as consistent as possible for over 200 years and with that authenticity comes expense and quality. One of the areas which always puzzles me is the addition of colour to whisky – I have never understood why brands do it.

Highland Park is all natural colour, for a couple of years in the 1990’s our 12yo had some added but that is firmly in the past. Every bottle of Highland Park you now see (new shape glass) is naturally coloured and has had no spirit caramel added. I have noted with interest that in the German market, due to tighter labelling laws, brands now have to declare if they have added spirit caramel and it would REALLY amaze you as to how many single malt brands add caramel – of course it is perfectly legal under SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) rules and they are doing nothing wrong. I am sure that this labelling law will spread throughout Europe in the coming years and with that will come questions about why it has been added and for how long the practice has been occurring.

Obviously spirit caramel adds not a thing to the flavour, it merely misleads the drinker visually but obviously not when they come to taste it. My colleague Gerry Tosh, Head of Brand Education on Highland Park, always says asks the question during tastings “What does the colour of the whisky in the glass tell us?” and the answer is always “Nothing”. Colour in whisky should come from the cask that it matured in, this would provide the consumer with a clearer guide to the whisky they are drinking. That is why on Highland Park and throughout the other brands in The Edrington Group, we pride ourselves on having the most obsessive, rigorous and highest quality cask program in the industry.

So that is my first question for this blog – does adding colour to whisky mislead the consumer, should colour be natural and allowed to vary with each vatting within agreed tolerances?

The second area I would like to discuss is strength of the whisky. As you may or may not know Highland Park 21yo ( a Global Travel Retail exclusive) recently won an award through Whisky Magazine (a competitor to Malt Advocate!!) declaring it the Best Single Malt Whisky of the Year. The irony was that only 3 weeks before we had reduced the 21yo from 47.5% to 40% due to high demand and limited stocks. John covered this in Malt Advocate and expressed concerns but applauded us for our open and honest attitude. With that in mind I freely admit I would have preferred to keep this strength higher but to maintain supply we had to reduce strength. In an era of aged whisky stocks becoming limited, we have also looked at reducing the strength of our 25yo and 30yo and I advised many whisky writers of our probable intention to do this – I am happy to break the news on this blog that we will not be doing so. We will be retaining both at 48.1% for the next 2 years minimum. This solution has been possible through market stock management and price adjustment in selected markets.

The reaction of some of the experts to the 21yo actual change and proposed changes to the older expressions was a mix of apathy and horror. Some saw it as a natural progression and some saw it as the end of an era which should not be ended. We have also just released a 58.1% 12yo “Hjarta” for UK and Scandinavian markets in the last few weeks. This is a very high strength whisky and is an absolute cracker – the writers have accepted this with little comment and I am sure our whisky fans will love it. In the fall we will be releasing 2 Vintage editions a 1964 and a 1968, both of which due to time in cask will be under 45% – basically as it comes out of the cask with a little bit of filtration. I am positive the strengths of these brilliant whiskies will again not be questioned as they are natural.

I found the reactions to strength interesting and that is the second area I would like to provoke on this blog. Do consumers only care about the strength of mid range (20yo to 30yo)  whiskies, does strength need to be fixed or should it be allowed to fluctuate wherever possible?

So, feel free to answer Jason’s questions. Or, post your thoughts on anything he blogged about.

It’s nice to hear from Jason that they won’t be lowering the ABV on HP 25 and 30. For now, anyway.

Thanks Jason, for taking time to participate here.

34 Responses to “Guest Blogger: Jason Craig, Highland Park Whisky”

  1. Red_Arremer says:

    On lowering the apv of the Highland Park 21 year old, Jason comments: “Some saw it as a natural progression and some saw it as the end of an era which should not be ended.”

    So then, are there two equal sides to this issue? Almost, but not quite because there is no “natural progression,” which causes the apv of all of a distillery’s 21 year old bottlings to drop to 40%. There is only a set of values kind of series of events motivated by them that often leads to sweeping reductions in the quality of great products.

    Robin Tuckek, from Blackadder, describes “… the best thing about being small. You don’t have to bottle what is not up to your standards as there are no institutional shareholders looking over your shoulder and demanding ever increasing year on year profits.”

    Well, Highland Park is certainly not small. And the people there have people looking over their shoulders. And right about now things are just about approaching that point that point– the “bottle what is not up to your standards” point. And I don’t think there’s anything natural about it.

  2. B.J. Reed says:

    Welcome Jason! – Best to Gerry and Russell from the gang in Omaha.

    I must admit I prefer the cask strength version of most whiskies although I am not fanatical about it (sorry Harvey). I prefer to control the evolution of the spirit as water is added because it does change the profile.

    The industry has been moving away from 40 ABV and from Chill Filtering and I think that is a good thing but we also have to understand that the vast majority of those drinking single malt probably don’t notice or care about whether a whisky is 40, 43, 46 or even 52 ABV.

    As to the color of whisky, I must say that
    its interesting to compare and contrast color because it is a hint as to the type of oak it was stored in (e.g. 1st fill, 3rd fill) and it says something about the interaction between the wood and the spirit. However, because you don’t know if it has carmel added (Bourbon regulations require that nothing can be added to add any color) you always wonder, especially if its a young whisky.

  3. Harvey Fry says:

    FINALLY a guest blogger who CARES enough about the CUSTOMERS to go directly to WHAT CONCERNS US MOST: THE PRODUCT ITSELF= WHAT’S IN THE BOTTLES & WHY. HALLELUJA! THANKYOU JASON, THANKYOU JOHN, THANKYOU SPIRIT IN THE SKY.

    question one: ADDITIONS THAT TURN OUT TO BE SUBTRACTIONS ARE ABSOLUTELY UNDESIREABLE. please continue to keep the finger-painters far far away from OUR whisky.

    question two: for me, ADDING WATER IS JUST AS BAD! if, for whatever reason, you decide to dilute the natural nectar in my bottle, PLEASE: 1. keep it to a minimum & 2. DO NOT chill-filter or subject it to any other process that removes flavor constituents or otherwise diminishes the taste. i really do NOT care what it looks like. MANY OF US WOULD MUCH RATHER PAY MORE &, if & when water is to be added, DO IT OURSELVES at the time of consumption.

    i’m a HUGE HP fan, BUT, when it’s time to drink, i almost always shun the diluted 12, 15 & 18 year olds & go directly to one of the 20 or so high strength OBs i have. even more likely, i’ll pour from one of the aproximately 50 (similarly less tampered with) independent bottlings in my collection. the 18 year old may indeed be one of the greatest expressions ever made BUT, when i put it on the table next to a cask strength (for instance) SMWS, Signatory, G & M, Cadenhead’s, Duncan Taylor, Scott’s, Adelphi, etc. bottling,
    guess which one i & the overwhelming majority of my companions choose to actually drink? at best, the 18 year old is going to serve as a foil or comparison tool for the other choices &, once that function is accomplished, sit there forlorn & out of the loop. sad but, believe me, that’s what almost always happens at the many tastings at my house.

    SO, PLEASE…….MORE HJARTAs & fewer diluted or otherwise ‘trashed’ products. i know it won’t happen anytime soon but, AT VERY LEAST, YOU SHOULD CONSIDER MODERNIZING/UPGRADING THE WHOLE LINE= MAKING 46.% ABV, & UNCHILLFILTERED THE BASIC/STANDARD WAY TO PRESENT YOUR WONDERFUL PRODUCT^

    thankyou again for your superior approach to us, your (mostly) loyal fans.

  4. Louis says:

    Hi Jason,

    It’s nice to see at least one distillery that does not see the need to hide behind caramel coloring. I would also think that a simple note could be put on the bottle stating that since the whisky gets it’s color from the wood, that there would be slight variations in color from batch to batch. Now if only you could get rid of the chill filtering as well.

    There is one other thing I hope you can shed some light on. I started enjoying Highland Park with the 12 year old in 1997, followed by the 18 a year later, and then the 1977. It seemed to me that those bottlings had a bit more magic than the ones that followed. Could it be that the shape of the bottles from the late 90’s concentrated the vapors in the bottle? Or maybe I was less jaded back then, when each bottle was another ‘amazing discovery’.

    Slaite.

    Louis

  5. bgulien says:

    Hi Jason, good to see you here.
    I notice that the really big companies color. And that’s because they think we are stupid.
    It’s a thing they’ve taken over from blending whisky. You had to have a constant color to the whisky year in, year out.
    And that was also taken on for the single malt. You say, you can’t taste it. Is that really true. I would like to test it with the same whisky: one colored and one not. But that’s nigh on impossible, I thing.
    It’s a pity that the stocks force you to lower the strength.
    Just as Harvey, I like my HP at high strength.
    But then the Hjarta is now on the scene, and I will certainly try it.
    Keep up the good work and when stocks are plentifull again, please raise the strength again.

    Bob

  6. WhiskyNotes says:

    I’m one of the people who were very concerned by the announced lowering of the alcohol in HP 21. It’s like looking out to buy a new car and all of a sudden it gets a new engine (oh, didn’t we tell you we changed that? Not a big deal, it still looks the same from the outside…)

    If make such a move (which I can understand), 1. change the name / label clearly (to avoid confusion, another colour or whatever) or 2. use batch numbers like Laphroaig is doing for its 10yo CS.

  7. It is unfortunate that the majority of whisky consumers, being faced with a 21yo offering from two different distilleries, will often ignore the strength of the two bottles when comparing the price. Evidently a 48% whisky is giving you 20% more product than a comparable 40% whisky. However, due to consumer demand/education, the 48% will not sell at a 20% premium, otherwise distilleries (including Highland Park, I suspect) would prefer to offer the cask strength versions (lower production costs, less bottling and shipping costs, etc.).

    Regarding colour, I see no reason for it. Sure, colour will vary from one vatting to the next, but I think that adds character to the whisky, and to the industry as a whole. Even the uneducated consumer will hardly notice, as I doubt they will purchase multiple bottles from different vattings at a given time.

  8. Red_Arremer says:

    Jason, does the profile of the 21 change in any interesting ways when it’s taken down to 40 % (besides being smoother and thinner)?

    Also, to add to your excellent suggestions WhiskyNotes how about lowering the price a good 12% or so as well.

  9. Todd says:

    Dear Jason, thank you for your comments on this blog. I don’t like caramel in my single malt – and I am not so sure that such manipulations are neutral regarding flavor. Jim Murray has certainly indicated otherwise in his Whisky Bible. I’m quite happy to drink my whiskies in their natural color state. Second, the higher ABV is welcome as well. Simply, you can always easily add water to whisky but it is not trivial to extract it. One of my favorite Highland Park whiskies is the 1977 Bicentenary. I’d loved to have tasted it at higher strength. Along these lines, the only HP currently available that I consider purchasing are higher strength bottlings.

  10. Mike B. says:

    As someone who is relatively young, doesn’t have a lot of money and has been into Scotch for only about two years, the concept of chill-filtration is pretty new to me. It sounds like many of the single malts I own–most of which are either 40% or 43% ABV–are probably chill-filtered, although I didn’t really know the difference when I made the purchases initially.

    My questions are, if anyone would be so kind as to help:

    1) Is there a definitive list somewhere of the commercially-produced single malts that are and are not chill-filtered? Is it even common knowledge? Should whiskies under 46% ABV be assumed to be chill-filtered?

    2) Are there any non chill-filtered single malts in the $30-$80 price range that are available in the US and are particularly good?

    I’d be curious to do some taste comparisons between chill-filtered and non chill-filtered whiskies, however, unless a distillery publicizes it (like Ardbeg), I wouldn’t really know whether it was chill-filtered or not.

    Thanks for the help! Great article, Jason; great blog, John!

  11. Sam S. says:

    Jason, thanks for stopping by.
    John, thanks for having him.

    HP is my go-to whisky.
    I always make sure I have a bottle of HP 18 on hand, and also have some 25 and 30 around if the situation allows for something special.
    It’s nice to know that the color isn’t messed with–I understand there will be variations from year to year and I don’t see that as an issue.
    Regarding the decrease in abv of the 21, I was a bit disappointed when I heard there would be adjustments in the abv that were “unavoidable.” Maybe that can change the other way if stocks allow.
    Certainly, I’m happy that you won’t be decreasing the abv of the 25 or 30, at least not for the near future.

    This is a wonderful discussion.
    Again, I really appreciate you stopping by and giving us some insight from the inside.

  12. Hello Jason,
    Nice to read your thoughts, thanks for your posting. And to John of course too for welcoming it.
    I feel most of us reading this blog and others, and enjoying a variety of whisk(e)y, are aware and sensitive to these issues you’ve presented, coloring and strength, I know I am. But I also realize that most whisky which is colored and lowered in alcohol strength are created for the general or generic public, or for those yet not madly and passionately involved with whisky as we obviously are. Whiskies that are left alone, ie from cask to bottle, naturally uncolored nor diluted, are ones which require experience, create interest and curiosity, and ones that also require more time in the glass then the others. The other whiskies created for larger markets and that are more readily available to more buyers, new and regular, are more for the everyday enjoyment and discovery of whisky, perhaps finding new mad and passionate devotees to the spirit.
    Once the new whisky appreciator is hooked, they too can discover a variety of bottlings from their favorite distillery, various age statements, alcohol strengths, colors, and from a variety of bottlers too. How many 12 year old Highland Parks exist out there? And how fun would it be to compare and enjoy them all!

  13. Tim McCann says:

    Hi Jason,

    HP is always at the top of my list of favorites. In response to your questions: First, a coloring agent should never be added, and second: I don’t believe in adding water to meet increased demand. The original strength was obviously chosen for a reason – that was what suited a particular expression the best. I would rather pay more or wait for the next bottling of a given expression than buy after it has been diluted. BTW, would love to see the younger HP’s in the 46%-48% range.

    Thanks for taking the time to blog!

  14. John Hansell says:

    Great comments, everyone. It really shows our admiration of the brand, doesn’t it? This will give Jason a lot to “chew on.” Hopefully, he’ll chime in sometime soon with some more thoughts.

  15. Hi Jason,

    First of all congratulations again for your 21yo 47.5% ! I was one of the judges of the World Whiskies Awards and truely it was one of the best dram. But I am really happy to have bought one bottle at Heathrow at 47.5% as I am quite sure a 40% – so with much more water dilution and chillfiltration – it will be a different dram.

    I perfectly understand your sales concern but to my mind I won’t be the same whisky – but of course you will benefit from the aura of the award, which is not unfair as Highland Park style desserve awards.

    Quick question : how long do you leave the whisky with the water in the vatting tank before chillfiltering and bottling ?

    I have done tastings with the same whisky chillfiltered and unchillfiltered, even unchillfiltered bottled at 40% “very cloudy”… the profile of the whisky is extremely different, that is why we work for more than 15 years on selecting casks and selecting the bottling strength and filtration most suitable for this precise cask.

    Concerning the caramel, I remember that last time I bought a 1977 cask from you, of course selected with a sample, then came to me with caramel – so from gold to amber, and I notice the change as the flavours were quite different already on the nose. Indeed there are often changes between a cask sample and the final bottling. Now I can only support you for non colouring your expressions but I think you should have done so even before, especially for private casks !

    But there is one risk with marketing a single malt by claiming that it is not coloured : you still want to maintain a certain colour and opacity so you might use sometimes some older casks in your vat on order to keep some uniformity… meaning that the products might change in flavours as well. I have already seen some casks being selected for a vat not especially for their flavours but more for their colour !

    Thank you for blogging !

  16. Red_Arremer says:

    Alexandre Vingtier, that distillers who don’t caramel-color sometimes choose casks for color over nose and palate is a revalation to me. Are there any particular distilleries or bottlings that come to mind as good examples of this practice?

  17. Barry says:

    Howdy, I’m a newcomer to the blog. :) Regarding adding colouring to the whisky, a whisky producer is free to do whatever they want to their product. It is after all THEIR product. I am of the opinion however that any additives or deviations from standard production methods need to be mentioned on the label – or at least on the company’s website – so that customers can see for themselves.

    I’m not a purist when it comes to whisky – I’ll drink anything. All that matters to be is taste. If it tastes good, that makes it a good whisky for me. I don’t care of it’s a single malt at cask strength or a blended amalgam with high grain spirit content. As long as it tastes good. :) But I know there are many whisky connoisseurs out there who find production methods and additives very important, so in the interest of full disclosure I’d say make producers reveal what they put in it.

    • John Hansell says:

      Thanks Barry. And wecome aboard. Nice to have you here.

      I just received an email from Jason Craig and he informed me that he’ll be addressing everyone’s comments later today, so stay tuned.

  18. Red_Arremer, as examples I would say any massively selling whisky mentioning “natural colour” in more or less proportion : you choose a formula for one expression (X recharred barrels + Y recharred hogsheads + Z refill barrels + …) – of you course the final result is checked by the master blender and his team in the lab but the marketing might also add a colour / opacity check for consistancy. Of course standardized ageing gives such kind of flavours and colour to a whisky after X years in a type of cask – but the magic of whisky and maturation makes a proportion of casks ageing differently than presumed… does it make sense ?

  19. Red_Arremer says:

    It does make sense Alexandre. I really appreciate your insight on this.

  20. Jason Craig says:

    Hi Guys

    I go into my normal working day and then decide to drop into the blog and 20 comments in a day – all of which I have read and I would like to add the following into this Vatting…..

    I did not know about the Bourbon regulation so thanks for that BJ Reed

    Harvey i appreciate the kind words of welcome and I love the opportunity that John has provided me with. Independent bottlers are to be applauded but again if it is a “different” style of HP then why add colour……just distracts from your enjoyment

    Louis, 12 and 18yo do vary from time to time against set colour tolerances and taste profiles. We do occasionally use an older cask or 2 to meet colour need, this will not change profile much if at all but a more mature note might emerge. We prefer that than adding caramel which would be cheaper, easier and more efficient…..not the HP way i’m afraid to say

    Bgulien….can you taste caramel, better noses than me say that you cannot taste or nose it, but then I supose it depends on the volume of caramel you add….might end up like Twix!!

    Whiskynotes….I appreciate your considered points on 21yo and I admit that we have some decisions to take on 21yo, I would prefer to see it back to higher strength ASAP….we will do this when we can

    Red…..your price reduction question is fair….all I will say is that we are not seeking the level of price increases that are on the rest of the range…

    Jonathan…12yo exists in Europe at 40% and USA at 43%, ther are subtle differences to nosing notes and the finish too. I would recommend trialling with friends!

    Alexandre…vatting depends on the mix of casks and the demand from markets but is usually 6-12 weeks minimum on Highland Park. There are always exceptions…but that is the norm.

    Hope this stirs the pot a little more and I promise I will keep posting for as long as the debate goes on….or until John cuts me off…

    • John Hansell says:

      Thanks Jason for taking the time to respond to everyone.

      Are there any more comments relating to Highland Park? If so, now’s your chance to get them answered!

  21. Monique at the Dell says:

    Welcome Jason, and thanks John for hosting.
    We love the 18 yo, we are proud that it’s the go-to single malt for our bar, I wish that I could try it at cask strength!
    I am really glad that as the whisky market has become more savvy, we’ve see a shift towards natural color and strength. I understand that the coloring was added to promote consistency, but I’d much rather have consistency of flavor. As far as strength, like Harvey up there, I’d rather add my own water, but run into many patrons that are intimidated by the thought of that, and avoid cask strengths, so it works both ways…
    Great discussion, I appreciate Jason putting the questions out to us and applaud HP’s efforts and encourage the broader market to pick up on it.

  22. David Stirk says:

    Hi Jason. Great to see you guest blogging on this site and talking about two things close to most malt whisky drinkers hearts. I’d like to argue one point with you though – the addition of caramel (E150) does affect the flavour. I have worked in a small bottling hall where caramel colouring was used and it is actually a rather pungent ingredient. I have tasted whiskies from the same cask with caramel and without and there is a definite difference. This doesn’t really change anything from Highland Park’s point of view though as you don’t rely on caramel for your colour.
    I, for one, would love to see variation in colours from one batch to another. One company where this is quite noticeable is Springbank and I think it has enhanced their reputation. Whether or not the wider drinking public would tolerate it is a different matter.

    I would have loved a comment or two about the price of malt whisky at the moment – especially from Highland Park’s point of view. A recent distillery-only release of 12yo Highland Park is commanding a £60 plus price tag and yet the standard 12 is £25. I don’t collect whisky and thus £60 is a staggering amount of money to pay – especially when you consider how difficult it is to get to Highland Park in the first place. There will always be whiskies out of my price range but I never expected a 12yo would be one of them.

    Having said all that, I really do love Highland Park and appreciate the openess in the brand, not just from you, but from everyone I have met in the company. After all, there shouldn’t be any secrets in the whisky industry – only oak, barley, yeast, water, time and patience (oh and care and attention).

    David

  23. John Hansell says:

    David, you’re sure right about Springbank. I have several bottles of the “old” 21 Sprinbanks and they varied greatly in color (and sherry content). They fact that they aren’t colored gives me an idea of what the whiskies will taste like just by looking at them (at least from a sherry standpoint).

    I, too, also believe that caramel coloring affects flavor.

  24. Neil Fusillo says:

    Jason,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and starting the conversation going about strengths. I, for one, would like to see more variations of colour and strength in single malt whiskies. I like the variety.

    Once you start to add colour just to maintain a ‘consistent’ colour for consumers, it stops being art and starts being an assembly-line beverage. Now… for blends? Sure. It’s SUPPOSED to be an assembly-line beverage to serve the needs of the many. But the components themselves? The single malts that go into them? They should be unique to show the craft and artistry that created them.

    The same goes for strengths. A ‘standard’ blend strength is, in my opinion, perfectly normal. Blends are meant to be the whiskies that people have drunk for generations…. the staple liquor that competes with the other choices out there. But single malts? They’re single malts. They should be singular in their characteristics — each cask a little different from the next, so that collectors and connoisseurs can discuss their slight variations for hours upon end. “Have you tried the batch Y from company X? It’s so different from batch W! Go out and get one!”

    That’s half the fun — discovering the differences that make a whisky worth sharing with friends and makes it all the more entertaining to see how the new one stacks up against the old.

  25. Harvey Fry says:

    looking back, the slightly evil events reviewer in me can NOT resist=

    RATINGS OF RECENT GUEST BLOGGERS (as individual expression scores)

    31 July- Richard Paterson 67

    19 August- Jason Craig 92

    i invite all serious whisk(e)y drinkers/lovers to join me in this tongue in cheek excercise in communication with the powers that be^ after all, they have every right to know what we think of their communication skills in the simplest most direct way. if they knew we were going to rate their performance(s) the same way we rate their products, they might take us somewhat more seriously= maybe even like real customers?

  26. Neil Fusillo says:

    See, Harvey, I would totally disagree with both your ratings and concept. You rate Paterson poorly because you disagree with his stance on certain issues. That’s not a rating of his performance as a public speaker. That’s a rating of your enjoyment of his content. He was actually both eloquent and powerful as a blogger, and I, for one, enjoyed him coming by to share his opinions — whether you agreed with what he had to say or not.

    As for rating the guest bloggers, it becomes a negative tool toward expressing your opinion, because these guys are just people with their own hopes, dreams, and fears. If you start to treat them as numerical values of an expression of your opinion of them, you run the very real risk of discouraging future guest bloggers from ever appearing.

    Keep in mind the 80/20 principle. We are the 20% in our vocality here, but they also have to be concerned with the 80% of their customers who aren’t. When you’re building a product, you MUST take that into consideration, and strive to do what’s best for the greater number of people and not the vocal lesser number. Sure, it would be nice to be able to please everyone, but that’s not going to happen… so you choose to please the greater number of customers over the smaller number.

    While some of the opinions of people here on this blog (and others) are influential, it’s still just a collection of a few hundred whisky drinkers out of millions in the market. To cater specifically to what WE want (even if there were a concensus, which there isn’t), or even to blindly assume that we’re representative of the whisky drinking public as a whole would be foolish.

    I think the guest bloggers take us VERY seriously to the degree that we can be taken seriously. We’re the vocal and dedicated active minority on the Internet. That’s a tiny market segment, but it’s an excellent market segment to tap into for marketing. To assume, because there are other concerns when building whisky besides yours or mine, that they somehow don’t take us seriously as customers is…. naive at best.

  27. John Hansell says:

    Harvey, I must agree with Neil here. (And thank you Neil for taking the time to post your response.)

    As the owner of this blog, I’m afraid that your hyper-critical evaluations of our guest bloggers will end up with one this sad outcome: no more guest bloggers.

    Having these guest bloggers on WDJK is one of the features here that makes this blog stand out over others. I work VERY hard recruiting guest bloggers–all who are leaders in the whisky field (Master Distillers, Master Blenders, etc.). They are VERY busy and I am very grateful that they have taken time out of their overly busy schedule to participate here.

    Harvey, don’t ruin a good thing here. One of my very few rules here–which I will not tolerate–is attacking someone’s character. If you don’t like someone’s whisky. Fine, feel free to say so, and explain why you feel this way. But, when you start attacking or criticizing a person, that’s crossing the line. And that’s what you have just done.

    Our guest bloggers will know how much we enjoy their blog by the number and quality of our responses. That’s judgement enough.

    For now, let’s relish in the pleasure and enjoyment that Jason Craig has brought us.

    I am now faced with the daunting task of finding a guest blogger for September. Harvey, you have just made my job all that more difficult.

  28. Dear Jason,

    I am a big fan of HP & echo the comments of discouraging the use of caramel coloring & encouraging non-chill-filtration, preferring cask strength.

    Is there any chance of reviving the single cask program? I have been fortunate to taste & being able to acquire many of the single casks HPs from various retailers.

    I, like Harvey, Monique & BJ prefer to add water to my taste, and would love to see more distillery bottlings offered at cask strength.

    I would like to see exceptional casks, of various ages, set aside to be bottled for specialty retailers. To vat extraordinary casks would be a shame.

    I would love the chance to taste HP new-make spirit, and to compare and contrast different cask selections and ages against each other and the OB line.

    I applaud your use of all natural coloring, and choice to maintain the higher ABV for the 20+ year old bottlings.

    Highland Park produces a very diverse whisky, as seen through various distillery and independent bottlings. Please keep up the good work!

    Cheers,
    Bill

    • John Hansell says:

      I want to second what William Meyers said about the single cask program. Some of you might recall that, with the help of Highland Park, I tasted and reviewed (in Malt Advocate) of the single cask offerings available in the U.S. back when they were in circulation. I really enjoyed the diversity of the whiskies. And while I wasn’t crazy about all of them (I thought some were a bit too heavy on the sherry), others were astonishingly good!

  29. Jason Craig says:

    Hello again
    Thanks for the comments over the last couple of days and I would like to stir the pot again!

    David Stirk – appreciate the comment on caramel changing character. Guess it depends on the volume added. For HP 12yo in previous years we used it in the past to move from a low tint of 8 or 9 to 12 or 13. Basically a small amount to move it to our tolerance level and at such small levels it had no discernable flavour effect.
    Also the new 12yo is indeed at £60, but it is also at 58.1%, within limited edition packaging and is collectable through our distillery or the Nordic markets. In my view not too expensive given the strength is nearly 50% higher than regular 12yo…..but I agree it is not for everyone.

    Monique, appreciate the feedback and the praise too ;-) I also agree that mainstream consumers are sometimes left like startled rabbits with High Strength single malt…..they do not know what they should do!

    Neil Fusillo – I echo your sentiment on hand crafted and not massed produced, even when it does go through a bottling hall operation. As for variations in whisky “Vive La Difference”

    Harvey – like whisky, there are no bad ones or good ones, only different ones which hopefully provoke lively debate and interaction.

    William/John H – with regard to the single cask revival. I never say never, but we did go through quite a few casks in the last 4 years of the single cask offerings. We began to cherry pick our best casks and we simply had to close it down even though it was very successful to protect future stock quality. We are introducing some more affordable higher strength whiskies(e.g. the new ltd edition Hjarta 12yo) and some very rare limited older editions 1964 and 1968 for regular connoisseurs and colectors. With regard to New Make Spirit…it is on our radar but it is one of those for special events for now.

    Hope this adds to the debate
    Jason

  30. John Hansell says:

    Thank you Jason for following up with every comment. We REALLY appreciate having you here.

    [On ad administrative note, and for the sake of transparancy, I regret to say that I have, for the first time, asked someone to not participate in WDJK for the time being. While I believe in free speech, even a free society has certain rules that must be abided by for the good of the society.

    I have only a couple, very simple rules of etiquette, which I have repeated many times here and even blogged about.
    They are:

    1) Don't attack an individual's character

    2) Keep your responses brief, to the point, and on topic.

    These rules were violated not once, but on several occassions, by this individual. This is the first time I had to take an action like this, and I hope it will be the last.

    I appreciate everyone taking time to comment on my postings and participate in the discussion here. I would much rather you spend your efforts talking about whisky, rather than having to defend our guest bloggers, etc. You shouldn't have to do that. And if you do, then I'm not doing my job. I had to step in and take action, which I did.]

  31. Doug Hall says:

    It’s amazing that SWA even allows the addition of burnt sugar / caramel for coloring. All Scotch should be like Highland Park – pure and REAL.

    Last friday night – friends gathered in my Scotch Cellar to taste from 30+ 18 year old bottles. As David said “Doug you have all these bottles – but in truth you only need one – this Highland Park 18 beats them all”

    To “move the inventory” I’ve figured out a plan – I now hold back the HP18 till the end – that way – I can move out the others.

    I’m not a big believer in marketing hype – because most time the hype is far greater than the reality.

    I believe in building great products – then telling the world the story.

    HP 18 is up their with the greatest quality products I’ve ever seen – Apple Mac Air, I Pod, I phone, BMW, Kobe Beef, Malpeque Oysters!

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