TN: Two cask strength - Highland Park & Aberlour

Highland Park Cask Strength Release no. 2 Single Malt
It smells of figs and sherry sweetness but where's the smoke and peat? It doesn't exist! I always though HP was supposed to be both smokey and peaty? Once the right amount of water is found (lots! since this has 63,9%) this is actually a very nice whisky. Little smoke or peat to be seen but there is great sherry sweetness. Maybe a slight hint of smoke on the finish? I dunno. It's more a sherry bomb intensity than the smokey island style I wanted. But once I shift my expectations and drink it on a day when I don't want an Islay-clone but want a sherry bomb it's actually really nice! But it does need serious amounts of water added. 63,9% abv is just insane.

Aberlour A'Bunadh Cask Strength Release Batch 73
61,2% abv so also requires a lot of water to be enjoyable. But having just called the HP a sherry bomb, I now see my mistake. THIS is a sherry bomb. Wonderful toffee, chocolate, x-mas spice sweetness. Incredible texture that just coats your mouth in this thick, sweet, treacly intensity. I don't really understand why I like this so much. I'm normally a fan of smoke and dryness with whisky or acidity and neutrality with wine. But here's the opposite of what I normally like and it's amazing! Now whisky geeks apparently are all saying that these recent releases of A'Bunadh are trash and pre-50 were good so don't trust me. I'm very much in the beginning of my whisky journey anyway so never trust a thing I write here. It's all just n00b stuff.
Not so long ago A'bundadh used to be £35 from Waitrose. Not bought it since prices doubled a couple of years ago. A nice dram and one which would be interesting to compare and contrast with Glenfarclas 105.
We visited Springbank recently. Fantastic tour , really quite a backward and primitive family owned business. Massive shorttage of it . Buy any you can. Even the distillery shop didn’t have any !
Must have been nice to visit yet seems a bit incomplete if one cannot even buy from the distillery door.

I used to buy Springbank and drank every bottle. Less than a decade ago, one even had to consult Whiskybase to find out which version of 12yo Cask Strength was drinking better. I even found an old bottle (black label) in a local convenience store (likely worth 1000s now) and drank it.

I would buy Springbank if stumbled upon, but now it is more an investment asset there are other craft disilleries making great whisky.
The level of smoke in Highland Park has always been light, especially when compared to Islay whiskies. Heather honey notes is what I look for with a hint of heathery peat in the background. Back in the 80s and 90s this was my favourite distillery. Sadly I’ve been generally disappointed with what I’ve had from there in recent years.
Yes agreed - HP12 and (especially) HP18 were benchmarks when I started getting into single malts c. 2005, but the distillery has pretty much lost credibility now. Sad.