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. Continue reading
In addition to the new beast-y trio of Travel Retail offerings from Highland Park distillery, there’s also a travel edition of a classic HP icon and staple – Highland Park 18 Year Old. This travel edition is using the same recipe for the standard 18 Year Old but is bottled at marrying strength and isn’t reduced further to 43%.
I reviewed the classic HP 18 Year Old back in 2015 then when I visited the distillery and it will be interesting to see how this new travel edition fares against it and against the 16 Year Old Wings of the Eagle.
Highland Park 18 Year Old ‘Viking Pride’ (Travel Edition) (46%, £98/€107,01)
Nose: Sweet honey, a bit of vanilla, dried berries and after a short while also nutmeg and cinnamon spices. Subtle smoke and charred oak (but less than Wings of the Eagle), lightly sugared preserved berries juice and citrus. Continue reading
We’re seeing an improvement trend within the new Highland Park Travel Retail series with Loyality of the Wolf 14 Year Old on the cusp of being real good whisky. Will the next whisky in the series, Highland Park Wings of the Eagle 16 Year Old continue this thread?
Highland Park Wings of the Eagle is 16 Year Old, fully matured in sherry casks (both American and European oak) and bottled at a very respectable ABV of 44.5%. Sounds promising but does it deliver?
Highland Park Wings of the Eagle 16 Year Old (44.5%,€84.90)
Nose: Hello sweetie! This nose is rich and brimming full of sherry notes. Dried red fruit and berries, sweet earthy peat and after a minute or two there’s dark chocolate, espresso, nutmeg and a dash of grounded cinnamon. Well balanced and rich. Continue reading
Two months ago Highland Park Distillery has launched a new series for the Travel Retail market and this time it’s not Viking or Norse mythology themed, or at least not directly. This time the theme is focused on animals with strong connections to the Norse and Viking mythology.
This new series which has three new whiskies and one special edition of an existing and familiar expression, now replaces the Warriors series that dominated the Travel Retail market for the last few years.
The new series has those four releases:
- Spirit of the Bear – basic entry level whisky without an age statement
- Loyality of the Wolf 14 Year Old
- Wings of the Eagle 16 Year Old
- Highland Park 18 Year Old Travel Edition at 46%
Let’s start with the basic one: Spirit of the Bear. It’s bottled at 40% and therefor I presume it’s chill filtered but it’s all natural color so at least that!
Highland Park Spirit of the Bear (40%, 1L, £44/€49.90)
Nose: A very sweet nose, vanilla, malt, subtle smoke, after a minute in the glass it develops some dried fruits, caramel, nutmeg, sweet sour bright cherries, more vanilla, oak spice. Feels a bit thin. Continue reading
Highland Park offers a distillery exclusive but only if you shell out enough £££ for one of the premium tours and then you have to spend another £120 for the actual exclusive bottle.
In the last few months the distillery exclusive bottling was a 14 Year Old offering from a Refill Butt #3376 that yielded 582 bottles at 57.8%.
Highland Park 14 Year Old Cask #3376 (Distillery Exclusive) (57.8%)
Picture source: whiskybase.com
Nose: Dried dates and figs, cinnamon and some nutmeg, demerara sugar with a touch of brown sugar. After a few minutes there are some dried berries with gooseberries as the dominant variant. It’s very smooth (gasp!) and even perhaps a bit bland at first but it does get better with time and oxidization. Continue reading
The label for the second release in Highland Park Viking Legend trio was revealed. Highland Valknut is the follow up release to Valkyrie in the series created with Jim Lyngvild, a danish designer who’s an expert in Norse mythology.
You’re probably asking yourself what is Valknut?
The answer (from Wikipedia):
The valknut (coined from Old Norse valr, “slain warriors” and knut, “knot”) is a symbol consisting of three interlocked triangles
It’s pretty rare that I post two reviews in a single day, and I don’t think I ever did that on a Sunday where for half a world it’s a weekend day. But I couldn’t help myself today’s as it’s the 50th birthday of Martin Markvardsen, the Highland Park Senior Brand Ambassador and hands down the best social networks communicative brand ambassador I have ever crossed paths with. So in honor of Martin’s birthday, here’s a review of a tasty and special HP whisky, The Highland Park Hobbister.
Here’s what Highland Park has to say on Hobbister:
Highland Park Hobbister is the first release in the Keystone Series – a collection of special bottlings that highlight our five Keystones of production which combine to make Highland Park stand apart from other Single Malts.
Hobbister takes its name from our peat moor. Lying seven short miles from our distillery, the exposed and barren moor offers little cover from the ferocious winds that frequently batter the island. This environment creates a unique aromatic peat consisting of decaying heather and plants rather than the trees that characterise the peat used by other distilleries.
Highland Park Hobbister (51.4%, 1200 bottles, £75)
Photo credit: whisky-onlineauctions.com
Highland Park has embarked on a new series since October last year. 14 (and counting) single casks were released in the new Single Cask Series (so far), and all of them were directed into very specific markets: shops and airport exclusives and one cask was even bottled for the biggest Highland Park Facebook fan group called Highland Park Appreciation Society (or HPAS as it’s widely known among its members).
I was looking into acquiring a bottle when it got released but getting one was deemed too complicated with no direct shipping route from the shop to me. Thankfully, some HPAS members were sharing their bottles so I managed to get a sample (thanks Peter!).
All those single casks carry age statement of 12 to 14 year old, with prices hovering around 150 (for most of them) and the HPAS single cask is a 13 year old with 576 bottles released from the sherry butt to the faithful members of HPAS, although you can find some bottles on auction sites.
Highland Park 2003 13 Year Old Single Cask #2115 HPAS (59.1%)
Nose: Big dirty sherry HP bomb. Let’s see…there’s peat, gentle smoke, floral & heather flowers, a big sulphur impact with TONS of struck matches and a bit of rubber. dust and a bowl of sweet/sour dried and fresh red berries. Continue reading
There’s a flurry of activity with Highland Park distillery in the last few months. It’s like they are the hyperactive kid in the playground – too many single casks to different markets, stores or occasions, rebranding the core 12/18 year old whiskies with a new labels and viking theme, new expressions (Valkyrie and Magnus) but the dust didn’t settle down yet as there’s another new Highland Park whisky coming – Highland Park Full Volume according to the new label that popped up in the TTB Database.
This time we have age statement – it’s a 17-18 Year Old whisky, and from the short tasting notes it seems like no (or very little) sherry casks were harmed making this whisky. Is it a core line expression or a limited edition? Will it be a USA exclusive or will we see it out in a global release? What does it means it’s Full Volume – is it cask strength whisky (the ABV is not too high)? stay tuned.
Looks like Highland Park founding father is making a cameo. Highland Park is gearing up to release a new NAS expression in their official line up named Highland Park Magnus. It’s promised to be apologetically bold, smoky and undeniably Orcadian. Too bad it looks like it will be bottled at 40%