Michigan State Minimum: $120
Appearance: Light copper with long thin legs. No added coloring (to my knowledge)
Nose: Vanilla butter cream icing, oak, sherry, alcohol, a whiff of peat and a splash of sea spray. Water brings out more brine and peat.
Palate: Medium dry, full-bodied and well balanced. Some sweet malt and vanilla, apricot, followed by sherry and maritime notes. Opens up with a little water. Licorice and oak join the party and the mouthfeel becomes velvety soft.
Finish: Some vanilla and fruit, then burn and peat. Water gives the finish a big burst of peat, toffee and chocolate. Fades more quickly though.
Parting words: I’m fond of saying “nobody doesn’t like Highland Park”, and with HP 18, it’s easy to see why that is the case. Everything that can be in a single malt is here: Fruit, Vanilla, oak, peat, the sea, sherry, burn. It has something for everybody but doesn’t go off one end (smoke and peat) or the other (fruit and sherry). The 12 year old edition is a balance of all those elements. The 18 tilts the seesaw more in the direction of the barrel, which is not surprising considering it has spent six years longer in said barrel than its sibling. This is accomplished without diminishing sweetness or pungent peat, which is brilliant. It is the epitome of the style associated with the Isles, although it is made in a different set of isles (the Orkneys) than Jura, Talisker, Tobermory and the rest.
The hurdle for me is the price. At $120, it’s not bad for a Single Malt of its age and quality, but it’s a big bite for my budget to take. If it were even $20 cheaper it would be highly recommended but at its current price it is still recommended.
If you want don’t want to pay that much to taste HP 18, do what I did. Look for one of the HP 12 bottles with the special bonus 50 ml bottle of 18 attached. That should only set you back a total of $50. You’re welcome, world.