As fas as affordable older Highlanders go, I'd prefer this to the - roughly similarly priced - AnCnoc 22 and 24.
Plum cake, polish, marzipan, exotically-flavored fruit gums, wine-soaked barrel staves. Quite a bit of acidity - probably due to the ex-bourbon components that went into the vatting, but there's also a sense of slightly sour wood influence (in a good way, though). Very fruity, with quince, mirabelle, apricot, and cherry. The fruit vies for dominance with the wood, without a clear winner in sight. With plenty of air, there's some hickory wood smoke, paprika, and smoky barbecue sauce. Though the sense of sherry seasoning and active wood is strong here, it's still a very rich and varied nose.
Does not need water. Super smooth and silky arrival, gets then slowly and steadily more peppery / spicy and intense. If you'd have to visualize the development on the palate, you'd surely draw an upward tending graph: it starts slowly and then just builds and builds and builds. Basically, you get multivitamin fruit juice in the beginning, then a dash of wood spice, leading up to a ginger-and-chili finale. At the death, there's some late chocolate and espresso. Impressive.
Longer than medium, but not extremely well-defined. Some lingering cocoa and indistinct red fruits, while the zingy spiciness slowly ebbs away. Water makes it fruitier and (duh:) softer without offering any real improvement. A lot of marzipan as well. There's too much active, peppery oak in here for my taste.