Tag Archives: islands

Highland Park Fire Review

Distiller: Highland Park. Region: Highlands/Islands. ABV: 45.2%. Age: 15 years. Price: $300.

I’m always a sucker for a good whisk(e)y story, especially when it comes from a distillery I’ve loved for pretty much my entire whisky drinking life. Highland Park, on the remote Orkney Islands of Scotland (long a bucket list destination), has delved fully into the Viking heritage of that part of the British Isles with a series of special bottlings.

Several months ago, I sampled their Ice, named after the mythical Viking Ice Giants. More recently, the distillery was gracious enough to send a sample of the next release in this vein, the Highland Park Fire Edition.

A limited release of 28,000 bottles, the Fire is intended to honor the Fire Giants, foremost of whom was Surtr, who, in mythology, destroyed the world in Ragnarok. So, the main question: is this whisky worthy of a world-destroying giant?

In two words: Hell. Yes. Unlike most of the distillery’s products, the 15-year-old Fire was barreled not in the traditional sherry casks, but in a 100% refill port wine-seasoned cask. Now, mind you, I’ve always enjoyed the Highland Park, but the port has opened worlds to me.

The nose has hints of cinnamon, as you’d expect from the bottle, but also lovely and nutty dark chocolate, a flowing and mellow vanilla, and something reminiscent of the tail end of a hog roast. The palate just sings. More pronounced vanilla, to be sure, but I adored the rich roasted coffee, along with orange rind, very slight plantain, and tobacco akin to a Cuban cigar I once enjoyed. The finish is perfectly sustained. It teeters on the brink of fiery, but never tilts harsh. Instead, what you get is an ending you’ll want to savor until the last elements are fully gone.

Now, at this price and limited availability, there’s no way that it can be a staple, but if you can find a bottle, grab it. It’s an infinitely rewarding whisky and one I plan to savor for years to come.

Slàinte, friends, and grab the sublime when you find it. – TM

Highland Park graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Highland Park Dark Origins Review

Distiller: Highland Park. Region: Highland/Islands. ABV: 46.8%. No age statement. Price: $80.

The Dark Origins is a velvety no-age-statement dram from Highland Park that doubles the sherry cask influence of the standard 12, and is meant to replace the 15-year-old in the near future.

The release is matured 80% in first-fill sherry casks, 20% refill sherry. Needless to say, the sherry is strong with this one.

There’s light honeyed smoke on the nose, plus stewed and candied fruits. The palate adds loads of bitter orange, plus more oak tannins than the Highland Park usually brings. Dark chocolate and lingering smoke on the finish.

It’s a more substantial and interesting dram than the 12-year-old Highland Park, but it struck me as a bit unbalanced overall. It’s not cheap for an NAS, but sherry fans will want to check it out. I’ll be revisiting this one myself, but in the meantime I’ll be pouring myself another A’Bunadh.

Sláinte, friends! -BO

Highland Park Ice Review

Distillery: Highland Park. Region: Highlands/Islands. ABV: 53.9%. Age: 17 years. Price: $300.

I’m always intrigued when familiar whisk(e)y friends take a stab at something new. One of my perennial must-haves is the Highland Park 12, a whisky that easily ranks in my top 10. So when the good folks at the Orkney distillery offered to send a sample of their special release Ice, I was thrilled to have the chance to try it.

Highland Park’s new whisky continues the distillery’s celebration of Orkney’s viking past. The release is inspired by the Norse ice realm, Niflheim, a land of frost and darkness. But there’s nothing remotely cold about this drink.

I caught pine and heather on the nose, but tropical mango too. The palate was pretty much perfect. Peat and grilled lemon mingle with vanilla, and they all get along with the clove notes just fine. The finish is terrifically sustained, and if you add a bit of water, you’ll coax a touch of espresso out too.

Not one I can afford every day, but a lovely one to have tried. Cheers, friends! – TM

Arran 14 Review

Distiller: Arran. ABV: 46%. Age: 14 years. Region: Islands. Price: $65-80.

Arran Distillers is one of the few independent distilleries left in Scotland, and the only one currently on the Isle of Arran, which once held more than 50. Founded in 1995, it’s being doing great things recently, and this 14-year-old bottling is a fine example.

The line-up starts with a 10-year-old, but I think I’d recommend this as the perfect first Arran.

The nose is bright and vibrant, which you might call the house style. There’s fresh vanilla, dried green apple, and candied ginger and lemon on the nose. On the palate, moist lemon pound cake, with a touch of whipped cream, and plenty of spice. Just the right amount of sourness on the long, intriguing finish.

I’ve gotten to spend more time with this Arran than most others, though I had the pleasure of surveying the full current lineup at an epic Malt Nuts tasting earlier this year, and I can assure you that there are many other good things in store for those who like the 14–particularly their cask strength and wine finish bottlings.

Slàinte, friends! – BO

Highland Park 16 Review

Distiller: Highland Park. ABV: 40%. Age: 16 years. Price: $120 (1L).

Highland Park has released a number of travel retail exclusives over the years, and as an HP collector I’m always on the hunt for them when traveling. I picked up this 16 year old awhile back before it was discontinued.

Citrus and light floral notes are on the nose. Subtle sherry sweetness and dried wood notes combine with light smoke on the palate. Its finish is somewhat short with faint sweetness and peat.

I’m glad I bought this bottle, though I prefer the 2001 vintage travel retail release over it.

Cheers! – JTR

Buy Highland Park whisky online at Mash + Grape

Talisker 10 Review

Distiller: Talisker. 45.8% ABV. Age: 10 years. Region: Islands. Price: $50-55.

One of the great standard-issues out there. The softer side of the islands, but so well balanced that even its delicacy is just robust enough. Honeyed malt, mild peat, and brine in perfect harmony, with a dash of white pepper on top. Medium finish.

In an age of peat monsters and sherry bombs that don’t always live up to their concepts–not to mention the growing ranks of no-age-statement releases–Talisker 10 is a modestly priced modern classic that knows just what it wants to be.

Sláinte! – BO

Buy Talisker online at Mash + Grape