If Highland Park was a person, it would be a gigantic, mute woodcutter living in solitude in the forest, suspicious of outsiders and bearing a distinct, unmistakable odour. He takes a while to warm to – not being particularly welcoming – but once you pierce that wooden exterior you discover he’s a bit of a softy underneath.
Having recently had a stab at the 18-year-old, I picked up a bottle of the Highland Park 12 to take another look and give it a proper review. Side-by-side with a reference glass of birthday Johnnie Black (thanks dad!) I got to comparing:
Smoky, salty, with piles of toasted oak and a little peat. Citrus zest and (nice!) clear signs of sherry casks.
Rich and complex. Wow. Tough as nails to unpack, but bursting with the good stuff if you take the time. Malt, smoke, spices, mince pies and a twinge of bacon – although that meat taste not nearly at the levels of the Highland Park 18. The sherry is distinct while not overly sweet, and beautifully integrated rather than slapped on top. And the peat? Lovely – strong on leather and smoke while weak on Dettol soaked bandages and old people.
This is a slooooow drink, with a crawling finish. Slight aniseed taste and powerfully bitter at the end – enough to keep the sips small and considered. Impossible to guzzle this stuff.
Sweeter, grassier, meatier while less of the spice and smoke. The sherry isn’t quite as present, and it’s a little more… rubbery. But that’s no biggie – overall it holds the water really well, and although I might be lynched for even suggesting it, I had a few glasses on ice and absolutely love it.
Delicious, smoky, sherried goodness. There’s not much to say other than the Highland Park 12 is entirely deserving of its reputation. While slightly more expensive than the 12-year or NAS “entry” level whiskies from most other distilleries, the small difference is made up for by a huge leap in interest and quality. The perfect whisky for a sullen silence, brooding contemplation or doing taxes. Give it a try when the hyperactive joy of Glenfiddich, Glenlivet or Glenmorangie has tired you out!