This Highland Park 21 was first released in duty free stores in 2007 and was very reasonably priced. Passing through Heathrow in late 2009 I sampled it early in the morning at World of Whiskies and made the mistake of trusting a palate soured by travel unease: in short, I did not purchase it. Later, I got to try a sample again and liked it much, much more and kicked myself. By this time it was available in regular retail but had been brought down to 40% abv. The current version (unavailable in the US) is back up in strength but it now costs quite a bit more than it originally did. I tasted the current version at a celebration of sherried whiskies in St. Paul earlier
thislast year and it’s still very good. This sample, however, is from the original release.
Highland Park 21 (47.5%; for travel retail; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Oranges, milk chocolate, a little caramel and a whiff of smoke. With time there’s honey and apricot and maybe a hint of peach as well; and the orange seems to take a turn towards lemon. Some toasted wood emerges as well along with honey. Wonderfully integrated and the notes intensify with time. Water doesn’t do anything worth mentioning.
Palate: Rich honey (darker than on the nose), lemon and marmalade. Some savoury gunpowder as well that’s just blended perfectly with the citrus. Lovely, rich mouthfeel. More tropical fruit notes on the second and third sip (tinned pineapple, some hints of papaya) and also more polished wood. Edges a little bitter towards the end. Water doesn’t harm the flavours but does lighten the texture and is entirely unnecessary.
Finish: Medium. The fruit hangs around and then the wood has the final say (but it’s not harsh at all). Gets woodier with water.
Comments: Lovely stuff. What an idiot I am for not buying a bottle when it was in front of my nose. Or wait, maybe I’m not an idiot (not in this instance anyway): as per Whiskybase the 40% version came out in 2009. As I passed through World of Whiskies at the very end of 2009 it seems likely that that was the one I tried there.
Rating: 89 points.
Thanks to Steven R. for the sample!