I remember falling hard for Highland Park years ago. One of my best mates was the brand ambassador at the time I was courting HP (or maybe it was courting me?), and I vividly recall attending events he hosted and feeling like there was something kinda special about this distillery. Between his ability to evocatively express what I was picking up in the glass and his profound gift for marrying fact, history, and humor, I was probably the proverbial fish in a barrel. In fact, I know I was.
That doesn’t change the fact that Highland Park was, on the whole, releasing some pretty damn good malts. And quite regularly, at that. I think we can be confident they still have great casks in those storied warehouses, but I’m just not certain where they’re ending up these days. The core HP range is weaker than I can ever remember it being, the branding is a constant source of mockery for many folks (come on, guys, the Viking thing is played out), and the higher age statement releases have been stratospherically positioned, ergo pricing out many of the old vanguard. I hate to say it, but when it comes to Highland Park, there’s not a lot to be excited about these days. So this should be better, aye?
Well, not exactly. I can’t lie though, I’m surprised it took ’em this long to release a young cask strength expression.
Now…rumour* has it that this is 12-13 years old. Ummm…if you say so. It sure doesn’t drink like a dozen years. Is there 12 year old in it? Maybe. But this is no rounded and balanced dram. Blind, I’d guess more like 7 or 8. Probably to some folks’ liking, but I’ll pass on anything but a free dram.
Release No. 2. Sherry seasoned European & American oak casks. 63.9% abv
*Rumour = Whiskybase commentary
Nose: Mediocre, youthful, Highland Park. A fair few off notes, that do sort of softemn with a bit of time. Overripe fruits. Toasted marshmallow. Sour and maybe a tick puke-y. Heavy, boozy caramel. Palate: Burny, boozy, and the peat profile is slightly…burnt. A bit of decay. Slightly cloying and wine-y. A lot of spice and figgy notes. Not tooooo hot, all things considered. Drinks big, but not blindingly so. But definitely not ‘of age’, in my opinion. I think this is an experiment in hiding youth through active (seasoned?) casks and high abv. Finish: Not a great finish. A lot of time in the glass helps this one a lot, though. 76/100