In recent years Highland Park has really invested in the Norse history and connections of Orkney. The Magnus series, and the Hjarta before it, may have paved the way for Thor, Loki and Freya, proving people are willing to pay a lot for cask strength teen Highland Parks in wooden boxes and in “limited” releases. (The cheaper and lower strength travel retail warriors–Harald, Svein and Einar–hopefully do not foretell changes in the core line.) Though it must be said that the boxes the Magnus and Haakon (the third in the Magnus series) bottles came in look rather tame next to Thor, Loki and Freya’s longships. I did like the Loki a lot and so am looking forward to trying this sample from the second edition which saw Magnus get upgraded/downgraded from an Earl to a Saint while losing three years in age.
Highland Park 12 “St. Magnus” (55%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Strong peat–a little leathery, then quite a bit rubbery. After a minute or two here comes the fruit and it’s all dried: apricot, tangerine peel, figs. Just the faintest whiff of gunpowder. Gets salty (sea salt crystals) and sweet (inky) at the same time. With more time the fruit is more like very reduced preserves rather than dried/fruit leather/peel and it gets increasingly raisiny as well. With a drop or two of water the fruit is all integrated and there’s a savoury, slightly meaty note as well–oh wait, maybe that’s the gunpowder getting stronger.
Palate: Leads with leathery, gunpowdery notes followed by the citrus and salt and then bitter smoke as I swallow. Where’s the fruit? Nope, doesn’t show up on the second sip either. What does begin to expand though is a rich earthy note, mixed with dark soy sauce and concentrated beef stock. Will water unlock the fruit? Well, it certainly unlocks some citrus, brightening up the palate. It’s still earthy and leathery though.
Finish: Long. The smoke gets a little more expansive and there’s also more graphite now. The salt hangs around too and right at the end I begin to get some of the fruit from the nose (just a bit). As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is quintessential heavily sherried Highland Park. Reminds me of both the 48.1% 25 yo and the 19 yo single cask for Beltramo’s, though it’s not as good as either. Still, at 12 years old this is rather precocious indeed. Of course, it wasn’t priced like a regular 12 yo, cask strength or not.
Rating: 88 points.
Thanks to Rich for the sample!