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Where There’s Wood, There’s Flavor: How to Make a Barrel Old Fashioned

Sherry oak casks add depth to Highland Park 12 Year Old Scotch, as do barrel-aged bitters to an Old Fashioned recipe.

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Any whisky connoisseur can tell you the ingredients to make a classic Old Fashioned: whisky, sugar, bitters, and ice. And so much of the flavor of the Old Fashioned depends on the whisky that’s stirred in.

How does a whisky get its flavor, you might ask? Scotch enthusiasts will tell you it all comes down to the barrel. Scotch must legally be aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years, which puts a heightened level of expectation on the casks used — the quality has to be up to snuff. In the case of the Highland Park 12 Year Old, the Scotch is aged in both Spanish and American oak casks seasoned with sherry. The result? Notes of dried fruit, vanilla and butterscotch that set this whisky apart from any other Scotch.

To bring out the subtle sweetness of the barrels, this Old Fashioned recipe uses barrel-aged bitters (aged in whisky barrels) and maple syrup to highlight Highland Park 12 Year Old’s woodsy undertones.

Highland Park is one of a handful of distilleries that use sherry oak casks to age their whisky. Most distilleries in Scotland have resorted to aging in ex-bourbon barrels for cost and ease. The decision to age in sherry oak casks is a costly one, but it’s certainly one that pays off in the final product of Highland Park 12 Year Old.

Relish in the depth of the Barrel Old Fashioned as you take in the aromas and flavors of winter spices and dried fruits. Watch the video and follow along the recipe to make this at home, for a truly cozy winter night.

Charred Mushroom Skewers With Honey and Herbs

Serves 6 as an appetizer
Active time: 25 minutes, plus time to light the grill


1 pound assorted large mushrooms (preferably a mix of king oyster, shiitake, and maitake)
1 sprig rosemary
2 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and cracked black pepper
Long wooden or metal skewers


  1. Light a charcoal grill and once the coals are glowing, distribute them for low heat (alternatively, use a grill pan on the stovetop). Soak wooden skewers in water.
  2. Meanwhile, slice or divide mushrooms into thick planks. Strip the leaves off the rosemary and thyme and chop them coarsely, then mix with the olive oil and honey. Thread the mushrooms onto the skewers and drizzle generously with the honey-herb oil, keeping a little for later. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Grill until mushrooms are tender on the inside and crisp and golden on the edges, 10 to 15 minutes (or faster, if your grill is hot). Drizzle them with the remaining honey-herb oil.
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