It’s been a while since I wrote about a bottle from Highland Park, after a spate of back-to-back reviews a few years ago. I even discovered Highland Park 25, which for years remained the best whisky experience I’ve ever had (recently ousted – review incoming!)
Since then, there’s been a rumour floating around that Highland Park either still has, or just came out of, a bit of consistency trouble relating to aged whisky stock. The idea was that the barrels needed to compose both the 12 and the 18 were in short supply due to the whisky boom in the 00’s, and Highland Park just didn’t have the future reserves. This seems likely to me, for two reasons:
- Highland Park jumped on to opaque NAS releases with a little too much spring in their step – everywhere you looked there was a bizarre, viking themed NAS bottle with no information and even less appeal, dodgy Duty Free releases and weird special editions.
- Since 2016 I’ve had experience with two 2 “bad” bottles of Highland Park 12, and a bad shot of Highland Park 18. Flat, weird, and unremarkable. My suspicions were confirmed when comparing an older bottle of the 12 with a newer one – like night and day.
So when Highland Park 10 came on the scene, I was immediately skeptical – is this just the 12 with a few years shaved off in an attempt to leave casks for aging, or was this a good faith attempt to get a single, consistent expression back on to the market while the others were sorted out? All conspiracy and conjecture, but either way – I’m in!
Aah, Highland Park’s famous, heathery peat. It’s not all marketing jargon – this really is a different breed of peat smoke than the stuff crammed into your average Islay barley, with Orkney Island’s peat supply being harvested mainly from millennia-old decomposing and compacted heather.
Where HP 12 and HP 18 have always been quite subtle with the use of their unique peat, Highland Park 10 puts it proudly on display. I’m not entirely sure whether the barley itself is getting an extra dose of peat smoke during malting, or whether the proportions of unpeated and peated malt have been altered. Will have to ask them sometime 🙂
Apart from the wonderful, herbal smoke you get a little warm fruitcake, lemon zest, apricots. I’ll be damned if there isn’t a hint of sherry cask in this one. There’s also something like sweet brandy – a distinct white grapes kind of alcohol funk which snuggles nicely among everything else.
Truly, bloody wonderful. A light to moderate smoke – herbal, bonfire smoke. Woody and fruity. Chocolate raisins. Plenty of pepper. That faintly sulphuric finish that I associate with sherry, and a a wonderful, eye-closing oiliness. Chewy. A little meaty. Echoes of Talisker fishiness.
Ooh, a splash or two certainly doesn’t hurt. A couple of teaspoons bring out the caramel from the (presumably) bourbon casks, and the herbal finish is wonderfully extended. Recommended, but I could have it either way.
This is my third bottle of Highland Park 10 over a period of a few years. I can safely say that any worries about consistency with this one can be safely put to rest!
HP 10 has made a pretty aggressive move on the coveted 10-year-old territory, sitting happily alongside firm favorites like Talisker 10, Glenmorangie 10, Ardbeg 10 (and recently, Glen Grant 10) as punching far above their weight for their “age”. And certainly versus their price. In South Africa this bottle can often be found right next to our very own Three Ships 10, an equally peated, equally priced piece of Bowmore inspired goodness, and it would honestly be a coin toss as to which to buy. They’re both exceptional.
This is officially the bottle of Highland Park I’d recommend to a newcomer, a brilliant foundational example of their style and perfectly priced. Own one!