It’s fair to say that we’re obsessed with casks at Highland Park – it’s where the magic happens as our new make spirit matures into award-winning single malt Scotch whisky. Most distilleries use spirit caramel, a permitted additive, to add colour to a lighter whisky but we invest in quality casks to allow our whisky to develop a completely natural, cask-driven colour. Casks account for around 60% of the flavour of our whisky, so the higher the quality of the cask, the higher the quality of the whisky’s final flavour too.
We use two different kinds of oak for our casks – European oak (predominantly Quercus Robur and we also use Quercus Petraea) mainly from the North of Spain and American oak (predominantly Quercus Alba) from the east coast of America. European oak trees are slow growing and shorter than American oak with higher tannin levels which give the whisky a darker natural colour and a spicy, dried fruit, sweet toffee character as it matures. American oak trees, on the other hand, grow faster, taller and straighter with higher levels of oak lactones and lower levels of tannins which gives a lighter colour and flavours of citrus, vanilla and coconut. From an acorn being planted to a cask being created, it can take 80 years or more.
When we created TRISKELION, released in 2019, we set three legendary Highland Park whisky makers with a challenge that put their expertise to the test – combining three distinctive cask types to explore the influence of wood and cask seasoning on the whisky’s flavour and character. Gordon Motion, Max McFarlane and John Ramsay selected first-fill sherry seasoned Spanish oak butts, first-fill sherry seasoned American oak casks and first-fill bourbon barrels and hogsheads as the main components, balancing this combination with a small quantity of refill casks to add a degree of softness to the final flavour. The resulting special edition whisky is a complex and full-bodied expression, delivering a vibrant union of rich fruit, creamy sweetness and aromatic spice. Our signature light peat smoke unites each layer of flavour to create an exceptionally well-balanced whisky, as full of character as its three whisky makers!