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Shockingly, it looks like this could be my first Highland Park review (but how can anyone remember all of these whiskies anyway??) Established in 1798, this is Scotland's northernmost distillery, way up in the Orkney Islands, in Kirkwall (the only other distillery in that godforsaken land is Scapa). It was on the site of where there once was an illicit distillery run by smuggler Magnus Eunson. Excise officer John Robertson arrested him and took over the distillery in 1826. It was then bought in 1895 by James Grant of Glenlivet, and since 1937 has been part of then-Highland Distillers, now-Edrington Group, who has invested very heavily in this beloved brand.
All Highland Park whiskies are non-coloured and matured in sherry oak (apparently 20% is first-fill sherry) and use peated barley (much of which is malted on site), the peat being of a very different character than Islay peat. Strangely, most reviews of the 12 Year Old I could find were bottled at 40%, but this one is at 43% (perhaps that's the ABV of the Canadian imports, who knows?)
The colour is a rich amber. On the nose you have the sweetest peat you can imagine: heathery, slightly floral and very slightly medicinal. Tropical fruits (papaya, mango), lemon meringue and golden raisins. A hint of sourdough bread. The oak influence is subtle but it is there. Peat and malt are the dominant notes and they are lovely. A drop of water adds some smoky notes to the sweet peat.
On the palate there is more peat with some vanilla, raspberries, oak and lemon. Quite spicy. Thin mouthfeel but full, rich flavour, more dynamic with water. Absolutely delicious.
The finish is long but not deep - just enough to ride along waves of cinnamon, nutmeg and more citrus. This is a fantastic entry point to the core range - straightforward but has the right complexity and ease of drinking to be a great daily dram.