By Richard Thomas
Highland Park has made a good move in revamping the look of their line of single malt whiskies. One thing to keep in mind is that line still has a divide between the age statement expressions, which were in clear glass bottles, and the no age statement (NAS) expressions, which are in opaque, black glass.
For my part, I think the look and color of a whiskey is a valuable part of the experience. No, I do not think it is as important as the nose or the flavor, but I genuinely enjoy studying the appearance during my initial sampling and sometimes thereafter. So, if the whiskey has any color to show off, I’m often dismayed if it’s hidden behind green or black glass. To cite just one pertinent example, Highland Park Dark Origins had an attractive, Sherried coloring, one which was somewhat wasted in its completely non-transparent black bottle.
I am delighted that Highland Park has done something to jazz up the clear bottles of its age statement whiskies. The new, highly stylized bottle that you see here really adds something both to the look of the liquid and brings out a good bit of Highland Park’s Viking-driven Orkney theme.
The liquid inside is the same single malt is before, however, so fans definitely haven’t lost anything in the transition. Some of us have gained a little instead. It’s been dubbed “Viking Honour” now, and bottled at 40% ABV.
Out of that stylized bottle and into my glass, Highland Park 12 has a clear yellow look. A swish and coat of the glass gave me the “veined leaf,” with its spread of substantial, branching legs.
The scent here was thick, almost oily, balancing a spice and citrus package that was a little reminiscent Bigelow Constant Comment tea with a thickly sweet current mixing wildflower honey and butterscotch. This all accented by wet grassiness.
The liquid as a silken texture and delivers full-bodied flavor. I found it gingered at first, followed by a touch of toasty grains. Then came a waiver of the same notes present in the nose. The spices became citrusy, the toasty nests was subsumed in honey and butterscotch, and that modest grassy note came up again. A little bit of sweet, damp tobacco rose up at the end. This last note is what rolled on into the finish, which faded quite fast.
Overall, this is a solid single malt with good body, flavorful and just a little sophisticated. Moreover, it hits above its weight relative to both what one usually expects from a 12 year old whiskey and what one expects from its price point (at least in the UK and Europe).
In the UK, expect to pay £30. The US version, although in a slightly larger bottle, typically runs about $50. A sharp observer who knows his exchange rates will realize that is a bit more expensive than a straight translation of the numbers suggests.