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This is part deux of my Highland Park head to head. The Viking motif has been mocked, jeered and chided, but I have to say it....the bottle actually looks pretty cool. And the combination of a quarter turn screw cap combined with a cork stopper is pretty neat too. So is this whisky significantly different than the non-Viking HP 12?
- Nose (undiluted): subtle dry sherry, red fruit, soft peat smoke, dried flowers (chamomile?), and oh no, is it? Is it? Yes, there's a little bit of sulphur here. Not the rotten eggs variety, but there's definitely some spent matches hiding in the background. I'm not uber-sensitive to sulphur and it isn't overpowering, but it is present.
- Palate (undiluted): slightly sharp arrival, lots of red fruit, honey, floral peat, just a whisp of smoke, a bit "grassy"
- Finish: medium length, drying, red grapes giving way to milk chocolate, roasted almonds, a slight minerality, a touch of smoke lingering
Sipped neat, this is dryer than I expected it to be. Adding water brings out much more fruit on the nose while pushing the smoke back, but not mitigating the sulphur notes. The palate becomes creamy with more sweetness and the finish is peatier and smokier with water. Water improves this whisky slightly. Good (not great) both ways, but it's a shame about that subtle but present sulphur note on the nose. To the back of the cabinet with you! Maybe time will improve it.
I didn't find any huge differences between these two bottlings, except for the matchbox note at the end of the nose in the Viking edition. Maybe that's the smell of a burning funeral pyre. Nevertheless, any sherried whisky can occasionally present sulphur notes and I've tasted whiskies more sulphured than this one. The differences between these two could basically be nothing more than packaging and standard batch variations.