Open It! Day 3: Highland Park Hj??rta, for MaltCim’s 6th anniversary

I’m almost as bad at not opening special bottlings of whisky as I am beer. These whiskies almost seem to conspire against me to remain unsampled. It doesn’t matter so much with a whisky; the contents in an unopened bottle won’t deteriorate, but nor will they improve – except perhaps in value. Even though the Open It! weekend seems to be almost exclusively about beer, it doesn’t preclude any drink. From it’s inception, I had in mind one particular bottle of whisky that is appropriate to crack today. The reason for keeping it unopened so far, is perhaps

Highland Park Hjärta came out in the middle of 2009 in a limited edition of 3,900 bottles. As soon as I heard about it, I knew what I had to do. On December 8, 2004 MaltCim had a kidney transplant, and her new kidney came from her brother, Jonas. On each anniversary, I send him a bottle of whisky as a thank-you for his incredible, life-changing gift. 2009 was the fifth anniversary, so I wanted the whisky to be a bit special.

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“Hjärta” means “heart” in Swedish, so what more apt whisky to celebrate with? Well, as far as I know, there isn’t a “Njure” bottling, but then again “kidney” doesn’t quite have the same ring about it. Of course I had to taste the whisky first – I wasn’t going to send any old spirit just because it had a good name. I managed to find it at the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival, and it certainly passed the taste test. I told Jonathan di Blasi of Maxxium, the Scandinavian drinks importer, he loved the idea, and a plan was hatched to get a bottle from Bergen in Norway to Östersund in Sweden.

As a back-up, I secured a second bottle from the Highland Park distiller shop, but it wasn’t needed. Jonathan kept good his promise, and even though delivering the bottle to Jonas was a saga in itself, the feat was accomplished and the whisky much appreciated. This left me with the back-up in my own whisky cabinet, and I just couldn’t bring myself to open it; it wasn’t meant for me!

And then Open It! came along, almost to the day of the 6th anniversary, and it just seemed the right way to celebrate it. Whisky and beer are for sharing, not hoarding, after all. Bearing in mind that this has probably altered my appreciation of the whisky, this is what I thought. Neat, the nose is full of candied fruits (pears?) and toffee. There is a subtle whiff of wood smoke. The first sip gives a huge rush of gingery pepper, a thick, silky, almost chewy mouthfeel and a long somewhat fiery finish with the smoke trailing off. Adding water seems to bring out sea air. The toffee malt deepens (toffee apples?) and polished wood emerges. Full-bodied on the palate with vanilla ice cream flecked with crystallized ginger. The fire has died leaving a coating sweetness and a swirl of smoke. 

Cheers, then Jonas! I hope you enjoy this year’s whisky – and no, I’m not revealing that here, yet.

If you want to read the story of how the Hjärta reached its destination last year, go to our Antarctic Odyssey blog.
Read Highland Park’s own tasting notes.
But if you really want to do something good, register for the organ donor register.

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