By Richard Thomas
Highland Park’s Valhalla Collection, a line of celebrated-if-pricey single malts celebrating the Viking heritage of the distillery’s Okrney homeplace, proved quite the splash. This year Highland Park is following that success up with a “Fire and Ice” (or Surtur and Ymir, take your pick Thor fans) themed pairing of limited (but large) releases, starting with ICE.
ICE is a 17 year old single malt drawn entirely (all, not most, contrary to some reports) from ex-bourbon casks, bottled at a whopping 53.9% abv. The terms “limited” and “large” refer to the production run. While this is a limited edition, and Highland Park won’t make anymore of it, the run for ICE is 30,000 bottles. That is good news if you like this high proof, ex-bourbon cask style of whisky, because it means you’ll be able to pick up replacement bottles for a couple of years.
Like the Valhalla Collection, “Fire and Ice” will come in highly stylized packaging, similar to the colorful bottles and longship-style wooden cradle of its predecessors. For ICE, that means a blue-green bottle with a mountain-styled wooden cradle.
In the glass, Highland Park ICE has a white wine coloring, one with a highly reflective sheen. That latter part was no doubt a result of the long, viscous legs on the liquid.
The nose is fruity, like a tropical dessert seasoned with vanilla syrup, a pinch of shredded ginger, and a spoonful of cinnamon. Throughout is a tinge, and only a tinge, of wood. The effect gives it a crisp, bracing character. I wouldn’t call it cool or chilling, as some have, but it’s certainly a refreshing scent.
On the palate, this whisky makes for a slick sipper with a spicy and sweet character, as in spicy first, sweet later. The cinnamon, ginger and vanilla are now buttressed by a peppery current that runs throughout, staying as the other spices fade and the sweetness comes to the fore. As it does so, the fruits morph into more of a wet, sweet tobacco flavor. The finish is thick, but the flavors fade swiftly, leaving a clear, moderate warmth.
ICE manages to achieve a beautiful balance between its complexity and its boldness (being moderately both), making it an excellent sipper. This is the sort of single malt that is both easy to appreciate, while seductively drawing one back in for another long, reflective sniff and taste.
£190 or $270.