Highland Park is one of my favourite distilleries – I think all their products are phenomenal, though I think price doesn’t always mean more quality for some of their expensive no-age-statement releases. Highland park self-malts about 20% of their barley, using Orcadian peat, which is largely comprised of heather as Orkney is so windy that not many trees grow there. This malt adds a phenomenal floral, smoky quality to their releases. A lot of their maturation is done in sherry oak casks, which also contributes particular dryness and dried fruit notes to their products – and I like their usage of these. The 12 year old is often what I recommend for a high quality Scotch which has medium smokiness, lots of complexity, and isn’t too pricy. It’s one of my absolute favourites, and one of the best whiskies I have ever tasted was from a batch of this.
Nose: Wonderfully fruity, with light peat in the background, heather, raisins, apple, marmelade, toffee, and very light smoke. Lots of honey. It’s quite bright, and quite lively! Vanilla comes out more as the whisky sits, and the smoke is so fragrant and floral. All the major players in the nose – the orange, the honey, the smoke, the heather, and the earthiness from the peat – are all quite large, and yet balanced brilliantly which is certainly no small feat. 27/30 (90%)
Taste: A sweet entry, with malt, apple, raisin, lots of honey, and some tingling spices. The smoke isn’t that present until the end, where it simply comes alive. The balance is quite nice, and the sweetness, smoke, and fruity notes are all complementing each other beautifully. The end of the palate dries out very lightly, leaving the mouth with smoke and a spicy feel before the finish starts to develop. The smoke also has some brilliant earthiness taking me back to childhood smells of a creek by our house. 27.5/30 (92%)
Finish: The spicy feel tingles on, and mingle with the peat, which is wonderfully earthy and smoky. There’s some apple and light orange and cinnamon in the mix, and a touch of nuttiness in almonds and the sharp nuttiness of cashews. The subtle sweetness makes you want to just keep tasting the lingering flavours. Brilliant. Agave notes on the finish too. 18/20 (90%)
Conclusion: This is a very good bottling, and is still one of my favourites. However, this bottle that I am reviewing doesn’t compare to the other one, which frankly, was one of the best single malts I have tasted (and I have tasted some of the best) simply because of the way the smoke was largely hidden in the palate until the mouth seriously dried out and the smoke came out in a giant puff, bursting with flavour – but different than the rest which was still so rich. That whisky I would have rated probably a 95, though this rating is in line with this tasting and my current bottle. This is still a brilliant dram (though I am still hoping for another bottling like that first one next time). 18.5/20 (93%)