It seems that I’m writing quite a bit about NAS expressions lately, which is not surprising since almost all the new distillery expressions out there are NAS. I’ve said it before, and will just reiterate, I’m not opposed to NAS on principle (unless it’s on single cask bottlings). NAS whisky can be good, and several of the expressions I reviewed were just that. I feel cheated by NAS when it’s used to sell me lower quality whisky for a higher price, which is, of course, what suppliers strive to do during boom times. I’ll state my conclusions already at the start – this isn’t a low quality whisky. This is an expression worthy of carrying the Highland Park label (as oppose to Edrington’s Macallan Gold, which is not), and while being priced at a relatively high price point, it has enough intrinsic merit to warrant a discussion on its value for money – which means that the price point set is not totally out of whack.
Dark Origins is meant as a tribute to Magnus Eunson, a church representative by day and a smuggler by night. This whisky definitely connects and resonates with the darker attributes of a whisky, being quite smoky and heavily sherry influenced. According to the distillery, it contains 60% European Oak first fill sherry butts, 20% American Oak first fill sherry casks and 20% refill sherry casks. This is double the first fill casks than the 12 year old. While the sherry presence is much stronger in the Dark Origins, the real news of this expression is the peat, as this qualifies, in my book, as a fully peated expression, and with the sherry there, its profile is in the same class as the Ardbeg Uigeadail in its sherry and peat profile, albeit at a noticeably lower ABV and more sherry.
Highland Park Dark Origins (46.8% ABV, NCF, NC)
Nose: Clearly Highland Park even with the extra sherry. Dominant peat like a wet fire on an overcast day. Cereal notes are stronger than in the 12, sweet soaked sultana raisins, lots of nutmeg and the cinnamon baked into a cinnamon bun. Notes of a sea breeze, but not really salty.
Palate: A lot of peat, this really is a peated whisky (and not “lightly peated”), sweet sherry, very strong nutmeg and baked cinnamon (what you would call baking spices), espresso and chocolate and a whiff of blueberry pie filling.
Linger: Long with sweet peat with strong bittersweet chocolate notes that linger for a long time
Care was taken to craft this expression in a way that will not present as a really young whisky. There is clearly enough aged stock in here to balance out the youngish parts of the recipe. It’s a well balanced, peaty and sherried Highland Park, and is a good dram. My only qualm is the price, which is nearly double that of the Highland Park 12, partially justified by the higher cost of the sherry casks, but still feels somewhat over priced. So while I’d probably not buy a bottle, I’d be happily up for another dram of it.
Thank you, Yoav for sharing this sample 🙂