Orkney

Review: Highland Park Valknut Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Image provided by Highland Park.

Image provided by Highland Park.

ABV
46.8%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

The second of Highland Park’s Viking (what else?) Series, following Valkyrie. It is to be a smokier and dryer than Valkyrie, with a higher ABV (slightly). The release is largely matured in sherry casks and includes a higher phenolic (peat) influence than Valkyrie, and includes a small amount of Orcadian tartan barley.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 2018

Smoky, fruity, and rich on the nose with honey, fresh orange, light smoke, and a rich earthiness to it – which fits in nicely with the highland park profile. Also, I get a bit of white grape – never seen that in a highland park yet! And the lightest tropical fruit influence, too – very nice! It has the lightest spicy tang to it, almost sulphurous (which I don’t like) – but this I like. Nice “edge”. A rich, complex, interesting nose. My only slight critique is some rough oily edges usually caused by youth which slightly detract.

The palate is dry, smoky, indeed – lots of rich fruit including typical Highland Park orange. It has a bit of oily, younger components which slightly detract – but it’s still good. The orange carries through, along with a lot of fresh fruit – yet contrasted with the sweet smoke – quite the balancing act! It works well. The palate isn’t perfectly balanced but it’s integrated really well.

The finish is dry, smoky, and very fruity – but integrated and balanced. White pepper and heather honey - quite a nice finish. I think I like this more than Valkyrie. Nice work, and affordable, too!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $100.


Review: Highland Park Cask Strength 2006 Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Gordon & Macphail) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
58.0%
Aging
8.5 yrs Years; Sherrry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

Independent bottles buy distillate from distilleries, and then cask and age them on their own, releasing often different lenses into whisky at various distilleries. This is exactly that - an exclusively bourbon matured highland park - a distillery known for the use of sherry casks. And, also, bottled at cask strength - something so many love as you have more control over how you drink it. It really is fun, especially if you are a fan of a distillery, as I am of Highland Park.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Distilled 22/06/2006, bottled 19/02/2015

  • Bottling Code: 19/02/15 AE/JAJE

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The nose is quite creamy – lots of butterscotch, toffee, blueberry, heather (the brush, not the flower), light smoke, wood charcoal, potpourri, dried peach, and even a bit of dried mango. The palate continues on, quite buttery – with light fruit and slowly growing with smoke, loads of honey and dried peach, heather flowers, and light spices and oak. Quite nice with water, and also opens up nicely with time to be more floral. This is nice – very much highland park, yet so different without the sherry. I still would love to see what an old version of this would be like – Highland Park ages so beautifully. It is nice to have a cask strength Highland Park – the heather and smoke is concentrated nicely, and it is a completely different animal in bourbon casks. I could easily drink a lot of this. The finish plays nicely together with peach, oak, bourbon notes, dried apricot, smoke, honey, and heather.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $130.


Review: Highland Park Valkyrie Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45.9%
Aging
Refill American Oak, Bourbon Casks, Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

A new HP, a limited release (1 of 3) in a never ending (it seems) collection of Limited Releases. This one, however, is affordable (relatively)...


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 2017

The nose is gorgeous. Fruity and malty, and some blueberry – along with slight orange notes and loads of heather. Butter, light smoke, lemon peel, soot, dried apricots, dried currants, and rainy Scottish highlands woods. Ever so slightly meaty from the sherry notes – it adds a bit of a umami base to the whisky. A great mouthfeel. Orange, berry notes, young green wood, with a finish taken over with heather and smoke. The heather and smoke develops and grows, until slightly drying with some clove and pear.

I’ve heard it’s supposed to be richer than the 12 year old, of which there are some terrific bottles. Not to my taste! It is quieter, but more elegant. Definitely recommended.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average based on $100.


Review: Highland Park 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
12 Years; Sherrry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

Highland Park is one of my favourite distilleries – I think all their products are phenomenal, though I think price doesn’t always mean more quality for some of their expensive no-age-statement releases. Highland park self-malts about 20% of their barley, using Orcadian peat, which is largely comprised of heather as Orkney is so windy that not many trees grow there. This malt adds a phenomenal floral, smoky quality to their releases. A lot of their maturation is done in sherry oak casks, which also contributes particular dryness and dried fruit notes to their products – and I like their usage of these. The 12 year old is often what I recommend for a high quality Scotch which has medium smokiness, lots of complexity, and isn’t too pricy. It’s one of my absolute favourites, and one of the best whiskies I have ever tasted (~93 score) was from a batch of this in 2012.

Most of the maturation is done in sherry casks, but there is skepticism about exactly how much.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Code: ~2013

Nose: Wonderfully fruity, with light peat in the background, heather, raisins, apple, marmelade, toffee, and very light smoke. Lots of honey. It’s quite bright, and quite lively! Vanilla comes out more as the whisky sits, and the smoke is so fragrant and floral. All the major players in the nose – the orange, the honey, the smoke, the heather, and the earthiness from the peat – are all quite large, and yet balanced brilliantly which is certainly no small feat.

Taste: A sweet entry, with malt, apple, raisin, lots of honey, and some tingling spices. The smoke isn’t that present until the end, where it simply comes alive. The balance is quite nice, and the sweetness, smoke, and fruity notes are all complementing each other beautifully. The end of the palate dries out very lightly, leaving the mouth with smoke and a spicy feel before the finish starts to develop. The smoke also has some brilliant earthiness taking me back to childhood smells of a creek by our house.

Finish: The spicy feel tingles on, and mingle with the peat, which is wonderfully earthy and smoky. There’s some apple and light orange and cinnamon in the mix, and a touch of nuttiness in almonds and the sharp nuttiness of cashews. The subtle sweetness makes you want to just keep tasting the lingering flavours. Brilliant. Agave notes on the finish too.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $80.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L0157T L4 22:04 08:09

  • Bottling Code: 2015

Nose: Sweet sherry, with a medium malt body. In the background, lightly, we have some detracting sulphur while this is also showing more dry earthiness than I'm accustomed to in a Highland Park 12. Apple sauce, honey, candied oranges, pepper, but even less floral than the typical 12 year olds. Really, not very impressive.

Taste: Fresh orange, cacao, and raisins, with the peat and sherry doing a bit of work together - even being a bit floral in points. Slightly sweet, and drying lightly on the finish with apples and honey playing more of a role towards the end. All this said, though the flavours around the malt aren't quite there - the malt, itself, is quite brilliant here.

Finish: Dry, with orange, green apple, sweet heather, light sulphur, and vanilla - but still not quite in step.

This is ok, but really, just that. After some fabulous batches of HP12, it's too bad to see one like this. However, based on what I know of highland park, I will keep getting the 12 - this has still been my only bad apple. Never nice to see a relatively bad batch of one of my favorite whiskies...I wonder how many times people's first experience of a great whisky is that of a poor batch which doesn't take them back.

Value: Low, at $80.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L0446P L4 06/11 11:29

  • Bottling Date: 2011 (I think; maybe 2012)

This is a beautiful nose. Wow. Apple juice, oak, sweet vanilla, orange, sherry, heather, honey, and some licorice. The texture of the nose is amazing, too. Not very smoky – even on the palate, it starts off with big fruit before the smoke and spice come in at the end in drying fashion. Brilliant. A long, complex finish full of oak, fruit, cinnamon, and smoke – and lots of heather. A touch of juniper, here and there, as well.

Every time I am able to take time to appreciate a good bottle of this, my love for whisky rekindles.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $80.


Review: Highland Park 25 Years Old 1989 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Douglas Laing) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43.3%
Aging
25 yrs; hogshead
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

An independent bottling of Highland Park as part of Douglas Laing's Xtra Old Partiucular Range.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Hogshead 10435

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Different in character, yes similar, to typical highland parks with Interesting notes – light sherry, green grape, gooseberry, celery, very light smoke, basil, mint, coucous, caramel,  vanilla ice cream – fresh, fruity, and herbal nose. The nose grows more creamy with time. The palate is fairly sweet, with lots of basil, drying smoke, lemon, vanilla, honey, oak, and malt. Fascinating palate, and very unique (basil isn’t one I usually get). The finish is full, long, and spicy with grape, smoke drying into terrific vanilla, oak, fresh basil, and dry smoke. Fantastic whisky.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very low, at $370.


Review: Highland Park 24 Year Old 1990 Single Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Master of Malt) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
57.5%
Aging
24 yrs; Second Fill Bourbon Barrel
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

This whisky isn't produced by Highland Park, rather, it is from a cask purchased by Master of Malt - who have selected some terrific casks over the years.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Orange, vanilla, caramel, heather honey, light smoke, malt, apple seed, and some nice earthy peatiness. Definitely a number of vegetal notes here – cucumber and kale particularly. I just love the floral element to many of Highland Park’s whiskies – terrific. There is a bit of a custard like texture to it – but it isn’t really seen easily because of the smoke.

The palate starts out with honey and light orange, followed by growing peat, heather, black pepper, and soot. Light stewed fruits, too, and some mixed nuts. More caramel and honey emerge on the palate with time.

Butterscotch, smoke, and slightly bitter clove on the finish. And some orange peel, too – but not sharp and vibrant more like it is boiled into something. And, with time, a nice floral touch much like the floral white wines which burst with lychee and honeysuckle.

This is good, but, I think it isn’t quite sweet enough – it needs just the lightest touch. It would have done better with a bit more wood sugar in this – it is a bit dry and a touch bitter without. It’s a bit rough around the edges, surprising after all this time in a cask – but very nice, though. I must say I do like a bit of sherry in my Highland Park…

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, based on $392.


Review: Highland Park 30 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45.7%
Aging
30 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

The second oldest expression of Highland Park in their core range, and impressive at that. It shows so much of the brilliance of age that Highland Park acquires as the liquid continues to rest in the casks.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

The palate is actually quite marine, and hold many separate notes in check. Sherried, fruity notes, caramel, dried seaweed, dried lime, almonds, orange peel, the lightest touch of smoke, heather, honey, leather, caramel, cinnamon, fudge, buckwheat,

The palate is where it shines. Incredible smoke, and the unbelievable caramel and honey that comes with old highland parks. Vanilla, smoke, a touch of rancio, brilliant malt, smoke, and apple seeds. The finish is full of dry sherry, smoke, and lots of fruit and nut notes. Terrific.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Low. Even for such a good whisky, you have to pay a pretty penny for this - these older Highland Parks are crazy expensive, this going for something around $1000 CAD.


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

ABV
46.8%
Aging
First Fill Sherrry Casks (twice)
Recipe
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.


Review: Highland Park 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
10 Years; Sherrry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Highland Park (Kirkwall, Scotland)

Highland Park, the most northern distillery in Scotland, is famous for their use of Orcadian peat to smoke their barley before it is distilled – this offers aromas and flavours of heather. Peat is made from compressed and decomposed vegetation over many years, and Orcadian peat is largely composed of heather because the island is too windy for trees. Heather is quite a distinct, unique smell which any walker in Scottish or English meadows and fells will be acquainted to. I myself loved family vacations in the lake district of England – and Highland Park whiskies take me back to those times.

Highland Park has followed the trend of many distillers to supply increasingly large demand , bottling a whisky with a lower age. Sometimes this results in good, new whiskies, and sometimes you just wish they would keep up with their older whiskies. I believe this Highland Park 10 Year Old showed up in Ontario last summer – and I was intrigued, bottled at 40%. It’s not a “core expression” of theirs, so I don’t know much of its availability in other whisky markets other than Ontario.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: The sherry casks definitely come through on this one, offering slightly sour raisin notes, orange peel, cloves (but, the spicy note of cloves more than the floral note), and green cardamom. There is light smoke and vanilla in the background, along with some butterscotch pudding, honey, light oak, and some interesting notes of guava. Some of the smoke seems a bit too harsh and a touch bitter, and come into the aroma with a bit too much force at times, throwing it a bit out of balance. The vanilla evolves as the whisky sits, and the nose opens up and is less dense with time in the glass.

Taste: A sweet, light entry, before smoke like that of burning leaves sits atop a slightly sweet, rich, vanilla backdrop with heather, light honey, and black pepper until the smoke once again controls the finish. It’s not a strong peaty whisky – it has a medium level of smokiness but the smoke is quite integral to the flavour. The sweetness is just about perfect to balance this one, I find – this is delicious.

Finish: The mouth dries out slightly as the sweetness fades, with smoke and a bit of ash playing the major role in the finish – with some heather, caramel, light honey, vanilla, clove, and cinnamon eventually fading until there remains only light smoke and heather. And, interestingly, there are peppery tequila-like vegetal notes and the guava is back.

This is good whisky, but it’s still a step behind the 12 Year Old, in my opinion, and I’d pay the extra for the 12. Nonetheless, this is very well worth drinking, for sure, and this is a decent introduction to the fantastic range coming out of Highland Park.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $65.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L0382T L4 22:09:01

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

I bought this bottle after a dissapointing 12 year old to see if the 10 to satisfy my Highland Park itch. It proved better.

Dried apricot, light charcoal smoke, heather, and quite a malty body with sherry darkness and black pepper in the mix. On the palate, nicely sweet with slight spices and a bit of the beautiful vanilla and butterscotch threads of highland park. Ever so lightly meaty on the finish with the sherry – but in this one the casks, thankfully, don’t have the sulphur of the last 12 year old that I had. The finish is very full, with quite a nice body to it and decent length… it doesn’t quite as much of the beautiful floral heather honey that I love in Highland Park – but this one is still pretty solid. It has a growing dry peat smoke that grows as you sip…quite wonderfully.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $65.