Highland Park 12 y/o: Ness of Brodgar’s Legacy

Maker: Highland Park, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland, UK20191004_223353.jpg

Region: Islands

Style: Peated single malt

Age: 12 y/o

ABV: 46%

Purchased for £55 (around $68)

Appearance: Medium, slightly murky copper.

Nose: Apple cider, peat, leather, smoke, sherry.

Palate: Sweet malt, butterscotch, peat, heather, smoke, seaspray.

Finish: Peat, a bit of sherry, smoke, peat, oak.

Parting words: Highland Park has been my favorite single malt distillery every since I started seriously exploring Scotch back in my 30s. I love its elegance and balance and relative affordability compared to malts I love (Springbank).

So when Liz and I were planning a trip to Scotland, I had thought it might be fun to add a side trip to Orkney. Not just for the distillery, of course, but for the food, the old buildings and the archaeological sites. They were out of scallops when I was there, but everything else was magical. If you don’t mind the weather (50° in the winter, 55° in the summer and wind wind wind), it’s a highly recommended.

The Ring of Brodgar

When I said old buildings, I meant old buildings. Buildings that were already old when the pyramids were built. Some of them are not quite that old, but the main island (called Mainland) seems like it’s full of Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Medieval, Early Modern and later structures. The sexiest are the standing stone circles, the largest of which is the Ring of Brodgar. It’s a wide circle composed of stones that were brought from different locations around the island.

To the southeast of of the ring is the Ness of Brodgar. It’s an archaeological site that is

Our Highland Park tour guide with a chunk of peat.

about six acres in size (so far). The dig has been going on since 2003 and there are still many buildings that haven’t been excavated yet. That made it the perfect candidate for Highland Park’s annual charity bottle. For every one of the five thousand bottles produced, Highland Park’s parent company donates to the Ness of Bodgar Trust, which funds the dig. Bottles are only available at the distillery.

As for the whisky itself, it’s a more peated version of the classic twelve year old Highland Park expression. It’s well-made like everything Highland Park produces. If you find yourself in Orkney this year, pick up a bottle! Highland Park Ness of Brodgar’s Legacy is highly recommended!




Highland Park 18 y/o

Maker: Highland Park, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland, UK (Edrington Group)HP 18

Region: Islands.

ABV: 43%

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.