Highland Park Distillery Bottlings Tasting Notes

Posted: September 6, 2011 in Highland Park, Scotch Whisky A-G

Highland Park 12 year old 40%

Tasted: Nov 2004

Clean, pronounced and complex aromas of tar, old rope, iodine, heather, rich sherried fruits, blood oranges, a touch of peat and vegetal notes, with the creamy oak coming through later. Complex and majestic on the palate. Dry on the palate, med-bodied and quite viscous. The flavours are initially delicate but build to a complex intensity of sherried fruit, salt and heather. Very soft with a touch of charcoal/ peat on the middle. Very long with a youthful salty, smoky tinge.

Highland Park 12 year old 40%

Tasted: Aug 2010

It has to be said that the 12 year old has a pretty much complete nose, aside from the slightly butyric note! Slightly spicy and gristy, the delicate tropical fruit, melds wonderfully with the heather-honey and candied sweet sherry. There seems to be less of the tarry, fishy and coastal notes that I remember from a previous tasting many years ago, but I would still call this an absolutely banker!

The palate is soft and juicy, opening with the honey coated dried fruit and the sugary-sweet sherry. A myriad of tropical fruitsarrive on the middle backed by a very pleasant Bourbon/ sherry wood combination and a hint of coastal smoke and brine. For a 40% bottling it packs quite an alcoholic punch, but it never becomes spirity. Lovely length.

Highland Park 12 Years Old 40%

Tasted: Feb 2012

An ever so slightly musty, herbal and woody nose with a touch of spicy marc and sweet barley. With time some hickory and herbal peat appears.

The palate is lightly oiled with some youthful marc-like notes. Again slightly musty with a touch of burnt caramel. Soft and quite sweet. Conclusion: Pleasant if a tad unfocused.

Highland Park 12 year old

Bottling Code: L0354R

Re-Tasted: Mar 2014

Goof god that’s grim even by Highland Park standards! Dirty, industrial and sulphurous with hints of decomposing Orange.

The palate is exactly the same as the nose except there’s maybe a touch of honey, but its well and truly buried under the murk. I can’t believe the Highland Park 12 has plumed new depths!

Highland Park 12 year old 46%

Re-Tasted: Dec 2014

Nose: Fragrant and dusty barley to begin with, followed by hints of honey and herbal rye-like notes.

Palate: Simple, straightforward with hints of barley, toffee and caramel. The toffee’d oak becomes a bit too dominating.

Finish: Good length with some refreshing citrus moments.

Conclusion: Simple and a bit over oaked.

Highland Park 15 year old 40%

Tasted: Aug 2010

It has a very odd colour this one. A sort of murky olive oil colour

It’s a bit of a brutish nose to be honest. Yes there is a huge amount of mature-ing honey…. And more….and more! With herbal nuances and a touch of coastal. However it lacks the complexity and dexterity of the 12 yearold and the alcohol seems quite astringent and intrusive even though it’s only 40%.

Very dry on the palate. Again plenty of herbal honey and gristy spices, but like the nose it is rather straightforward and uncharming. It seems somewhat muted and the tropical fruit has an odd edge to it. Not quite cardboard but something not totally pleasant. Good length with again a very alcoholic finish.

Highland Park 16 year old 40%

Tasted: Aug 2010

The aromas seem a lot more mature than the 15 year old. There’s no shortage of mature honey and big sweet sherry adding some coffee-spice. Rich, expansive and rounded with heathery notes and orange barley nuances.

The palate is lightly oiled and surprisingly a bit vague and watery. A bit over confected with some herbal-honey and toffee. To be honest the intensity gets off it’s butt and builds into an all to brief pleasant middle, which exhibits a slightly floral quality along with some chocolate malt before the alcohol kicks it all into touch. So there you have it – a vague start, an enjoyable middle and then looses the will to live at the end!

Highland Park 18 year old 43%

Tasted: Aug 2010

An immense, expansive and hugely honeyed nose with citrus notes. This is a gorgeous vatting of Bourbon and Sherry casks. This seems to be the quintessential Highland Park; it has everything you want by the bucketful! Mature honey, heather, sugardusted tropical fruit, banana, fig, chocolate and a soft smoky coastal embrace. Stunning!

The palate opens with chocolate and liquorice before moving off into the herbal honey stratosphere! Light smoke, citrus and mature tropical fruit combine brilliantly. Big and chewy on the middle with heather and gentle spices. The alcohol although higher than the other bottlings is so smooth and wonderfully integrated that there is definitely no need for water (in fact it’s a tad disappointing with water, which is why it was bottled at this strength). The interplay between the spirit and the various woods is stunning and the finish………..!!!

Highland Park 21 year old 47.5%

Tasted: Aug 2010

From the nose I would guess that it is a 80/20% vatting of Sherry/ Bourbon casks, certainly the colour would suggest that, also there is a lot more wood on the nose, and that is the first thing that hits you. Not quite in the class of the 18yr, but there is still huge gobs of orange fruit, followed by uber sweet, thick honey, sherry spices and Oloroso leafiness.

The leafy sherry is in full swing on the palate with copious quantities of tannins and alcohol. Some mature tropical fruit and honey flavours tries there hardest to break through but ultimately it has to surrender to the constraining tannins and alcohol.

With water the nose really begins to loose all sense of character (the orange fruit and honey have well and truly headed south, sounding the retreat!) and ramps up the sherry. On the palate it is a lot simpler now and more confected. After the 18 yearold this is a major disappointment.

Highland Park 25 year old 48.1%

Tasted: Aug 2010

Apparently 50% of the spirit was matured in first fill Oloroso casks. Well it might as well have been 100% to be honest!! The nose is exceedingly woody and dry. What little wonderfully mature tropical fruit is pounded into submission. In fact this reminds me of old Glengoyne in its dried fruit and nuttiness. The wood is far too aggressive for the spirit. I know sherry cask lovers would kill for this but for me the balance and elegance of say the 18 year old is sadly lacking here.

Quite oily on the palate. Like the nose there is a mountain of sherry wood which accounts for all of the flavours – caramelised nuts and spices. Add to that the rampant, mouth watering alcohol and the bitterness from the oak and it’s a pretty dry old affair.

Water doesn’t really make any difference to the either the nose or the palate, maybe brining out a touch of lazy smoke and a faint cardboardy note. So with a price tag of 160 odd quid in my opinion it is a seriously disappointing dram!

Highland Park 1971 (40 years old) 46.9%

Tasted: Feb 2012

The nose opens with a tidal wave of mature, Oloroso sherry with some serious exotic depth. Succulent coffee soaked dried fruit – prune, plum and sultana follow. Soft wood spices meld into dark chocolate and a slight coastal note adds some freshness. Monumentally deep, pretty much faultless with a sprinkling of demerara sugar, sandalwood and incense.

Lighter, more elegant on the palate. Gentle mature, dried sherry fruit, citrus rind, almonds and walnut are bound together by a light coffee/ hickory note. The deft complexity is frightening as a touch of oxidised apricot, earth, liquorice and the most gentle kiss of peat smoke emerge. Like the nose some coastal notes add a lovely degree of freshness. A stunning finish boasting mature honey, demarara sugar along with hints of parma violets. Conclusion: This malt oozes age, complexity and mellow charm by the bucketful!

Highland Park 1971 (40 years old) 46.9%

Tasted: Mar 2012

A dense, balanced  and venerable nose of mature sherry. Stunningly spicy with some beautiful dried fruit with a gentle, perfumed top note of bluebell and violets. Complex and deep with an oily, malty, chocolatey core.

It glides like an angel on the lounge. Stunning, juicy dried fruit, dark nuts, malt an explosive sherry spice coat gently but effortlessly. Gently perfumed with hints of cocoa and bitter chocolate laced tannins.

Good length, finishing with a continuation of the bitter, tannin, chocolate theme. Is the malt flagging a touch, but with such maturity I guess a price must be paid.

Highland Park ‘Leif Erikson Release’ 40%

Sherry and Bourbon seasoned ex-American oak

Tasted: Oct 2012

A rough and ropey nose, with plenty of wet cardboard and earthy, murky almost sulphourous notes. Is this really Highland Park? It seems to me that someone has replaced the contents with Tobermory!

The palate is equally as poor. Wet cardboard and murky citrus with a touch of honey. This is so rough it’s unbelievable! Was it matured in Leif Erikson’s jock strap? There’s no fruit, no depth and finishes with a bitter acerbic note. I can’t believe that the distillery would bottle such rubbish and foist it off on the public, even if it via travel retail.

Incidentally the marketing bods at Edrington describe it thus – Nose: A honey-tinged sweetness of orange blossom on the nose with suggestions of vanilla, spicy dried oak, mango and melon. Taste: Soft vanilla and sweet barley on the palate with a hint of grape. Finish: A finish of Muscovado sweetness balanced by wisps of Orcadian peat smoke. Either they were living on another planet or tasting a completely different whisky!

Highland Park Harald 40%

Warrior Series release for travel retail.

American/ European Oak

Nose: A pleasant nose of dusty barley with hints of apricot, greengage and rhubarb. Lightly herbal with hints of under ripe banana.

Palate: Very fusty and musty with dunnage and mushroom notes. Note the lack of fruit!

Finish: Fusty and mushroomy!

Conclusion: How can a malt with such a pleasant nose have such a dreadful palate?

Highland Park Dark Origins 46.8%

80% first fill sherry casks (of which 60% is European oak and 20% American) and 20% refill sherry.

Tasted: Dec 2014

Nose: Burt caramel and cabbage. Very heavily blemished.

Palate: As the nose. Dirty burnt caramel and sulphur!

Finish: Horrid.

Conclusion: This is so ridiculously tainted that no amount of caramel is going to cover it up! [And it retails for £65!!!!]

Highland Park Valkyrie 45.9%

Tasted: July 2017

Although the nose opens with a pleasant degree of barley, apricot, apple and subtle honey, there is a slightly dirty feinty edge to the aromas. With time the vanilla oak notes develop along with a touch of peat smoke, dark chocolate and spice.

Creamy vanilla and barley to begin with on the palate. Slightly maltier than the nose suggests and thankfully that feinty note hasn’t followed through. a light smokiness appears before the dark chocolate and sumptuous vanilla coated fruit arrives. Long and subtly salted with lingering bonfire smoke and citrus. The palate is far better than the nose!



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