Nose: sharp and hot at first. Once the alcohol dissipates, I get notes of smoked meat, burning leaves, sweet honey, fruity impressions of grapes and apples...complex stuff to be sure, though not exactly gentle on the nose.
Taste: again somewhat sharp and tangy on the palate entry. Sherry-drenched malt follows, and then gets carried away by a cloud of smoke. A good deal more peat than I recall. I enjoy the evolution from sweet to peaty, even if it is not the smoothest experience.
Finish: sweet, lingering peat.
Balance: not quite the malt I was expecting, but it's been some time since I've had it. Complex and enjoyable throughout, but perhaps lacking the finesse I expect from a malt of this calibre.
@Megawatt, thanks for a nice review.
HP12 seems to have a lot of batch variability. The one bottle of it I owned was completely locked up until the bottle had been opened for 7 months and then it blossomed with honey sweetness. It was nondescript and nonthing-y until that point. That bottle never showed any noticeable sherry, and based upon that bottle it was difficult for me to imagine any sherry-aging to be involved in HP12. @Nock gave me a taste of a bottle of HP12 he owned which was downright foul. That one was a very off bottle or batch. I also have no difficulty imagining HP12 turning out well with a different batch, because I have had so many good experiences with HP 15, 18, and 25.
I think you guys are missing the point on Highland Park. Any review that doesn't contain the words "purdy packaging" is flawed ;-) scotchwhisky.com/magazine/latest-news/…