Highland Park Odin 55.8%

odinNose: Honey and butterscotch, chocolate covered cherries, slight hint of menthol. Water brings out charred cask notes and lemon curd.

Palate: Leather and burnt rubber. Dark chocolate. More oak with water, and a little honey.

Comments: Too many cask notes on the palate for me. Not undrinkable by any means, but I prefer a “younger” profile. Too bad, but that leaves all the more for the rest of you.

Arran 1996-2011 sherry cask 54.1%

Cask number 1973, distilled 11.12.1996, bottled 31.03.2011.


Nose: Apple compote with cinnamon, dark chocolate, fragrant roses. A little water adds mint, orange peel, jasmine and lemon.

Palate: Oak and apple peel, honey, black pepper and dark chocolate. More chocolate with water, orange marmelade and bay leaf.

Comments: Yet another stunning sherry cask from Arran. Confirms the rule that these are a steal at almost any price (this particular cask has not been available in Norway, but those that have have been just as good).

Thanks to Bjørn for the taster.

Arran Bourbon Cask 1996 Cask # 1038 56.1%

Distilled 21 August 1996, bottled 26 April 2005, bottle number 158 of 240.

arran_bc_1038Nose: Malt, a hint of menthol and juniper berries. After a while in the glass tart raspberries appear. Water opens for black pepper and tart pears and a hint of fruity chewing gum.

Palate: Malt, Vademecum, oaky bitterness. Water lessens the impression of Vademcum and develops into something vegetal.

Comments: I can’t remember the herby and spicy character being so strong before, but this is another bottle that has been left less than half full for a while. In this case, though, it’s a beneficial development. Very nice – and intriguing – nose, somewhat less interesting taste.

Highland Park 1989 22 years van Wees 46 %

Distilled 4 Desember 1989, bottled 1 August 2012, matured in a sherry butt with cask number 11854, giving 660 bottles.

Nose: Cherries and oak. With water: Honey, lemon and heather. Overlying smoke.

Palate: A hint of smoke. Sweet oak and liquorice.

Comments: Now we’re talking. A good cask which demonstrates nicely how well Highland Park’s spirit does in a sherry cask.

Thanks to Daniel for the sample.

Highland Park 18 years Duthies Cadenhead 46%

Nose: Butterscotch and rubber. With water I get rather rubbery “Hubba Bubba” (chewing gum brand) with liquorice flavour.

Palate: Rubber. You know those balloons you can hardly bear to inflate because they taste harshly of rubber. Water does very little to help.

Comments: Undrinkable. With enough water the rubber is sufficiently diluted both on the nose and the tast that I could finish it, but since nothing else shows up to take its place I’m left with water with a vaguely rubbery taste and a hint of alchocol and it’s not worth it.

Thanks (I think) to Daniel for the sample.

Highland Park 18 years 43% (old edition)

This is the 18 year old in the old version, from before Highland Park refurbished their standard range. I belive the bottle was purchased around 10 years ago. If I get hold of a sample of the new (or indeed even older) 18 year old, I will do a similar comparison as for the two twelves.

hp_18Nose: Surprisingly spirity. Oak and heather. After a while dried fruits. With water the smoke appears, but also dark chocolate and a little forest.

Palate: Oak, dry wood, dried cranberries. With water I get smoke on the palate as well, and some sort of vegetation – dark chocolate on the finish.

Comments: A classic. It was once a good buy, the price was very reasonable for an 18 year old and you got a really good dram in return for your money. Those that remember the even older Highland Park expressions claim that it was even better twenty or even thirty years ago. That may be so, but I will confine my nostalgia to this one.

Highland Park Dark Origins 46.8%

Highland Park announces the launch of a new whisky: Dark Origins. According to the press release it is ” inspired by the cunning spirit and courageous personality of its founder, Magnus Eunson.”

Magnus was a cunning soul, apparently, working as a beadle during the day, but as a smuggler and possibly illicit distiller by night. He has been connected to the founding of Highland Park distillery, though the story they tell on their website is somewhat more academically hesitant than the Dark Origins press release.

In any case, a new, widely available expression of Highland Park is interesting news. The only “leak” about it prior to the press release embargo of 1st July 00.01 is the label design, which  has fallen into the hands of The Whisky Ledger.

hp-dark-originsDark Origins is bottled at a strength of 46.8% ABV, is non-chillfiltered and non-coloured, and substantial amounts of first-fill sherry casks have been used in its maturation, twice as many as for the standard 12 year old. As Dark Origins is a NAS (No age statement), the use of the casks may be a necessary virtue, sherry is known to mask a lot of things, and youthful spirit is one of them. With the market the way it is, the release of a NAS comes as no suprise and may be a very wise move. The important thing, as ever, is what does the whisky taste like, not how old it is.

I’ve been lucky enough to receive an advance sample of Dark Origins, and so I present you with my tasting notes:

Nose: Milk chocolate, fudge, newly struck matches and very subtle smoke. Warm wood and spices, I think cumin comes closest to what I’m finding. The nose loses some sweetness after some time in the glass, and aquires tarter and fruitier notes, which are emphasised with water. Tart mango? With water the sherry cask is also immediately more obvious, with burnt matchs and leather, but also grilled meat. Spareribs?

Palate: Surprisingly little sweetness. Ashes, heather and lemon. A little sufur. Water emphasises the cask on the palate as well, dry sherry, burnt oak and old leather. There is smoke, but though obvious it is not overwhelming.

Comments: A lot of people are going to like this (though if you dislike the smell of burnt matches you might just hate it). Some may be disappointed at the lack of sweet notes, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the dryness suits this whisky. Out of interest I tried it against the very lovely Arran sherry cask (sherried island whisky against sherried island whisky) and actually liked it even better than when I tried it first on its own. Dark Origins doesn’t beat the single cask, but it holds its own, and that’s quite impressive in a NAS. A very good candidate to one of those “must always have a bottle at hand” slots in the cupboard for those nights when you just want a good dram and for bringing along to social occasions to share with friends.

Dark Origins will be rolled out internationally starting now, and to attract some attention Highland Park are planning The Dark Expedition in the second half of august. I’ve been invited to join, and since I like sailboats even more than I like whisky (if that’s at all possible) I hastily cleared my calendar. There are also two places up for grabs to a Highland Park fan, so if you fancy a trip across the North Sea, check out the details at whiskynyt.dk.

Addendum: Highland Park has now written about Dark Origins on their blog and we can see the final label design (which differs somewhat from the leaked version).

Arran 1997-2013 Sherry Cask #937 55.8%

arran_sherrycaskNose: Dried apricots, milk chocolate and thyme. Witn water I get honey, some lemon and malt. There’s also something flowery on the nose, tending towards lilacs without feeling too perfumy.

Palate: Orange marmalade and then bitter oak which softens substantially on its way through the mouth and becomes cream and milk chocolate on the finish. Fascinating. Water does not change that, but adds a floral note, and reveals malt on the finish.

Comments: This is the shit. The bee’s knees. I recently tried one of this year’s casks, presumably on its way to Vinmonopolet, and it was lovely as well. Quite simply one of the best buys at Vinmonopolet right now, at less than a thousand NOK. And since the importer is nice enough to list each cask separately (and believe me, that adds expense and work) you know exactly what you get when you order it.

Highland Park Cask Strength Edition 56%

This is a bottlig of Highland Park which was launched in 2013 exclusively for Sweden, in half bottles. It’s a NAS and it’s been matured in European ex-sherry casks. It’s still widely available in Sweden for the relatively nice price of 299,- SEK.

hp_csNose: Milk chocolate, burnt oak and ice cream. The relatively high strength is very obvious, despite the sherry influence which often masks a high ABV. With a little water added I can get my nose deeper in the glass and find dried orange slices, honey and old, dry leather. A little liquorice and a touch of manthol. Another drop of water and it suddenly develops a nice, flowery character. Sweet lilac crossed with flowering heather.

Palate: A hint of smoke, burnt oak and also a hint of burnt rubber. With water I get barbequed orange peel and herbs, and the rubber disappears. A whiff of smoke lingers in the background.

Comments: Perhaps a candidate for our travelling dram this summer? A very, very able dram for everyday wear. It’s not a stunner, but I could drink dram after dram without becoming bored, and 35 cl is a very handy format.

Highland Park Hjärta 12 years 58.1%

Hjärta was bottled specifically for the Nordic countries, but was also available at the distillery.


Nose: Wood and orange marmelade. Yellow apples. Water adds a flowery touch, but also dark chocolate and lemon.

Palate: Lightly perfumed, oak, orange marmelade. Dark chocolate on the finish. Water emphasises the oak and brings out malt, or rather husks.

Comments: Does not win my heart, though it’s not a bad dram. Apart from being cask strength, a plus in my book, I don’t know that it’s any better than the standard 12 years old. Well, it has a nice box, if you’re into that kind of thing.