SMWS 4.217 “Nordic Nosh” (Highland Park 19) Review

This is a 19 year Highland Park from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It was matured in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead and bottled at 53.9% ABV.

Nose: Delicate balance of heather and floral notes up front followed by apricot jam, motor oil, and turning fairly malty after a few minutes.

Palate: Smoked fish with pear chutney, nice level of peat balanced against some fairly strong oak and seaweed.

Finish: Sweeter here as pear and peach notes poke through the peat/oak veil – fairly long finish.

Rating: 87/100 – A pretty standard, if not slightly better than average, ex-bourbon Highland Park.

Value for the money: This ran $160 through the US SMWS, and that’s not too bad of a price (especially for SMWS). I’m not sure I’d buy a bottle, but wouldn’t be too disappointed if I had at that price.

Highland Park Saint Magnus 12 Year Review

This is a 12 year Highland Park that was released as the second part of the Earl Magnus (Inga Saga) trilogy. It was distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2010 at 55% ABV.

Nose: Funky sherry notes with some sulphury smoke in there, fresh cedar, new leather, msuty old books, subtle dried seaweed, cigar smoke, and figs.

Palate: Cigar smoke carries through here with woody malt, sulphur notes appearing briefly with black cherry and leather as well.

Finish: Sherry influence lingers with faint strawberry and oak notes – long finish overall.

Rating: 89/100 – A very good/complex Highland Park – especially given its age. I love how sherry maturation interacts with Highland Park’s distillate – the briny/smoky elements of the malt play so well with the rich sherry.

Value for the money: I think the original retail for this was around €100, but now online, it’s mostly €250+ from what I’ve seen. I’d be happy to pay original retail for it, but it’s definitely not worth €250+ in my opinion.

Highland Park 28 (Cadenhead Small Batch 1988/2016) Review

This is a 28 year sherried Highland Park bottled by Cadenhead at 55.5% ABV.

Nose: Whoa – super meaty, intense sherry fills the nose with a sulphury oak sweeping in behind. Musty cardboard, apple butter, and plum jam develops, but the sherry and oak really dominate here.

Palate: Intensely sweet up front with a very viscous mouthfeel that really coats the palate. Powerful oak develops quickly full of tannins and pepper. Sherry is very intense with some more sulphur notes lingering in background.

Finish: The finish is a bit of a letdown as the oak becomes overbearing feeling as if I had just sucked on some wood chips. Sulphur from the cask also stands out here stronger as the sherry notes begin to fade.

Rating: 84/100 – I wanted to love this one, but the oak was a bit too overbearing and the sulphur notes were a distraction. The sherry is so intense though which really helps mask some of those things on the nose/palate.

Value for the money: I was going to buy one of these from K&L at their current price of $309, but was lucky to find a sample split first. I will pass now, but overall that is a pretty fair price for a 28 year Highland Park in my book. If you’re less sensitive to sulphur notes, then this would make a great buy I think.

Highland Park 8 (Gordon & MacPhail 2007/2016) Review

This is an 8 year Highland Park from G&M that was matured in refill bourbon casks and bottled at 59.2% ABV.

Nose: Heavy banana taffy with guava, a briny malt, smoky oak, and black cherry. Haven’t encountered such a fruity Highland Park before.

Palate: Big banana taffy continues with leather, apples, black pepper, and a relatively dry oak.

Finish: Banana lingers on with red hots candies.

Rating: 85/100 – I was slightly skeptical given the young age, but this young HP is quite nice.

Value for the money: This can be found in UK online shops for around $55 which is a great value.

SMWS 4.211 “Sun, Sand, Surf and Serenity” (Highland Park 24) Review

This is a 24 year Highland Park from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It was matured in a refill hogshead and bottled at 52.2% ABV. This is the first non-sherried Highland Park I’ve had, so it will be interesting to see the characteristics of its malt without that sherry influence.

Nose: Very oak forward given there is no sherry to hide behind. Brown sugar and lavender with a very floral profile overall. Stale vanilla and subtle brine round emerge after a bit.

Palate: Sugary and floral on entry  followed by a chewy malt wrapped in old, dry oak.

Finish: Musty, dry oak with cinnamon. Relatively short and bitter overall.

Rating: 89/100 – It’s certainly a different beast than other HPs I’ve had without their typical sherry influence. I really enjoyed the strong floral notes, but the palate (and especially finish) were just a bit weaker than I was hoping. Maybe there’s a reason they are typically sherry finished….

Value for the money: This was $190 on the SMWS shop which isn’t terrible given the Highland Park 25 OB has climbed upwards of $500 in most places. I don’t regret buying at that price, but I wouldn’t buy another.


Highland Park 24 (The Macphail’s Collection) Review

This is a 24 year Highland park bottled by Gordon & MacPhail at 43% ABV.

Nose: Smoky brine with lots of light sugar notes – much sweeter than the Highland Park 25 OB, but more of an artificial sweet. Damp hay, strawberries, mild oak.

Palate: Salty and quite sweet up front – a strange metallic note enteres. Earthy malt undertones are present.

Finish: Fades rapidly leaving behind faint traces of malt and oak with some lingering spice.

Rating: 82/100 – Doesn’t hold up to the OB 25 by a longshot, but not too bad on its own.

Value for the money: These go for around $150+ but I’d buy an HP 18 instead at that price (or less) if you’re looking for Highland Park.

Highland Park Loki Review

This is a 15 year expression that was part of the Valhalla series from Highland Park. It is bottled at 48.7% ABV.

Nose: Peat is fairly prominent on the nose compared to Highland Park’s core expressions. Copious salt and brine, but a high amount of citrus as well.

Palate: Again, not used to this much peat from HP. Remains quite salty with a bit of lemon juice as well.

Finish: Fairly dry and short – peat and brine linger on with the oak coming through more clearly.

Rating: 87/100 – Interesting to try so much peat in a Highland Park – definitely changes the profile quite a bit.

Value for the money: These were retailing for $250+ which is way overpriced in my opinion. Save half of that and buy a HP 18 instead.

Highland Park 18 (2004-2006 era) Review

This is an 18 year expression from Highland Park circa 2004-2006 (older round bottle design). It’s bottled at 43% ABV.

Nose: Sweet sherry mixed with brine and anise. Fresh fish and cigar smoke.

Palate: Peated malt sweetened with a touch of sherry. Damp oak soaked in brine and mineral oils.

Finish: Bitter oak with a bit of sherry and vanilla – fairly weak overall.

Rating: 87/100 – Would love to try at a higher proof, but I really enjoy these 18 year Highland Parks.

Value for the money: These can vary a lot in price – modern ones are usually $120+. I think that’s pretty close to being fair if you like their style.

Highland Park 25 Review

This 25 year expression is part of Highland Park’s core range. It’s a blend of ex-sherry and bourbon casks and bottled at 48.1% ABV.

Nose: Delicate peat and brine up front with a semi-sweet apricot jam following. Oak is relatively mild overall.

Palate: Peat is deftly balanced with the slight sweetness from sherry influence. Some brine and caramel notes round out the profile.

Finish: Very long finish with salted oak, smoke, black pepper, and subtle sherry notes.

Rating: 93/100 – One of the greats for me in terms of a core range from a distillery. Not overly bold in any way, but a great balance between sherry/bourbon casks with a little peat.

Value for the money: Sadly, Highland Park is going the way of Macallan in terms of its prices going through the roof. I bought this a couple years ago for $275 or so which I would say is worth it. However, since then it has been continuously rising leading to current retails of $450-$500+. I can’t recommend it at that price sadly, but if you find an old one sitting around at the older prices, I’d jump on it.

Highland Park Leif Eriksson Review

This was a travel-retail exclusive Highland Park expression released in 2011. It was a combination from ex-bourbon and sherry casks and bottled at 40%. This was originally part of a mystery review/sample swap hence the cryptic label on the bottle.

Nose: Not sure the combination of sherry casks involved, but the sherry is in the forefront on the nose. Vanilla, honey, oak round out the profile.

Palate: Again sherry leads here with a bit of salt. Tropical fruits emerge from behind the sherry.

Finish: Short – mostly vanilla with oak and pepper as sherry fades slowly

Rating: 88/100 – An enjoyable pour but nothing overly challenging. Could be great at a higher proof.

Value for the money: I believe these retailed for around $90 originally which is a pretty fair price – perhaps a little on the high side.