The Highland Park 21 is a classic example of an expression that migrated successfully from the travel retail market into the general market. Yes, it did undergo some trials and tribulations, including being released at 40% ABV for a while, but it got back on track.
The nose on this expression is absolutely stunning, but the palate (at least on the batch I had) was a bit incongruent with the nose, as it’s a bona fides spice bomb. Really powerful stuff!
Highland Park 21 Year Old (47.5% ABV, NC)
Appearance: Deep amber, slow legs with a lot of residue.
Nose: Lovely! Sherry with a hint of peat, deep dark dried fruit (prunes, dates and figs), slightly dry with a touch of dust. With time, both honey sweetness and some sherry sourness come through. This is all you could want from a Highland Park, classic nose.
Palate: Very dry and peppery, with hints of leather and some latent honey. It packs a punch beyond what you’d expect from the nose, with the first response demanding another sip to figure this one out. There’s dust, some different types of pepper (black, chili and white). What a contrast to the nose. Powerful stuff.
Linger: Dry and bitter with a lot of spice all over the mouth and down the gullet. The linger is long, chalky and keeps you in the peppery zone for quite a while.
If it were a little more balanced, this would have been a winning dram. It’s not, simply because the palate comes out and slaps you across your face, and does it hard. It’s not bad, mind you, in fact, it has merit as a spice bomb, but the nose gives no hint of what’s about to hit the palate….