Highland Park 12 Year Old

Reviewed by: NickHighland Park 12

Single malts. They’re a varied lot. Some people like peat monsters. Some like sherry bombs. Others enjoy their whisky light and floral. Others still prefer their drams sweet with hints of vanilla. Pleasing everyone with one drop, however, is a much harder task. Unless, of course, you happen to have a bottle of the Highland Park 12 Year Old on your shelf. This bottle truly is the great all rounder of Scottish whisky.

Highland Park also has the distinction of being Scotland’s northernmost distillery, located on the largest of the Orkney Islands, pipping its neighbour Scapa by under a mile. As the island group was settled long ago by Vikings, it should come as no surprise that the flavours on offer are a veritable smorgasbord.

Up first comes a nose with many varied elements: a whiff of grapes and malty biscuits. There is chocolate, so dark it is mostly cocoa, mingling with notes of pear and bubblegum. Finally is the smoke: far subtler than anything from Islay. It brings to mind smouldering vegetation, an attempt to create a fire from damp leaves on a drizzly day.

The palate is equally varied. It initially suggests a roast meal: beef, parsnips, even gravy, before giving way to mandarin, brown sugar and chocolate milk. The smoke lingers gently, now mostly burnt out and close to charcoal. Finally this all gives way to a long spicy finish with salt, tobacco and mint combining with flashes of caramel.

The Highland Park 12 Year Old is unlikely to be anyone’s number one whisky. It is not weighted in a particular direction to please one group of whisky fans over another. Instead, it sits squarely in the middle, a dram to be enjoyed by everyone no matter their preferences. This is a whisky that brings people together, and if that is not a glowing endorsement, I don’t know what is!

★★★

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18 comments

      1. Agreed, this is a staple, like bread, coffee, eggs…you know, a grocery item 😉 I like the all-round character as well, you don’t always need a billow of smoke, a whiff will do. A good scotch for introducing the non-peaty types to the dark side.

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  1. A vastly underrated whisky which deserved far more praise than it currently has! I remember my first dram of this quite fondly and this review has brought back some rather nostalgic moments heh.

    Defs gonna pick up a bottle of this the next time I pass by a bottle shop or Duty Free (if they have it)!

    Slainte!

    Brendan

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      1. Very tempted Nick! I don’t recall seeing the 12 at Duty Free the last time I was there but will defs endeavour to ask the staff to find me one =D

        Slainte!

        Brendan

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  2. This could be my number one whisky. And BEWARE DARK ORIGINS. The bottle is gorgeous (I really do love HP’s whole viking-themed design thing) but the whisky is a let-down. I very much hope this is not going to eventually replace the 12YO like other no age statements.

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    1. My concluding paragraph stands corrected. It is a great whisky (though I’ll confess the older age statements truly take it to another level). I shall also heed your advice about the darkest of origins. Though you’re right about the design – they have been marketed perfectly!
      Keep on waffling,
      Nick

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  3. A top notch review. I still remember first trying a dram of this whilst staying in the Stromness Hotel on Orkney (highly recommend if you ever visit – the Still Room has a choice of over one hundred malt whiskies while their Hamnavoe Lounge and Flattie Bar boast a selection of award winning Orkney Ales). It was the first whisky to truly start my love affair with the spirit and still remains a firm favourite for me.

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    1. Thanks for the comment! It’s great that you can associate a specific time and place with a stellar dram. There are a few that take me right back to a moment or place and always hold a special spot in my heart (Fettercairn Fior to a bar in Edinburgh, Lark Distillers to an afternoon at their cellar door, and an amazing Port Ellen takes me to Fidlers bar in Drumnadrochit).
      Also, cheers for the heads up about the Hotel. I’d love to make it along to the Orkney Islands one day.
      Keep on waffling,
      Nick

      Liked by 1 person

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