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KCM Spirit Reviews

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review 187: Highland Park 12 Year

Review 187
Highland Park 12 Year: 43% abv

Background: Highland Park might be one of the most misleading names of Scotch whisky out there. The first thing you can ask is: Where is it from? Well, we know that Scotland is divided into six whisky-producing regions: The Highlands, the Lowlands, Speyside, Campbeltown, the Islands, and Islay. With this being said, the obvious answer is that HP is made in the Highlands. You’d be wrong though. Geographically speaking, this is still true, but this whisky is actually distilled on the island of Orkney, making it an Island Scotch. In fact, Highland Park holds the record for being the most northern distillery in Scotland. The only other distillery taking roost in Orkney is Scapa. Highland Park whiskies are known for their complex, beautiful bouquet of flavors and prestigious reputation. This is the standard offering, so let’s see how this one represents the brand.


Nose: The rich, alcohol-forward nose of this Highland Park is fruity and sweet, with a slight suggestion of a malty profile. There is some vanilla and banana right in the beginning, with some caramel and PX sherry overtones as well. To complement this sweetness is the smell of burnt sugar. Some spiciness is prevalent up front, with nutmeg, cloves, and oakiness on the nose. There is a fresh, crisp lemon to it with some grapefruit to follow, followed by a little bit of sweetened strawberry flavor and mild pear rind. There is a little bit of pecan that also hides in the nose. Finally, there is a layer of vegetal aroma which is quite subtle.

Arrival:  The arrival starts off with a nice blend of smoke, caramel, vanilla, and honey. It is a rich, complex arrival. The fruit flavor is a cranberry and red grapes. There is a substantial maltiness that starts to be introduced as the arrival concludes. There is a little bit of burnt sugar in the arrival that becomes pretty dominant.

Body: There is some nice fruitiness in the body akin to succulent red apples. As a KCM first, we noticed eucalyptus in the finish as a nice herbal note. The maltiness is dominant in the body. The body is still astringent and citrusy, a common characteristic of Highland Park whiskies. The sherry flavor is at its max in the body.

Finish: There is a spearmint like flavor that cools the tongue. The eucalyptus note carries into the finish. Some definite cranberry, red grape, grapefruit and orange citrus flavor can be noticed in the finish. There is a definite amount of peat development in the finish that was not as noticeable earlier. The clove from the nose also makes an epic return in the finish.

With Water

Nose: The nose still has a rich sweetness, with more confectionary like sugar smell to it. It has also curbed the burnt sugar smell substantially. The nose is definitely more docile than before. There is brown sugar, and a slightly interesting Catalpa wood present as well. The nose is still very rich, with clove and smoke.

Arrival: The arrival is much thinner than it was before adding water, with a presence of more club soda. There is a slightly floral note in the arrival now as well.

Body: There is a definite note of cocoa in the body. The body is still rich, but has a more crisp, bitterness to it now, with some floral suggestions as well. It is much different than before, and the sherry is much thinner now.

Finish: The cocoa from the body returns in the finish to make a reappearance. There is some confectioner’s sugar, and sugar cookie dough in the finish. There is also a contradicting note of salt. The vanilla is very dominant in the finish as well

Final Comments: Highland Park is a revered whisky brand around the world, having a legendary ring to the name. This practical bottling of Highland Park really starts to show us why. The nose has a great blend of different flavors. There is a substantial amount of the sweetness to the taste, but it is not over-dominant in one area. The complexity and uniqueness of this whisky is above its class in all ways. Without a doubt, Highland Park has made it hard to look towards other brands for a solid all-round whisky. That being said, this whisky does not compete with the likes of Glengoyne, Glen Grant, Old Pulteney, and other malt-forward bourbon casked whiskies. This is a highly recommended whisky for the casual whisky enthusiast, although it might be a little too much for the whisky novice.
Why you’d buy it: You know what good tastes like, and the complexity of this whisky is too alluring to miss.

Why you wouldn’t: You are intimidated by bold flavors.

Score: 9.5/10

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