It has been more than six months since I’ve reviewed a Highland Park. Considering it was once one of my very favourite distilleries that seems like a long gap. I say “was once” not “is” because it’s been hard to get excited about Highland Park of late. They seem to have gone irrevocably down the path of premiumization at one end of their range and NAS’ization at the other, and silly names and stories and gimmicks like Dark Origins and Ice taking the place of the no-nonsense quality that was once their calling card. Of their old range the 15 yo has been phased out, the 18 yo‘s price has long gone out of the “good value” range and the 25 yo and 30 yo are now only for the very wealthy. The 12 yo remains their one saving grace, though I haven’t had a recent bottling: who knows if, with all the NAS stuff they’re putting out, enough quality casks remain for what was once the cornerstone of their range.
Anyway, though this is an OB 12, it’s not the regular 12 yo. This is a single cask that was bottled for a liquor store in Texas some years ago. I acquired it in a sample swap a while back with someone who probably no longer has any memory of doing the swap. I’m not sure what the year of distillation was—if you have a bottle please write in below.
Highland Park 12 (59.3%; cask 2820 for Twin Liquors; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Raisiny sweetness with some red fruit (plum, berries) and a hint of leather. Just a whiff of gunpowder and oiled machinery underneath it all. Gets brinier as it sits and then the fruit becomes richer (apricot too now). With more time the gunpowder is more pronounced and some pipe tobacco joins the party. Water knocks back the gunpowder and brings out more of the apricot and some chocolate.
Palate: As promised by the nose but with more leather, more pepper, and some peat and dried tangerine peel in place of the red fruit. Richer and fruitier as it sits with more umami flavours coming through: soy sauce, the soaking water from reconstituting dried mushrooms, more of the gunpowder. The sulphur gets just a bit too sharp with a lot of time. Water knocks back the sulphur here too and brings out apricot and sticky toffee and the pipe tobacco from the nose.
Finish: Medium-long. The fruit slowly fades out and the gunpowder and leather have the last word along with some spicy oak. Sweeter with water.
Comments: This is lovely stuff (though not for the utter sulphur-phobe). Put me in mind of the lovely OB 19 yo for Binny’s. I wish Highland Park still put stuff like this out. This is old-school sherried whisky (I’m guessing first-fill oloroso) and once-quintessential Highland Park. I wish I’d found a way to get a bottle when this was still around. Can you believe this was still available for $42 in early 2012?
Rating: 89 points.
Thanks to Alex S. for the sample!