In my last post where I reviewed the Lindores Abbey first release I remarked that new distilleries have long road ahead of them to establish themselves, using stories, anecdotes and unique bottle and packaging designs.
However, even well established distilleries resort to gimmicks and special or unusual designs from time to time. It definitely looks like an easy (even if not so cheap) way to grab attention, headlines and generally draw eyes to specific products.
Highland Park distillery went this way with the latest core range release, the Highland Park 15 Year Old Viking Heart. Instead of using their regular and well-known bottle design they went for a ceramic bottle. And the reason?
Why a ceramic decanter? Rewind a century or two and our whisky would have been stored in earthenware vessels.
Now, this is all cool and nice but we should remember this is a release intended to refill a niche between the 12 Year Old and the 18 Year old that was missing since they stopped producing the 15 Year Old 5 or 6 years ago.
So what do we have here? A whisky that contains a high percentage of first-fill European sherry casks, then some first-fill American oak (all sherry seasoned) and a few refill casks. This sounds like a good formula for a good whisky, even without going the extra mile with this special bottle design but that extra step shows you just how crowded is the market, even for A-level distilleries.
Highland Park 15 Viking Heart (44%, £79.95/€84.95)
Nose: Chocolaty and creamy, dried berries, Creme Brulee, mocha and cinnamon, earthiness, subtle smokiness and leather. Then I was surprised to nose fresh raspberries and cranberries, nice touch. After a while in the glass, more peat smoke and heather.
Palate: Starts a bit underwhelming (missing oomph) with gentle oak spice, earthiness and very subtle smokiness. Chocolate, still has some dried berries but no fresh raspberries nor cranberries , more and more cinnamon and nutmeg, lemon freshness, drying at the end.
Finish: Medium length, cinnamon and overall nuttiness, Creme Brulee, peat smoke, more cinnamon and oak spice.
Thoughts: I found it to be very decent with lots of sherry spiciness. It’s clearly an Highland park with the subtle heather peat but I think it lacks some balance as it leans toward spiciness with not enough sherry fruitiness for my liking. I also wish it would be bottled at 46% to get some stronger palate delivery and oomph. Overall, not a bad dram to have occasionally.