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Highland Park 12 Year Old (Viking Honour)

Review: Highland Park 12 Years Old (Viking Honour)   89/100
A review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published April 19, 2021

Highland Park Distillery is located in the Highlands of Scotland on the Island of Orkney which is famous for its heather rich meadows, and its unique organic Orcadian peat. The 12 Year Old Highland Park Whisky (Viking Honour) is the part of the new core range of the distillery, which includes as well the 10 Year Old (Viking Scars) and the 18 Year Old (Viking Pride).

According to the sell sheets provided to me, the 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky’s flavour is predominantly driven by 1st fill European casks (Oloroso sherry seasoned oak casks), providing a darker natural colour than the 10 Year old and a more mature fruity character. The flavour is of course also driven by the hand cut aromatic peat from the Hobbister Moor which is used (by burning) to dry a portion of the malted barley.

Highland Park 12 Year Old Viking Honour is sold in Canada at 43% abv.

In the Bottle  5/5

The twelve-year-old expression of Highland Park comes in the bottle and box shown to the right. The design is full of Viking imagery which ties the brand to its locale on Orkney where in 1798, Magnus Eunson ( a descendant of the vikings who conquered the Island centuries ago) is said to have founded the Highland Park Distillery.  The back of the sleeve contains a variety of advertising/informational highlights which whets the appetite for what is inside.

The bottle itself is adorned with a simple but professional label and has that same viking imagery embossed onto the bottle. A solid high density cork completes the presentation.

In The Glass  9/10

Colour: Dirty Amber

Legs: Thickened

Nose: Fine oak spice, herbal heather and willow, butterscotch and honey, hints of dry fruit and lightly swampy peat, wood shavings and graphite.

The 12 Year Old Viking Honour is a small step up from the previously reviewed 10 Year Old Viking Scars (see review here). The scents and smells are just a little rounder and melded closer together hinting at a smoother more complex spirit. The dry fruit is more pronounced and the herbal quality of the spirit is just a little heightened.

In The Mouth  53/60

Palate: Spicy with oak and grain spice as well as citrus zest. Slightly ashy peat smoke with herbal flavours of heather, menthol and lowland hay. Mild butterscotch and lightly sweet malt flavours underpinned by hints of almond/marzipan and canned fruit.

The delivery almost delivers everything the nose promised. There is depth and character on display and indeed the whisky shows us more elegance and smoothness than the 10 Year Old. The only minor disappointment is in a certain ‘ashy’ quality which seems to underlie the the peat. I fully expect that many others will welcome this component, but for me it was a distraction which bumped the score down by a point.

Having said that, the whisky is extremely good. I enjoyed sipping neat, but preferred the experience over ice where lovely chocolate flavours came forward. Better yet was an Old Fashioned Cocktail made with Chocolate Bitters (see recipe below).

In The Throat  13/15

The mid length exit brings butterscotch and lightly sweet malt heated with fine oak and grain spice. A mild, swampy peat settles in with raisins and menthol.

The Afterburn  9/10

Highland Park Viking Honour 12 Year Old Single Malt Whisky brings a soft punch of Orcadian peat which is reinforced with fine oak spice and lightly sweet malted barley. The whisky is much nicer than I remember it from 4 years ago. Perhaps when the name was changed to Viking Honour some changes in production were introduced as well. This is a sipper, for myself I will sip over ice rather than adding water; however you should not be dissuaded from enjoying the Viking Honour in classic cocktails of your choice.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

Highland Park Aztec Old Fashioned

1 1/2 oz Highland Park 12 Year Old (Viking Honor)
1/2 tsp Sugar syrup
1 dash Dry Orange Curacao
1 dash bitters (Fees Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters)
3 large Ice Cubes
Twist of Orange Peel

Add the first four ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)
Drop the peel into the cocktail if desired.

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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