Review: Highland Park Dark Origins Single Malt Scotch Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

First Fill Sherrry Casks (twice)
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

This whisky has been a recent addition to the core Highland Park range, which includes the 12, 18, 21, and 25 year old along with the 10 year old here in Canada. It comes in at a slightly higher ABV than the others, at 46.8% and is non-chill filtered to keep the oils in the whisky which enhance mouthfeel. The emphasis on this whisky is sherry – it is matured in double first fill sherry casks. This means that the whisky is matured in a cask which has only held sherry, with the wood flavoured with the sherry and influenced by the maturation in it, and then, after some time, is taken from that first sherry cask and dumped into another cask which has only held sherry. Thus, understandably, they are looking for a lot of sherry influence. My hope in their use of sherry casks is that the dryness brought in from the sherry will combine well with the beautiful highland park smoke – but the bottles tend to vary in this.

Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L02578 L4 30:08 17:53

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Nose: Lots of sherry! With that, there’s more sulphur to it than I like, and it is detracting but not utterly terrible to me – sometimes, however, it is quite detracting. Vanilla, hay, honey, caramel, orange, smoking fall leaves are there. But, the elegance and subtlety of Highland Park is covered by sherry – the flashes of brilliance are there, but largely it is covered up. Adding water brings out more heather and honey. Exploring this nose is difficult because of all the sulphur…

Taste: Apricot, and fairly full of fruit – apples, apricots, before the peat hits with some sulphur and then more peat leading into a slightly dry finish. Sherry is very much in the mix, as might be expected. Some of the peatiness is quite vegetal (hints of broccoli and turnip) and provides some flashes of intrigue into the palate, which I enjoy – but it’s more flashes than central. Fairly sweet.

Finish: Smoke and raisins and dried apricots, almost as if they themselves were smoked. The length and body of the finish is good, albeit a bit plain. Black pepper, and some clean vegetal peat too – the sulphur isn’t as present here either – but it’s still there.

Beyond the detracting sulphur, it is distinctly Highland Park, but does not come together the way the other Highland Park bottlings have. With sulphur, not all future batches may be affected, which would greatly improve the whisky.

Value: Low, at $100. I just don’t like the sulphur.