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Highland Park Viking Honour 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (700ml)

Orkney Islands, SCOTLAND
$109. 99
$1319.88 Dozen
ABV: 40%

The extreme northern archipelago of mostly uninhabited islands around Orkney is in every sense isolated. It's not known when the first distillery was established in Orkney, but there were almost certainly local producers by the middle of the eighteenth century. Above the capital, Kirkwall, is a rise with fine views out to the northern isles traditionally known as the ‘High Park’. It's here that Highland Park distillery was said to have been founded in 1795. There have been several different owners, before coming into the hands of James Grant and family in the late 1800s. By 1826 when the distillery became legal, the site had already become known as 'Highland Park'. Now owned by The Edrington Group, its location must partly be accountable for the distinctive character of the malt, through the surrounding ocean, the local peat and the Orkney spring water. To blenders, the distillate is prized - many of whom claim it possesses unique 'catalystic' properties which enhance flavours in other whiskies.

Nearly always ranked alongside the classic malts, revered as a spectacular after-dinner drink and without doubt '...a malt to challenge any Cognac or Armagnac', the house style is fragrant and floral with a smooth, honeyed character over hints of citrus and smoke. The phenol content of the distillery's own malt is 30-40ppm but the remainder which is imported from Simpson's is unpeated. The distillery is serious about quality oak, spending $20 million a year on wood alone, more than any other Scotch distillery - despite having a fraction of the output of some of the larger brands. First released in 1979, the 12YO is still the best introduction. Employing about 20% first-fill sherry casks, a name change and packaging update took place in 2017.

Retasted 2019 ...Surprisingly full at 40% ABV but loses vitality and flattens out towards the finish. Otherwise, mostly unchanged. 90 points

First tasted 2012... Brilliant, bright gold appearance. Almost floral in delivery. Honey and toasted barley mingles with a perfectly balanced waft of peat and brine. An exceptionally soft, silky entry offers good concentration and the same seamless integration as found on the nose. Medium dry, subtle nashi-pear fruitiness combines with a judicious slap of peat. Crescendos with a spicy flourish at mid palate. Finishes more peaty than some previous bottlings with drying brine, spice and smoke lingering before a honey fade. Getting closer to what this whisky was 10 years ago. 40% alc./vol. 92 points

Other reviews... "The sweet aroma is very inviting and draws you in closer to inspect the dram. The honey'd and vanilla fragrance takes a turn on the palate replaced by grass and pineapple. A lemon twist or two comes next with the peat smoke just teasing your senses." 91 points - drinkhacker.com

...This amber spirit has a light, briny vanilla scent and a silky feel. A veil of smoke rises through the Scotch (but fades out fast), leaving behind a sweet nutty, vanilla finish. 93 points - wineenthusiast.com

More Viking paraphernalia… Could we at least have Lagertha? Colour: gold. Nose: not my preferred style of HP either, but this is fresher, fruitier, more lively, even if the core is kind of similar. Bitter oranges, marmalade, ginger, ale, whiffs of pumpernickel bread, oak spices, a little leather and tobacco… Indeed I like this nose better. Mouth: no questions, this is more refreshing despite the ‘seasoning’ that’s a little too apparent to me. Pepper, oak spices, black tea, grass smoke… Nice earthy honey beyond these bitterish spices. Finish: medium, spicy, with an obvious tannicity. Comments: they seem to have used active seasoned wood too here, but the spices and the leather were better controlled in my opinion. But indeed I much prefer the brighter, distillate-driven HPs. Because what a distillate it is indeed! 83 points - whiskyfun.com