Thanks to /u/shane_il for the sample.
The idea that anyone would knowingly go north of their country, buy farmland, and use that as “the place to vacation” is an alien concept to me.
Add in said “northern” location is in the middle of an Arctic sea, and I’m lost.
However my old boss informed me that, for awhile, it was a trend among richer UKers to do just that on Orkney island. It sounds as appealing as dipping ones genitalia in cold water, however I’m from a country that has a healthy group of polar bear dippers, so who am I to judge.
Along that same vein, it seems odd to bring out Highland Park Dark Origins.
Don’t get me wrong – I think bringing out a celebratory whisky for your founder (the batman of Orkney, Magnus Eunson) is pretty amazing. He was an interesting guy, what with being a whisky smuggler and all.
No, rather the whole thing seems odd. First off, the packaging.
As we’ve all learned, packaging doesn’t always equal quality. So I’ve put this aside while reviewing. That said, it’s an all black bottle. Can’t see what’s inside at all. In a time of people caring about add colouring, that seems fishy. As a friend used to say, they sold their Maple Syrup in glass bottles, because they had nothing to hide.
About the syrup. But that’s a story for another day.
But let’s move passed that though. The whisky itself is made up of 80% first-fill sherry casks, which come at a premium. However it’s not cask strength, there’s no way to see the rich, dark colour, and there’s no age statement.
All of this leaves one scratching ones head. As opposed to scratching others heads. It doesn’t scream “special edition”, it more so screams “interesting idea”.
None the less, I like Highland Park, and trust them to bring out good products. So let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: $99.95 (CAD) at the LCBO
Colour: 7.5YR 6/10
Nose: Cherry, anise, oak, candy corn, watermelon, raisin, brown sugar, smoke
Well it’s evident there’s some quality casks here. The strong red fruit flavour, the evident sherry notes, and the allowance of the Highland Park peat to come through is all right there.
Shit, shouldn’t have used evident so quickly, that last sentence sounds dumb.
That said, there are some younger or sweet notes here. They are nice, however my spidey sense is tingling.
No, wait, just peed myself. Ignore the sense.
Taste: Licorice, smoke, brine, prune, grape
Simple flavours. The small amount of smoke really takes over here. Again, the sherry casks have imparted fruit flavours in here, however it’s not lasting or even really putting up much of a fight.
Finish: Strawberry, smoke, cumin, raisin, dry pear, black pepper
And to say it again: There’s smoke, earth, and some other flavours I associate with Highland Park, yet the sherry aspect is diminished, or barely there.
I’m not a happy camper with this one.
Conclusion: If I were to compare this to other Highland Park offerings, it’s doesn’t really hold up. And I think that’s where the vast majority of my annoyance comes from in this dram. If it was called by any other distillery, I wouldn’t have the comparison at hand.
However when I pick this up, I find the issue with NAS coming to light. I assume that it’s an upgrade on the 12, or even the 15. I assume it’s better due to the first-fill sherry casks, the packaging, and the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the release.
Instead I receive an alright dram. Just alright. I assume the youth in the casks is the issue, however it could be anything else here. It’s a smart move, almost. I believe, personally, that if you’re a distillery, and you’re going to use first-fill casks, it’s better to use them for whiskies that will be cask strength, as the aficionado’s are the ones who understand the effect.
Missed chances, I guess.
Scotch review #441, Island review #36, Whisky Network review #709