This page is all about my blind tastings of Highland Park 12, 15, 18, 25, 30 and 40 Year Old. It is particularly exciting to be able to taste and review all these Highland Park expressions side by side in blind tastings, so on a few occasions I lined a row of five crystal cognac glasses and meticulously blind tasted these five expressions.
This post is about my blind tasting results, but you will also find links to the full reviews by clicking on the name of the whisky you would like to read about (links will appear as the reviews are published).
Highland Park is nestled on an island that sits near the northern tip of Scotland, Orkney. Once home to some Vikings, Highland Park adopts a Viking theme with the marketing of its whiskies; with the most notable in my view being the Highland Park Leif Eriksson who is regarded as the first European to land on American soil about 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
Visit Highland Park here:
Distinctive Highland Park
Highland Park is famous for its distinctive high quality whisky. Its flair for making whisky may have many reasons, but some include its practice of hand turning malt which is dried over Orkney island peat and then used to produce spirit that is aged in high quality sherry casks that sit quietly in the icy cold Orkney island… waiting, ever so patiently, to have an Australian whisky blogger relish in their character!
Blind Tasting – Highland Park 12, 15, 18, 25 and 30 Year Old
The row of cognac glasses glistened under the light beaming down. I could barely contain my excitement about blind tasting the main Highland Park expressions in progression. I blind tasted the expressions over several tastings (the 40 year old was tasted later, but still in progression with the other expressions and on a blind basis), and I was surprised with the results, which were:
I was surprised by this result for two main reasons. First, and most obvious, they are in perfect order in terms of age. Second, the 25 Year Old struck me as more oak influenced than the 30 Year Old in the blind tastings, and in fact I guessed the 25 Year Old was the 30 Year Old but obviously I was dead wrong. The 40 year old definitely smelled and tasted OLD, but it has moments of vibrancy that enlivened its seriously complex character. When I flipped over the yellow post it note to see “HP30” written on it I was surprised because it seemed less “oaky” than the 25 year old.
The density of the whisky’s character was the main difference between the ages (the HP 25, HP 30 and HP 40 were much more fragrant, while the others were dull and almost non-existent in comparison while their malty alcoholic content was amplified); a great example why some aged whiskies are well worth their price (they need to be tasted and compared with whiskies that you might think are great but which may, once tasted together with an aged whisky, seem very ordinary indeed). I did not know what I was tasting during the blind tasting, but after the whiskies were reveled it was clear that – in this case – age does matter. I need to emphasise that this post is about comparing the different expressions. The 12, 15 and 18 year old are very good on their own, but when compared to the 25, 30 and 40 year old they are dull and lifeless in comparison.
The 12 year old was dull and malty with the distinct aroma of new spirit, the 15 year old and 18 year old were slightly more interesting but did not leap out of the glass … but then there was the 25 year old, 30 Year Old and 40 Year Old. All burst with character and while the 25 Year old was a little too oak influenced with dry bitterness the 30 year old and 40 year old were heaven, with fireworks of character and boasting a powerful presence in the glass that was almost like a dense fog. Clearly, in this case, age matters I think.
So it happens… I have been introduced to a new league of whisky in the Highland Park 30 Year Old and 40 Year Old. You can see from the Malt Mileage Whisky & Spirit Rankings that they are in a league of their own.
|Blind tasting of HP 12, 15, 18, 25 and 30
By clicking on the name of each whisky, you will be taken to the full review (links will be added as the reviews are published).
Highland Park 12 Year Old had a dull and unimpressive nose, with malty notes that lacked any fireworks. Its taste saved it, because while it was also quite dull (in comparison to the HP 25 and HP 30, remember) it had shimmers of lovely fruit and licorice with the foundation of new spirit. It did not leap out of the glass.
Highland Park 15 Year Old had a slightly more impressive nose than the HP 18 Year Old, but its taste was a little uninteresting when compared to the HP 18. It had moderately more energy than the HP12, but still it was dull.
Highland Park 18 Year Old
had a less impressive nose than HP 15 Year Old, but it had a wonderful character on the palate that burst – albeit gently – with fruit and licorice all moderated by dry oak.
Highland Park 25 Year Old
was lovely on the nose with a spirited demeanor and notes of berry encased in soft oak, cigar tobacco and the musty smell of library books. It was certainly less impressive than the HP 30 Year Old on the nose and on the palate. On the palate the HP 25 Year Old was quite dry with bursts of bitter oak which developed on the tip of the tongue and then receded to the base of the throat. I felt it was slightly skewed to the bitter dry oak side, which seemed to detract from the balance. Now, I should stress that with a whisky like this, I am simply highlighting a negative which, in the grand design of this whisky, is minor; though it is still a noticeable negative in my view which means it is not perfect.
Highland Park 30 Year Old
is magical… simply heaven. In fact, on nosing this whisky in the blind tasting I wrote one word: “heaven!”. On the nose in the blind tasting I detected fireworks of orange and all kinds of berry with notes of vanilla and varied spice. It was strong and vibrant and filled the glass with its noticeable age, though it was in no way dominated by it; the age of this whisky gives it a power that perfectly balances the spark of youth with the mystique of age. Whatever went on in that cask for 30 years over in Orkney island is a mysterious wonder, a magical event that transformed an alcoholic beverage into a heavenly nectar the angel’s chose to leave behind. It also gave off the mustiness of library books, and on the palate it exploded with perfectly balanced character and the smoothness of silk. It was dense, rich and extremely palatable. The finish was spectacular, long and dry. The HP 30 is in a league of its own; it is like when Juventus played in the Serie B.
Highland Park 40 Year Old is either a masterstroke or serendipity, but either way it works its magic. It retains that dense rich old library smell identified in the 30 year old and retrains a Highland Park theme, but the difference is that it emits some beautiful vibrant Christmas themed aromas and tastes that act as a counterbalance to the musty and sometimes duty aspects of the whisky’s character. This is a breathtaking creation by Highland Park.