Highland Park is situated way, way, way at the top of Scotland. It is remote and cold, and clearly one of the best places to make malt, if the distillery’s awards are anything to go by.
It was first found in 1798 and since distilling was heavily taxed back then, it is of no wonder that someone thought this remote island was the best place to hide an illicit still.
They must have been right, since Highland Park thrives today despite its remoteness.
Those who work there consider it more of a duty than a mere job to provide the world with the rich smoky malts they produce. And considering the quality liquid that comes out of Highland Park, it’s fair to say they are right.
One such malt is their 12 Year Old. This is the cornerstone of their core range and has been around since 1979, a testament to its quality and popularity.
The 12 Year Old nose begins in typical Highland Park fashion, i.e. with plenty of earth tones and that signature peat smoke.
There is a great aromatic note in the nose that intertwines with the smoke and really makes it stand out. It is filled with toasted fennel seeds and heather all mixed in with a creamy honeyed vanilla flavour.
The honey develops and becomes much richer and elegant. It gives the smoke a full body and bolsters the tang of the peat, giving it something sweet to bounce off.
There is a slightly damp grass tone that only adds to the floral notes and again gives depth to the peat.
This is emphasized on the palate, when the grass and honey are able to mix and create a really wonderful earthy flavour.
The malty qualities of the dram come through as well and tie in well with the aromatic notes. These flavours are subdued but ever present and create a refined flavour that is reminiscent of a mahogany library or private members club.
The smoke is accompanied by a slightly zesty and orangey note that really makes the peat stand out.
The finish wraps these flavours up in an oak barrel, with lots of thick wooded flavours. The smoke is as always there and lingers just long enough to remind how good even the slightest sip is.