After the recent mini-run of bourbon cask matured Highland Park from indie bottlers (1 and 2) here’s an OB sherried version. This NAS Highland Park was released last year and is said to contain twice as much first-fill sherry cask matured malt than the regular Highland Park 12. Of course, for all we know the Highland Park 12 has been matured twice as long. Highland Park, one of my favourite distilleries, have really upped the ante on NAS releases and general tomfoolery in recent years but as long as they continue to give us the core age stated range at reasonable prices I’m not going to complain. Oh wait, the prices of the 25 yo and 30 yo have reportedly skyrocketed recently and even the 18 yo seems to be going up. And with all these younger and/or travel retail releases will they have enough stock to keep the 12 yo a viable concern or is that the next endangered creature? That sound you hear is my complaint engine beginning to rev up.
Highland Park “Dark Origins” (46.8%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Rubber and vegetal peat are the top notes. The rubber slowly abates (though it never goes away) and then the more expected Highland Park notes begin to peep out from underneath (honey, raisins, orange peel) but they can’t quite make it all the way out. Starts getting “cooler”/mentholated (or is that mothballs?) and also sharper and increasingly sulphured again. With a LOT of time and air (>30 minutes) the sharpness finally subsides enough to let the richer, sweeter notes out. And water emphasizes that progression: now it’s close to the classic honeyed Highland Park nose.
Palate: Less sulphur here to start and more ashy smoke but then here’s the sharpness again. I think there’s some citrus below it but it’s hard to tell. On the second sip the sulphur is even more prominent and it gets astringent as I swallow. Let’s give it some air. Fifteen minutes later some of the sweeter notes begin to emerge but then get swamped again by a big sour wave. Okay, I’m going to give it a bit more air and then if things don’t improve I’ll add some water. Well, another fifteen minutes later there’s been some improvement (I can actually taste some raisins and some citrus and the sharpness has receded a decent amount) but I’m going to add water anyway. Water fixes a lot of the ills, knocking the sharp notes back even further and pulling out the raisins and orange peel
Finish: Long. Longer than I would like. The sulphur sharpness turns to a chalky sourness and it takes a long while to pass through. Water keeps the sweeter notes going here too but the sharpness returns at the end.
Comments: Started out in Jura territory and then went south. I am not a sulphur-phobe and found enough to like in the nose but the palate was hard going neat (though leaving it alone for a long time did help); it improved with water. I wonder if the US got a different batch than was released in Europe: the few European reviews I’ve seen don’t stress the sulphur (my experience was on par with Sku’s, but this is from the same bottle). Anyway, if this is in fact representative of what’s in the US I can’t recommend it, especially at the price. On the whole, it made me wish I was drinking the 12 yo.
Rating: 79 points (pulled up by water).
Thanks to Sku for the sample!