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Highland Park 18 Years Old (Viking Pride)

Review: Highland Park 18 Years Old (Viking Pride)    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 18 Year Old Highland Park Whisky (Viking Pride) is the part of the new core range of the distillery, which includes as well the 10 Year Old (Viking Scars) and the 12 Year Old (Viking Honour).

According to the sell sheets provided to me, the 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky from Highland Park is produced using a high ratio of first-fill sherry seasoned European and American oak casks. 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.

According to the Distillery:

The high ratio of first-fill sherry seasoned European and American oak casks selected to create our 18 Year Old give it a unique flavour profile of bursting overripe cherries, bitter dark chocolate, sweet marzipan, floral heather honey, and aromatic peat smoke.

Highland Park 18 Year Old Viking pride is sold in Canada at 43% abv.

In the Bottle  4/5

I’m going to be a little harder on the 18 Year Old Spirit than I was on the 10 and 12 Year Old Highland Park Single Malt Whiskies. That is because this particular expression is much more expensive in my locale. ($64.95, $69.95 and $199.95 respectively). When a spirit reached a price point near $200.00, I begin to expect something a little extra as this bottle is probably going to be a centerpiece for someone’s home bar. Yet is is basically the same presentation as the younger much less expensive spirits.

It is a 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. The upgrade I would suggest, is a that the Cardboard box is perhaps a little underwhelming for a spirit the is going to set someone back two c notes.

In The Glass 9/10

Colour: Tainted Amber

Legs: Thickened and slow moving

Nose: Light butterscotch and honey, fine oak spice, willow, heather, timothy and sawgrass.  Dry fruit (raisins and dark cherry), chocolate, almond and vanilla.

The nose from the 18 Year Old Highland Park Whisky reminds me of a walk through the lowland pasture on the farm where I grew up. This pasture had a muddy/boggy creek running through it with poplar and willow trees and ferns  growing abundantly. The pasture itself was full of sawgrass and timothy with the soil underneath full of boggy peat. As a kid, I played hide ‘n seek with my brothers and sisters down by the creek; and when I hold the Highland Park 18 Year Old Whisky under my nose and close my eyes, I can almost imagine that I am hiding in that sawgrass again smelling all of those scents and aromas from those long ago days of my childhood.

In the Mouth 54/60

Palate: Herbal smoky peat melded with the butterscotch and lightly sweet malt barley. Fine oak spice builds with wood shavings hints of poplar sap. Herbal menthol, willow and grasses. Boggy peat and ashy smoke.

The complexity is ramped up in the 18 Year Old expression and the tasting notes I have put together do not really convey the impact of the flavour very well. The different impressions of flavour are all sort of mingled together. The fine oak spice and the sap pucker the mouth seemingly making me thirstier as I sip. And that boggy peat seems to run gently through everything. It is not overpowering, rather I would describe it as gentle, but firm.

When I add ice, the dry fruit and chocolate impressions are strengthened and the sappy spice is softened. This is my preferred manner of sipping.

In the Throat 13/15

The whisky finishes with a burst of peppery spice combined with dry smokey ash which coats the throat. This is a long exit with punky butterscotch and herbal peat fading away after the swallow.

The Afterburn  9/10

I have re-examined each of the new core expressions in the Highland Park lineup. The 18 Year Old (Viking Pride) seems to me to have gone through the re-naming process relatively unchanged from its previous iteration. My tasting notes are almost the same as before, as are my scores. This is a whisky you should be sipping either neat, or with a touch of water, or as I have done with a well placed ice-cube. Perhaps an Old Fashioned cocktail would not be out of the question, although I will be resisting that urge. The whisky is just fine as it is, and with a better bottle presentation befitting a $200.00 spirit it’s score would have reached into the 90s.

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

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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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