The year was 1968. In those twelve months, Apollo 8 left the Earth's gravity to become the first mission to the Moon; the Civil Rights Movement was reaching its apogee, rewriting the world's perception of race; The Beatles released their seminal anthem "Hey Jude"; and in faraway Orkney, a windswept archipelago off the northern Scottish coast, the master distillers of 223-year-old Highland Park stowed away nine refill casks of virgin grain spirit, to be rested for the coming 50 years.
Today, with the enduring influence of 1968 still clearly felt, Highland Park is releasing that prized whisky to the world as a reminder of the vivid idealism of the era. Within the 274 bottles of the new Highland Park 50 Year Old single malt scotch whisky is a liquid that has been created using a traditional solera system—best known as a method of maturing sherry—where a small quantity of the original whisky from 1968 was married together with a newer whisky in 2008.
The vatted whisky was then re-racked into a handful of the finest first-fill sherry seasoned oak casks. Then, after a further 12 years of maturation, one of these limited casks was selected and married with a small quantity of the whisky from the last 50 Year Old released by the distillery.
This method of continuing a legacy within a legacy has been proven three times over the history of Highland Park, with the 2020 release of Highland Park 50 Year Old carrying intensely rich notes courtesy of five decades spent in the cask. “The whisky is spectacular. Aged for a little over 50 years, [it] had absorbed the rich sherried flavours of dried fruit and sweet toffee from its final first-fill cask maturation, but still retained all the delicate fragrance and flavours driven by the original refill casks," says Gordon Motion, master whisky maker at Highland Park.
Highland Park's legacy is alive and continually evolving, with a new chapter being written every time a dram is shared between friends—and the tale of the whisky is told. Originally laid down in a period of societal upheaval, it is only fitting that the 50 Year Old edition is released during another time of widespread change in art, culture and pioneering spirit.
To this end, Tatler invited two connoisseurs of the arts and fine spirits—Daniel Lam, Bonhams Director of Wine and Whisky in Asia, and Nelson Chow, founder and design principal of NC Design and Architecture (NCDA)—to a thoughtful conversation at Tatler House about the resonance of the year 1968, how the art and events from this era has helped shape today’s artistic landscape, and what this means for art in the future. Though their interpretations of these questions may vary, the legacy invariably echoes.