Highland Park was the first single malt I ever picked up from Duty Free, trapped in a foreign airport with only the glittering lights of the whisky aisle for comfort. I remember having recently sampled Highland Park 12 for the first time, so was on a serious Highland Park high.
Quite simply, there was no force on earth that could have prevented me from purchasing something Highland Park related in that airport. Let’s chalk it up to the ignorance of youth. These days, I know better – which is to say, I know that the way you’re supposed to do it is to arrive at Duty Free, examine the whisky options, and spend the next 3 hours of your layover staring zombified and drooling over your cellphone reading reviews and opinions on which Travel Retail bottles are the best value for money.
Anyway, I picked up one of the entry-level expressions in Highland Park’s “Warrior Series” – Einar, the one with the badass manly axe on the bottle. I seem to remember the other options were a shield and a horn (lame) or a sword, which was out of my price range. And the viking helmet was so high up on the shelf that I didn’t bother looking at the price. The axe would have to do.
It certainly smells like Highland Park, which is to say pretty delicious. Much spicier than the 12, less floral than the 15-year-old. But (and I hate to sound like a broken record) that 40% ABV is just never going to cut it – whatever unique flavours are lurking around in the bottom of the glass just don’t have enough buoyant alcohol to latch onto to force their way through my considerable nose hairs. But, some usual stuff going on nevertheless – vanilla, oak, the faintest bourbon and pepper.
Sigh. Uncomfortably “hot” despite also being stunningly weak – an over-spiced,
toasted burnt nuts and charcoal taste. There’s definitely some good whisky buried in there – a nice malty twang. But too sharp on the palette. I have a suspicion it would be good as a sort of Scotch alternative to rye in a cocktail, but…
Highland Park Einar is the Johnnie Walker “Explorer’s Club: Spice Road” of Highland Park. Which is to say, sexy-as-hell packaging that appeals to one’s masculine sense of adventure, with shockingly little substance inside the bottle.
While certainly not awful, it’s quite bland, overly spicy and fairly forgettable at the diluted proportions it’s offered in. Give this a skip, and head straight for the Bruichladdich, Talisker or Ardbeg section of Duty Free. If you’re craving a decent “travel exclusive”, you could also give Johnnie Walker’s new Island Green Label a try – great stuff.