Highland Park has some pretty high end whisky, but I actually want to talk about the other end of the spectrum here: the Highland Park Svein.
Highland Park introduced a series of NAS (no age statement) expressions for travel retail, and the Svein is the entry level expression in this, the Warrior, series. Now, I want to be very clear about my position toward NAS – It doesn’t mean the whisky is bad or inferior, it just means that no age was stated. However, and this is a big one, I feel that as the consumer, I have the right to know what’s in the bottle I’m spending my hard earned Shekels, Dollars, Euros or Pounds on. Honestly, if you put out a REALLY good three year old whisky, I’ll drink it, and as both Kilchoman and the Kilkerran line of Glengyle whiskys prove – young whisky can sell for a premium, if it’s good. Really good!
But I want to know what’s in the bottle, and I’ll make my own decision. Obviously, this isn’t the direction the industry is taking, and while this looks smart (for the distilleries) now, there is somewhat of a bubble forming in whisky prices, and as the story of the Campbeltown boom and bust in whisky proves, left standing in the long term will be those distilleries who maintain the standard of the liquid filling their bottles over time.
By the way, only last week did Highland Park announce the “Dark Origins” as a permanent addition to the core range. It is NAS, and is said to have double the sherry barrel ratio than the 12 Year Old. I’ll let you know how it is just as soon as I get my hands on a sample.
Sadly, however, this seems to be the direction the industry is taking. As Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie and Ardbeg – one of the most highly respected malt masters in the industry – stated last week: “No-age-statements will become more commonplace than age statements. It’s partly driven by the massive surge in demand and the fact there are very finite stocks out there, so by their very nature a lot of distillers are having to look to younger whiskies.” (See the full article here). In any event, I’ll be ranting here and there about the NAS trend…
But back to our main topic: the Svein…..
Highland Park Svein (40% ABV)
Color: Gold, quick legs.
Nose: Salt, malt, cereal (very much like uncooked oatmeal), honey, Brazil nuts, some vanilla, cardamom and licorice (the black one).
Palate: Vanilla, cereal, lemon, bitter notes, wood – though not old oak – rather like planks coming out of a sawmill.
Linger: Very short linger leaving bitter notes on palate.
My thanks to Asher R. for the sample!