I’ve previously reviewed the Highland Park 12 and 15, and here is the third in the classic trifecta from the distillery. The Highland Park 18 is one of the great distillery bottlings and in some ways may be the quintessential Highland Park malt. Richer and rounder than the 15 yo, mellower and fruitier than the 12 yo, this and the Lagavulin 16 would be at the top of my list if I was told that I had to pick only a handful of widely available bottles to drink for the rest of my life (the Laphroaig 10, the Nadurra and the Clynelish 14 would probably round out the top five).
The price has gone up over the years but it remains good value in my book (and it helps that in our neck of the woods it can still be found a little south of $100 from time to time). I think it’s between this and the Yamazaki 18 for the title in the OB heavily sherried class, and the Yamazaki 18 now costs almost twice as much. Let’s hope that the owners don’t muck this (or the 12 yo) up as they continue to release an endless stream of NAS/young bottles with silly concepts and packaging.
Highland Park 18 (43%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Honey, raisins, roasted malt. A lot of citrus comes floating up from under all of that: lemon first and then moving towards orange marmalade. A mild lick of smoke and pipe tobacco plays around the edges of it all. Just lovely, and intoxicating without even taking a sip. With more time the citrus gets zestier and there’s a bit of wax and pine. Fruitier with a drop of water.
Palate: Pretty much as advertised by the nose. In fact, I’m not sure I have anything new to say. Starts out sweet and then moves to brighter fruit. Perhaps a touch more smoke here but it’s not anyone’s idea of a smoky whisky. Just a touch too thin on the mouthfeel. On the second sip it’s more expansive, with more depth and the darker flavours more dominant: roasted malt, cocoa powder, chicory. Water doesn’t do anything for the palate.
Finish: Long. Much longer than you’d expect at 43%. The fruit expands as I swallow with more fermented, slightly tropical development. A hint of bitter chocolate at the very end.
Comments: This hasn’t slipped at all in the near-decade that I’ve been drinking it. And it’s still worth the asking price. An excellent whisky that gets taken for granted because of our obsession with single cask and/or cask strength whisky. I’ve bought a lot of esoteric bottles of the same price or higher in the last few years—very few have been better. Hold the water.
Rating: 88 points.