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Highland Park 12 Year Old

Average score from 69 reviews and 317 ratings 85

Highland Park 12 Year Old

Product details

  • Brand: Highland Park
  • Bottler: Distillery Bottling
  • ABV: 40.0%
  • Age: 12 year old

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@Megawatt
Highland Park 12 Year Old

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/…

@Uisgebetha

Not a fan of the bottle shape currently in use by this distillery, they used to have very unusual diamond shaped bottle (in cross section) which was very striking. I’m sorry now that I never saved one.

Of the whisky however I have few complaints, its always been good and continues to be even if its flavour profile may have migrated a bit over the years. However one would probably be more worried if the flavour of an individual malt whisky did not change at least subtly over time.

A light golden coloured dram, with an understated, but inviting lightly smoked aroma. The principal hints I get are of orange and sherry, with lighter notes of vanilla, sandal wood and cinnamon.

Medium bodied and easy to drink and slips down all too easily at 40% alcohol. Appetising sweet flavours, but not in any way sickly are complimented by some soft smoke, wood and spice. The sweetness is provided by some malt, but mainly a rich fruity taste reminiscent of (but of course nothing like) the kind of syrup that comes out of canned peaches. A great all round whisky flavour and one that can I find be best appreciated in comparison with other malts, otherwise it can be taken for granted and underscored.

I find the finish is dryer with more of the woody smoky flavour, a hint of bitter chocolate and spice. Not overly long and complex but entirely in keeping with the profile of this fine malt.

M

To enjoy the nose, let it breathe for a while. Sherry notes are not obvious, but for sure make some impact. There is also mild peat, heather and tofee. After several minutes becomes more sherried and less peaty. Palate: honey, butter cake and subtle peatiness, Finish is smoky but somewhat short. Not very impressive, but definitely solid and pleasant.

@talexander

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.

@talexander, thanks for your very informative review.

Wow. You give me hope. If I thought that all I had to do to get a 90 pt whisky were to go out and buy a bottle of HP12 I would have done so, 3 years ago. My first bottle was locked up for 7-8 months with little flavour. So little peat and wine influence that you would not think that any of either was used to produce it. Then it bloomed. Lots of honey, and more noticeable wine. I haven't wanted to wait that long again. My experience is that Highland Park often makes you wait. It certainly often does with the excellent 18 year old. I do like the blossomed version of HP 12 a great deal...but I don't want to wait.

On the plus side, Highland Park uses some of the most delicious barley out there.

I think Highland Park can be quite inconsistent from batch-to-batch. I've read that the 12 Year Old is, and in my experience the 18 Year Old is as well. Also, both this 12 Year Old and the other HP I'm reviewing today are the bottom fifths of bottles open for many months, so oxidation may have helped tremendously.

@BARutledge

I purchased this bottle after reading a handful of nostalgic reviews. Although I typically favor the smokey, peaty, Islays, I felt a little silly that I had never tried anything from Highland Park. It is a good whisky and I liked every drop. With that said, it may be awhile before I buy another bottle, as I feel other alternatives around the same price have more to offer.

  • From scotch glass, splash of water:

Nose-20: clean/subtle, salt water, honey, snicker-doodle cookie

Palate-19: cinnamon-spice, prickly pepper, lingering dry floral and soil notes, bitter wood, dry hops

Finish-19 warming, salt water, charcoal fire, more dry hops

Balance-21: smooth

Overall 79

  • From snifter, splash of water:

Nose-19: leather, black pepper, warm orange peel, dry sugar cookie

Palate-20: hardened caramel, sea salt, floral notes, dry dirt, blackberries

Finish-20: fresh-chopped firewood, smoke, smoldering coal

Balance-21: not too sweet, not too smokey, easy to drink a little too fast

Overall 80

@hunggar

If you’re just getting into single malts, this is a great place to start. ‘The great all-rounder.’ There are sherried elements, highland elements, and peaty elements. There’s smoothness, balance, and a regard for quality barley. And I even like the bottle. Good for beginners and connoisseurs alike. I loved this back in the day. It used to be a cabinet mainstay.

Nose: Sherry, sultanas, apples, pears, oranges, pomegranate, thick caramel, juicy barley, salt, faint smoke, and a gentle floral character. With time more vanilla, honey, and grass emerges.

Palate: Richly bodied with a gentle arrival. Sultanas, red fruit, thick caramel, burnt honey, gentle salt, slightly grassy, and a very rich barley note.

Finish: Sultanas and sherry still dominate, but the peat becomes more pronounced. Herbal, grassy, and floral. Thick caramel, anise, red fruits, apple skins, oranges, burnt honey, and hay. Short-to-medium finish, with the clarity of the notes being dulled by a blanket of caramel. This is pretty good, but it’s no longer a favorite. In terms of the flavours, caramel tends to dominate (as it does for most of their core range). There’s some clarity from the peripheral notes, but not as much as I’d like. As always, the barley flavour is great and there’s good balance. But I feel like the wood notes aren’t what they used to be. I don’t know if it’s their casks that have changed or just me. Admittedly, my palate has become more ‘demanding,’ but this whisky was great company back in my, umm, err, ‘formative years?’ Sadly it’s less impressive these days.

So... who wants to drink a single malt at 40%? Well, newcomers do. And what better whisky to welcome newcomers into the world of single malts than HP12? It certainly helped me along. Because of our long history together, HP12 still gets its due respect. I suppose nothing lasts forever, but it’s still good.

Nice closing comments.

It is so true, as we keep trying new drams over the years our palates are ever changing, developing, and they do become more demanding.

@vrudy6

This whisky at first had a strong, thick, kind of damp campfire smoke on the nose and palate. Two days after opening the bottle, it settled down quite a bit. This dram is super smooth. Some whiskies start sweet and then the finish becomes bitter. NOT HERE! This is velvety smooth, honeyed,lots of caramel, the most delicate sherry. Slightly grassy, floral, and hints of the sea-shore with traces of spice . And then a subtle puff of damp, earthy smoke at the finish that makes it quite unique. Very well done!

@Pandemonium

No need to introduce the HP 12 here, it is a classic as it sets a high standard for all other entry level bottlings. Many claim that they are not what they used to be and lament about the good old days. But I still think this is one of the greater whiskies available at a more than reasonable price and if the quality has diminished over the years those early bottles must have been divine. I don't care too much, yet, about all the other HP products like the collectors Valhalla series, but you will always find a 12 yo in my cabinet.

Nose: a whiff of peat, oranges and very subtle smell of sherry. Taste:again the oranges, smoke, but not too strong more like a smoldering fire, honey and some floral notes Finish: fairly short, woody but spicy, definitely some rough grind black pepper in there

Overall just a great whisky, widely available at a great price, shame on you if it doesn't has its spot in your cabinet

Highland Park was my intro to single malt about 30ish years ago. I liked it then and know now how important it was kicking off the taste buds on the malt trail. I like it just as much now and couldn't agree more about keeping one on in the cabinet. Cheers

but lamenting is all I have! :)

@Nock

This is a sample saved from a bottle I bought in June 2011. I took the sample almost immediately after opening it. After almost 2 years my memory says it isn't quite what I remembered, but it is very close.

Nose: Strong sherry on the nose with a deep rich sweetness – molasses, brown sugar, caramel, and honey. If I didn’t know better I would have thought this a Dalmore! After time more honey, raisins, and hay emerge. A bit on the astringent side (antiseptic, medical gauze and the like), but it isn’t horribly off putting. Seems to me I remember that peat use to linger here and there . . . so far very little: sherry is still the dominant player.

Taste: Sweet light and honeyed on the tongue. You can hold it without it blowing your mouth out. Nothing is turning sour or off key (no soapiness thank goodness). There is some cut dry grass, light oak, and a hint of sherry.

Finish: Tobacco smoke, leather, and honey suckle. Not a huge wave (and no crest or crash) but it is quite powerful and long lasting – medium to medium long. Very pleasant. It is like being hugged by my Grandpa’s old chair that sat by the fire place. You get that low burning fire embers along with the freshness of honey suckle and citrus, and the sweetness of the molasses, honey, and brown sugar. Maybe a hint of peat . . . maybe

Balance, Complexity: I really enjoyed the taste with the finish being quite surprising (the tobacco smoke and leather seemed to come out of nowhere). Although I can’t say it is as balanced as I remember it. Not terribly complex but still enjoyable.

Color, Body, Aesthetic experience: This was my gate way malt to Islay I remember my first bottle in 2005. The peat was present, but so elusive. I kept saying, “What is that?” And it sent me on a peat quest that I have never recovered from. However, I am not picking up on any of the peat that was there 8 years ago. So very sad. I also hate the new bottles (they look like bourbon bottles). Come on HP get it back together!

Conclusion: The bottle I bought after this one was even worse! Something was off indeed with that one. This batch was OK, but not what I remember of Highland Park prior to the bottle change. It is going to be really hard for me to put down money for my next bottle.

@conorrob

Having heard alot about this particular whisky I decided to buy one for myself and see what all the hype was about. The bottle looks fantastic and the liquid itsef is a dark amber which is exceptionally inviting. I don't know if this colouration (yes I am English) is down to the addition of colouring or not but at this point I'm not too bothered.

Nose: Something new to me, a strong scent of sherry mix with a decisively smokey wood. Orkney peat comes to the fore and I begin to understand why so many people rate this particular whisky, the way it opens up as I swirl my glass is fantastic. Oranges? Thats a new one but I'm sure I can taste them. A final burst of citrus is all I can take before I take a sip!

Palate: Wow, thick fresh English honey arrives with a start. Followed by an impressively powerful burst of smoke, not too much but enough to make my mouth water. I take another sip and realise that I have only just scratched the surface, the dram takes up a floral note and brings me to a warm meadow as the sun crests above the trees. I accidentally poured a double helping and I'm glad I did! The complexity is quite impressive for a 12 year.

Finish: Ok, No tingling present on my tongue. Dry and smokey finish leaving an almost herbal touch. Heather? I'm sure thats heather! Never thought I could be sitting in Essex thinking of HEATHER! Alas I am.. and god it feels right! Nice long finish, the oiliness of this whisky allows it to coat your tongue and throat. Allowing the flavours to stay with you and evolve.

So my conclusion... this may come as a surprise to some of you but this dram is nothing special. it's different and has obviously been perfected over years of trials. I prefer the Aberlour 12 over this but find that the smoke within this dram cannot be ignored! I swear I will never have a cabinet without a bottle of this! But that doesn't mean its special.. It just means it is a bloody good dram!

Two things: 1. Try the HP21, it's quite good, and; 2. Try buying a bottle of Caol Ila 12 year and mixing some of it with a separate vatting of HP12. It's a knock out combination. Just get a third little bottle and start experimenting with various percentages. I like 2/3 HP12 and 1/3 CI. The HP18 is in a slump these days. It used to be amazing but now the 21 is the new king of the castle. If you can find a bottle of lighter coloured HP18 then it will be better than the darker coloured bottles. The 12 is pretty average, I agree with your verdict. However, it blends quite well with Islay scotches. Last Superbowl, I discovered the HP/CI blend and it really made my afternoons that much more enjoyable. Both bottles lasted me through the Superbowl games.

@rigmorole Superbowl!!! So should I presume that a HP/Cl blend would last me through Arsenal football club winning the premier league this year (football/soccer) ! ;-D I'm looking for a new 21 .. its was a toss up between Auchentoshan and Old Pulteney so would you recommend I gun for the HP instead? Haven't heard great things about the Caol Ila 12 but I suppose its reputation within blends is pretty much unrivalled so that will be something I will definitely try as soon as I can find a sample! I hope everything is well on your side of the pond!

@MisterDigger

In my quest to find a very good and affordable single malt, I came across these reviews. I also used the widely available Single Malt Flavor Map to guide me, especially into the smoky regions. I had tried Laphroaig 10, Lagavullin 16, and Talisker 10 at the bar, but those were all way too smoky for my tastes. Since I am a non-smoker, I began to wonder if many of the glowing reviews for the heavily smoked malts were from heavy smokers who did not mention that. When it comes to smoked meats, I at least want to know that it tastes like good smoke, but not be dominant.

Well, this one was always sold out and unavailable for tasting at the bar, so I was quite hesitant that it may be too smoky for my tastes and held off buying a bottle. Finally, I simply put my faith in all of you and just plunked down $50 US when I finally found a bottle. Thanks to all of you!

My first impression is still the same. If this one had any more flavors of smoke and sweetness, it would be downright obnoxious and I would not like it. Instead, I would call this one's flavors "In Your Face". When sampled against JW Gold Label 18, it made the poor old JW almost taste like water, so that was a surprise. The one that got me started on this quest now took a back seat to Highland Park 12. However, since I don't always wish to drink something this assertive, I found only two more that I like slightly better, but this is for my tastes only (Glenkinchie 12 and Aberlour 12).

I will most certainly buy this one again, and may spring for the 18 year old, even at double the price. Will the 18 become my new favorite? Who knows.

@vanPelt

First vapor: Buttery cinnamon over deep orange.

Nose: Overall light. A slow breath: old sneakers, dark honey, salty nectarine. A faster inhale reveals levity: vanilla and macadamia, maybe a just-used pencil eraser.

Palate: Sour cream entrance...then becomes syrupy-sweet, and like an organic mouthful of earth and flower petals. This may seem rubbery, and it is woody more than grassy. Orange peel slips in, just before the finish...

Finish: Salty wood chips, with a remaining impression of syrup (so it is not too bitter). Some of the wood chips might have been lightly charred-- very subtle tar.

I feel surprisingly warmer to this one than I did to the 18yo (see my recent review). The 18yo did have a tad more complexity, but I also found significant drawbacks. The 12yo is straightforward and was somehow smoother, perhaps due to less sourness. Nevertheless, I wish both had more defining characteristics that would step up and make bolder statements. The HP12's first aroma is enticing... but read those palate descriptors again... It's okay, but there are plenty more interesting and enjoyable malts to explore.

To compare with other "reasonably close" Scotches, I think this is a step up from Isle of Jura's Superstition, and not quite on par with Bowmore's 12yo expression. My lasting impression is of a balanced dram with a couple interesting sensations (honey, rubber, earthy), although with no particularly striking characteristic.

Thanks for the feedback! It's not so common to actually agree with anyone else's tasting notes, so it's always great to hear comments like this. I have had the HP12 since then, with slightly altered tasting notes: removed the sour cream, added "lager" and ginger, and changed the finish to "grassy dry malt with licorice". Of course it will change a little year to year, as will my palate. My latest score was 82.

I tended to agree with your comment on the "greeting an old friend" phenomenon. My opinion definitely has changed on my first single malt scotch (Auchentoshan Three Wood), but there is a tendency to want to like your first.

I appreciate a review that isn't clouded by nostalgia...

My love for single malts did not start with Highland Park 12yr, but instead with Laphroaig 10yr, so I don't completely agree with how everyone reviews HP12 like they are greeting an old friend. With that said, trying it for the first time, I agree with (a less harsh version of) your tasting notes over any others I read. I'd say leather instead of "old sneakers", and light-rubber instead of "pencil eraser". I'd also give it a couple more points...

I like the review nonetheless, it's straightforward and honest. Thanks for sharing.

@Narcism

Highland Park starts off with syrupy legs, fantastic to watch. The smell is something of a sweet apple with a bit of vanilla. Very pleasant.

The body felt thick, rich and smooth. Very much something you'd enjoy on a brisk fall day.

The finish was lengthy, as heavy and thick as the body felt and the legs looked.

Overall, I didn't feel like the whiskey could be offensive. It was an all-around great performer.

A+ would drink again.

n

from a purchased sample

Nose: Good HP fun and smoke. Very lightly sweet, honey, and malt. Sprinkle of salt. Floral and heather. Pineapple, ginger, and vanilla. Nuts and off-putty, with sour cherries, of course. Hint of wax and orange-colored fruits (apricots) Still, just fairly sweet and straightforward sugar-frosting and vanilla.

Palate: Well balanced. Creamy and silky at the same time. Pleasant and nice floral (violet) honey. The wood is good, if not a touch drying. Bitter wax. Malty. Ginger and pepper. Rather less fruit, but still nice. Smoke near the tail.

Finish: Brief, on smoke, salt, drying wood, a bit bitter, and honey. Wax from flower petals. The nose was more dynamic than the palate, but the palate was more pleasing -- just not as impressive. The finish was a bit of a let-down, capturing the core HP qualities, but missing out on the rest of it.

@tjb

I had toyed with the idea of buying HP12 but feared I would be disappointed. I had read some poor reviews and so was wary of spending hard earned money on something that didn't deliver.

I eventually was won over by a glass on a night out and decided a bottle was not going to be wasted. I am glad of the purchase and have no regrets.

I recently got another to share with friends at a Whisky Club and it went down a treat there too. As an entry level it is honest and good value.

The nose gives wafts of molasses and fruit. On the palate it slowly builds to a nice well rounded mouth filling flavour. Starting with a sweet honey, orange peel it is smooth and creamy with mild spices and grassy undertones. The finish has a nice peppery bite to it and is medium long.

If in doubt I would buy it as it is a pleasant drop which in terms of value delivers what you would expect.

this one's great when vatted with Caol Ila. three parts HP, one part CI

@mosis522

When I first opened this bottle and began having a few drams, I would have to say I was a bit underwhelmed. Not this it wasn't a good whisky, I felt as though it was slightly bland with not a lot going on. On continuing on with tasting it began to grow on me, like it sprung to life over a couple of months in the open bottle. I am now on the last couple of drams so a review is in order... The thing that strikes me when tasting this whisky is the way in which it has two waves of flavour. Firstly there is a sweetness at the front of the palette with honey on the tongue as this slowly fades a subtle smokey peat flavour hits the back of the tongue with earthy flavours. These flavours combine to create a great entry level malt which I feel fits nicely into the cabinet as an easy drinking "everyday" sort of whisky available at an affordable price!

Nose: Honey, malt, sweet citrus, sugar Taste: Honey turning to light peat, smoke Finish: Long finish, spice, faint wood, peat Balance: Very well balanced the sweetness and earthy tones intertwine nicely

This is my favorite single malt for about $40. You might also like the Highland Park 8. It's around $30 and can still be found, although it is disappearing. The bottler is Gordon & MacPhail. The Old Pulteney 12 is also quite good and about the same price as the HP12.

@Rantavahti

Highland Park 12 year old was yet again, another great delivery by the Highland Park. I dare to say it's one the best in it's price range and it managed to surprise me positively. For me, Highland Park is probably the best distillery outside Islay at the moment.

It was a good combination of delicate sweetness and soft but tasty flavors in nice balance. Highland Park 12 yrs also introduced a bit of it's edgy side with some wee smoke and peppery notes. This 12 year old whisky was just like a good dark comedy.

That's why I had to find my reference from the kings of dark comedy, the Coen brothers. The Big Lebowski is similar to Highland Park 12 year old's enjoyable simplicity and roughness on the side.

The storyline of The Big Lebowski is simple yet not the most everyday ordinary story. And in some levels it's complex like every Coen brothers movie. The same description fits with Highland Park 12 as well.

All the Highland Park's products I've tasted so far seem to have a bit of "Dude" Lebowski's character. They are bit rugged, bit on the soft side and very reasonable/coherent.

Nose: Very fresh aromas of honey, citrus and barley with floral notes. Slightly on the peaty side as well. Delicate and clean.

Taste: Toast, honey and oranges clash nicely together with some herbal notes. Hints of sweet peat.

Finish: Nicely long with the effect of spices and wood. I also detected some subtle smoke that gave the finish some nice edge.

Balance: Full body with sweet and earthly tastes and aromas mixed nicely together. Great whisky especially in it's price range. Manages to follow the good 'track record' of Highland Park in my book.

@Chookster

Seems an appropriate time to back-track to where the malt addiction started.

To smell; that trademark Highland Park sweet heather honey, nestled behind is a gorgeous light smoke. Water adds some grassy and flowery elements, leaves the honey unhindered, but alters the smoke to something akin to a cap-gun-like dirty smoke.

To taste; smokier than the nose suggests; a short buttery honey delivery, at 40%ABV it’s a little soft, but could have been worse really. A little orange/lemon tang develops before it all trails off in a pleasant manner.

In the end, water probably wasn’t necessary... For $67AUD a bottle round these parts and widely available, I think you would struggle to find a better value single malt. An 80 pointer if I ever saw one.

Just had an HP12 at a bar after a glass of Toshen 3 Wood. The Toshan wins! No contest.

I tried the 3 wood at a whisky festival (first up as well) and I found it unpleasant and have therefore never gone back to it. Maybe I should give it a second shot.

@ewhiskey

From Highland Park 15-good, to highland Park 18-amazing, to Highland Park 12-equally amazing in it's own respect Nose: Whopped cinnamon cream with the edge of nutmeg. A sweet gentle smoke, not one of which the subject is burning. Maybe a moist smoke. Palate: A crisp spice shell (Typical; cinnamon, nutmeg, autumn) with vanilla cream leaking. A cool inner city character with fall leaves at your feet. Finish: The spices dry out into a matted finish. A fine but pleasant grit.

From the 15, good and won't disappoint.

@squidboy007

This started off as a confusing malt for me. The packaging suggests adding water, but I made sure to try it neat first. It was delicious and surprisingly intense at first. I could smell very little of the fruit/honey sweetness some pick up on. It smelt mostly of smoke, leaves and rubber, with a slight hint of caramel that was quickly washed away each time. Tasting it revealed more smokiness and a thick, super-creamy texture to it that I haven't found as much with other scotches. The finish was long and spicy- far stronger than most scotch, but not coming close to an Islay bottle, for example. When I added a little water, the fruit smells really came out, especially a hint of apple and slight honey to go with it. This is really best with water (not the case for most, in my opinion) but it's good all-around. I would even call it a great starter scotch- it's not too weak, not too strong, has a number of flavors and isn't too expensive :)

I agree it might even be too weak to put in water, but it almost tasted "blank" to me without it. I couldnt really smell anything but the smoke. I really enjoy it more without water, but I think it's worth adding once to taste the hidden flavors

No water in the HP12. It's already just right and even a bit weak. BTW, this whisky blends magnificently with the Caol Ila 12. Two parts HP, one part Caol Ila.

@MooreJerka
@robsm2013

Interestingly, when I first opened this bottle and poured my first glass to nose it several years ago; I thought I wouldn't like it as I recall my very first thought: bourbon. I remember sensing bitter fruit with hints of vanilla. It could have been something else influencing the palette, just as wine can be complementary or disagreeable with different foods; I feel it is the same with whiskies. The truth is, Highland Park is absolutely delicious; superior in texture and complexity; flavours seem to be released in stages, priming the palette with strong notes of honey, sweetness, and a glucose-like, rich texture, and then converting to notes of floral, berries, and a general warm smoothness that coats the tongue. Finish is definitely long - lingering, and also converts back from the floral where it left you, to the sweet notes of honey and caramel that initiated the experience. A great balanced whisky for the price -

R

Yes, good for the price, to be sure, but underwhelming. Compared to HP 18, the 12 is an ugly step child that expects you to heap praises upon mediocrity ; )

@Davy

A nose of rich honey and raisins with hints of peppery smoke and softer sherry. Medium body. Sweetness of heather-honey. Long, gently smokey finish and lasting spice on the center of the tongue.

At new years I was at the store deciding if I was going to buy the Old pultney12yo or HP 12yo. Seems like I did the right choice then?

I'm actually not a big fan of the Pulteney, so I'd say absolutely! Plus you get the added romanticism of the Orkney Islands!

s

I had heard great reports from a work colleague on HP 12 and decided to buy for Christmas as a treat.I am new to single malt whisky and can say this HP12 is a beautiful tasting dram and I was not disappointed.Since buying this I have been fortunate over the past week to try out a few more drams including Glenfiddich 15 yo Solera, Glenlivet 12 yo and a Laphroaig Quarter cask.They were all fine tasting in my palate, but HP12 is going to be a regular purchase as for me it was smoother and more enjoyable to drink than the others.Its a whisky that tastes far more luxurious the £25 I paid for it.Great value.I will have to buy a nosing glass as I could only discern peatiness then sweetness from nosing the tumbler I'm currently using to drink it from.

Very nice whiskey but also try the other Orkney distillery - Scapa, the 16 yr old is delicious.

@AKGcandlefish

Color: light amber.

Nose: smoke and toffee.

Body: medium-full and buttery.

Palate: more smoke and toffee. Very woody but sweet too. Nutty. And I'm probably out of my mind, but I feel like I taste strawberries?

Finish: long and smokey with a burst of pepper.

HP12 was the third Scotch I ever bought after Glenlivet 12 and Glenfiddich 12, and while it was a huge step-up from those two, I also had an opportunity around that time to taste compare this to the Macallan 12. Having preferred the Macallan at the time, I haven't had the HP12 again in several years. Tonight my sister-in-law offered me a glass, and I regret having neglected this bottle for so many years. This still isn't a fair review -- I'm going off memory, I didn't have my Glencairn glass with me, and I didn't try it with and without water -- but generally I was quite impressed with this and would love to do a second side-by-side with the Macallan to see which I'd prefer today. I was surprised by the HP12's smokiness (I hadn't remembered that), which was nice. Incidentally, my wife was surprised by the sweetness, which she hadn't remembered. In any case, this is a more than solid medium-range Scotch. Definitely one to reach for when you're looking for your first $50 bottle.

I just had my first dram of HP12, then logged on to see the most recent review was yours. I'd agree with most of it. Didn't find any strawberries but I'll have another look. I did find lots of peat, pepper, and smoke. I didn't find the finish lasted that long.

I'm still a novice at tasting notes and sometimes have trouble identifying the flavor I'm getting, particularly when it comes to fruits. It probably wasn't strawberries, but I tasted something sweet beyond the common citrus flavor that pops up in a lot of scotches. Four hours passed between the time I tasted it and the time I wrote down my thoughts, so that doesn't help. The sense of pepper in the finish lasted a long time for me though.

@NAV26

I bought this 1 liter bottle of HP12 at the local supermarket. I have had the bottle for about 6 months and have completed 60%. Upon tasting this afternoon I found it more enjoyable than previous experience and thought I would write a review.

With time I think the nose and taste have become more subtle and complex. My appreciation for this whisky comes from its ability to seamlessly combine almost all the major category types of whisky on its own unique terms. Regions, distillers or models of whisky may express themselves as combinations, representation or counterbalances of floral, medicinal plants, fruit, vanilla, spices, sweet, smoke, peat or brine. The HP 12 has hints of all of these, they can be picked out an analyzed individually on days like today; or they can be appreciated as the sum of the whole when one is less mindful.

Color is amber-brown. I poured this tasting into a tumbler (no Glencairn available here) and let it air out for about 20 minutes. Initial the nose presented as one dimensiol and acetone, this has subsided and become much more complex. The dry season has started and the fan blows tempting hints of dried aromatic herbs (lavender, sweet basil; heather); vanilla; sherry sweetness; very ripe solo papaya; cocoa beans that have been fermented, dried and are now being grilled; freshly opened bag of black licorice; slight hint of gummy candy; honey; aromatic smoke; a very light hint of band aid like peat; and, a pungent pickled salty brine at the end. Time to enjoy.

Taste Thick, syrupy, fizzy, oily, mouth feel that rolls luxuriously around the palate. I really like the smooth mouth, there is no bite or burn just a little bit of spicy tingle. The flavors from the nose can all be found on the palate. On the front of the palette I get sherry sweetness with some ground white pepper spice. Mid palette I taste salted grilled cocoa beans; white honey from eucalyptus; and some anise. At the back of the palette I get more of the salt brine and bitter herbaceous (non woody) aromatic smoke.

Finish Luxurious oily mouth feel and rich sherry/ honey goodness stay on the midpalate for several minutes fading into very light band aid peat, smoke and heavier salt brine.

Balance Very lovely and simple but complex whisky as I mentioned above the balance of all the flavors is probably the greatest quality of this whisky. The nose and palate are in alignment. The sherry sweet cocoa influence flow seamlessly into the salt, brine flavors and aromatic smoke flavors with only a hint of peat.

Thanks @NilsG. I didn't enjoy this whisky very much initially and probably would have given HP12 a low 70 over the first 3-4 months. It has opened up really nicely and was excellent yesterday. I think once it opens up it does require a bit of focus to pick out the subtle flavors as it is easy to just enjoy it's nice mouthfeel and smooth taste. I think the patience required to experience the development and the subtle flavors maybe why this is "a great beginners whisky." It provides an excellent lesson that whisky is evolving, hidden, mysterious and may not provide a perfect and immediate gratification. The verdict is still out on whether I will buy another bottle, given the very limited choices in my current market place it may prove inevitable. If it remains as good as it was yesterday, perhaps I will pour half of the new bottle into the old bottle to encourage oxidation? I am pleased that regardless of my purchasing choices, I have learned something very valuable about whisky from this bottle.

Good review, I will try to come back an read this again in a few moths when my HP12 has oxidized more. I was straight disappointed when I first opened the bottle and had my first taste. A moth later it had already improved to the level I know I will at least enjoy finishing it. The more I read about this whisky it becomes clear that this is a good example of an expression that becomes signifficantly better with oxidation. Makes me wonder if this is not something that could be done before bottling. I like the bottle I have now, but I will most likely not buy a second one, because I don't have that much patience that I wanna wait a few months for my dram to open up.

@voidwp2556

By this point, the secret is out. This 12 year from the worlds most northern distillery is an out-and-out steal at $45. Highland Park slowly malts their barley (a lot of which is actually THEIR barley) on a stone floor.

The nose is full of beautifully light heather notes, orange and lemon peel, and grass. Toast, fig, and lychee fruit make an appearance as well.

The mouthfeel is soft and round. Light on its feet, the 12 year delivers more toast, vanilla, and white pepper. The finish isn't long, but leaves the palate very clean. This is going to pair great with food!

@cheeserandyburg

Two days after trying the Islay Mist 8 blend, I took the plunge and opened up a bottle of HP12. It was telling me to open it, so I did.

Coming from Islay Mist 8 last night I was a little bit nervous, being that according to reviews - HP 12 was peated. And I must say, the peat blast I got from IM8 last night left me waking up with the taste of peat/smoke this morning. HP12 however is a very rewarding surprise, and here's why.

Legs: medium thick, and quite slow.

Colour is a nice light amber. Though in the bottle under white light appears to have a sea, yellow/green tinge to it. Intriguing. Either that or my eyes are playing tricks on me and I'm going crazy.

Nose - Butterscotch dipped in the slightest peat. Sweetness, gentle honey and creamy evaporating butter.

Palate - Sweet citrus and gentle spice on the tongue, following by a load of honey, welcoming peppery zing, warm entrance and expanding complexity. The everlasting honey is lingering and coating my mouth, when will it stop? Honeycombs are growing within my mouth now. Fantastic.

Finish - The finish take a quite a long time to arrive. This is amazing. Adding water just added more sweetness. The spice is hanging around very slightly as the honey works overtime. Now, just as I thought it was over, the peat comes back, but ever so gently I almost forgot it was there to begin with in the nose. Smokey oak wood makes an appearance several minutes since the last sip, and the peat now lingers, cruising around my taste buds, hanging around asking me, "want more?"

Conclusion - Who knew a bottle of scotch could make a man speechless... never say never. This is top stuff. Slightly reminiscent of Aberlour 12 (my first single malt) in the citrusy fruit department. However, this kicks it up big time, and adds a punch that Aberlour 12 lacked in finish and complexity. Must be kept in the cabinet at all times. 90 points.

@PMessinger

Wow enjoyable smokey, salty, peaty, vanilla citrus well balanced medium long oily slow finish. All the best of wind swept shores of Orkney.

@NilsG

I'm a total whisky beginner and this is my first review, so it's gonna be crap. If you wanna learn something intelligent about Highland Park 12 read the next random review.

I recently opened my first HP12 and after everything I had heard/read I was disappointed. I got this bottle for the sole reason that it's supposed to be great for beginners.

The nose brought back memories from a chemistry lab, and puking vodka when i was 15. that kind of put me off. I read somewhere you sometimes need to let a dram open up and develop in the glass before it's ready, so I left it for about 5-10 min and came back for another go at it. I managed to work my nose past that first impression and found a lot of goodness. Syrup, Heavy oak and something I like to refer to as "choco-tobacco" (my favourite flavour to find in a whisky).

No water added. The palate initially delivered what I expected from the nosing, it was pleasing. After swallowing there was a peak of vanilla that was too strong for my liking. I'm not a fan of vanilla in general, noticing it in whisky can be nice if it's subtle, but for a brief moment it was the only flavour I could sense, yuck. Then that choco-tobacco came out nice and clear and put a brief smile on my face, yum. The finish was bitter woody and long. All in all it wasn't bad, I rather drink HP 12 than don't drink at all. Or maybe it was bad...

Despite the roller coaster of nice/less nice, it was surprisingly easy drinking. Is that why it's recommended for inexperienced drinkers? I'll definitely finish the bottle, I do not regret getting it, but will surely not get another bottle.

@Pudge72 Sorry I just noticed you asked me a question I forgot to answer. I don't know how to accurately describe the smell, the closest I can think of is acetone but that's not a completely accurate description. Ok, I'm gonna come clean with what this whisky remembered me of, but I didn't wanna write about it in the original review cause it's a bit gross: In a previous line of work I once had the "privilege" of doing CPR on a guy that was ODing on heroine, and he was frothing from both nose and mouth, and a disgusting pungent smell I'd never smelled before came out of him. I was doing mouth to mouth and a colleague was doing the chest, and the both of us got this smell imprinted in the brain somehow, and for three days EVERYTHING smelled like that drug addict. I couldn't eat for the whole day cause everything smelled bad. And that smell, although much less prominent, I found in my HP12 bottle. I would maybe have scored it higher if I didn't have this association, but regardless of that, it's not a pleasant smell.

Thanks for the comments. Writing a review was fun because it made me think about the whisky in ways I wouldn't have if I'd just enjoyed it quietly by myself. Will definitely do it again.

Pudge72/Victor: I will follow your advice and not give up on this bottle yet. Actually, now I'm a bit excited to see how it's going to develop over the months. Thanks! I will post new experiences here in the comments, or maybe even do a new review too one day.

Wills: I will absolutely write Japanese whisky reviews, in particular Yamazaki 12 and Taketsuru 12. But I wanna be able to do them justice. It's only been like 3 months since I started drinking whisky seriously, and within this short time the ability to taste, or what should I say, the adaptation of the sensors have developed significantly. I'm fascinated by the biology behind it, I'm just now discovering how much smell and taste actually are ACTIVE skills, not only passive senses. Where I'm going with this is that I can only imagine how it must be for someone with years of experience. Therefore I wanna develop myself a bit more before I review my favourite whiskies. Also, at the moment I would probably rate them too high. Like a young teenager having his first major crush on a girl, unable to see any flaws whatsoever.

@McGrain

A very complicated nose leads to a much more relaxed whisky that has more than enough going on in the finish to keep you coming back for more. My two criticisms are that it is a little weak up front - and far, far too easy to drink. You can drink a bottle of this without really knowing you've done it.

Nose: Fruit, Chocolate, Spice, Heather flowers, Smoked wood (Oak)

Mouth: More tender than the nose when it's introduced to the mouth but then it brings all of the above in a slightly soured fruity wave before a sweet note eases you into a short, warming finish.

After: A pleasing burn sweetened by honey.

@Donski

so thanks to the tax man i was able to purchase some whiskys to try/enjoy, these were Talisker 10yo, lagavulin 16yo, glenkinchie 12yo, cragganmore 12yr, dalwhinnie 15yo and highland park 12yo

So far i have tried the Talisker, Dalwhinnie 15yo, glenkinchie 12, cragganmore 12 and Lagavulin 16yo and have enjoyed them all with the talisker and lagavulin being the stand outs so far.

Now its time for the highland park 12. I have heard alot of good things about this whisky so was very excited about trying this.

Nose: Fruit, sweetness and smoke. very nice nose.

Taste: Fruity with smoke and sweetness like the nose but with a very nice amount of peat. Very well balanced and awesome taste.

Finish: Mainly smoke and slightly drying. Last a while until the smoke goes away.

Overall this is so far the best whisky i have tried. I am very happy with the whiskies i recieved with my income tax return and think i will be buying a couple of these again mainly Talisker, Lagavulin and highland park.

@valuewhisky

Highland Park 12 is a favorite of mine. I just love a scotch that can deliver a restrained (i.e. balanced) amount of peat. It's not all about the peat, but the peat and smoke is there providing depth.

The nose is very nice. It's mostly fruity and honey sweet, with slight smoke in the background and a definite earthiness. Sometimes I get a banana/vanilla profile which I associate with bourbon-cask maturation. To my knowledge, Highland Park uses no bourbon casks, however some sherry casks do use American oak, so perhaps this is where those aromas come from. Although I love the aroma, the nose is a bit "young," however this does not prevent me from enjoying it.

The palate mostly mirrors the nose: fruity and honey sweetness, earthy-peat, finishing with dry smoke. Awesome! The mouth-puckering dry finish is my favorite part of this whisky, and the gentle smoke hangs around for a while.

If I had to say something negative about this whisky, I'd say it's a tad thin (I like higher ABV stuff generally), and a tad young (which is definitely solved in the 18 year expression). However, I think the youth is entirely excused by the amazing price point of this malt: low $40's puts this in competition with Glenfiddich 12, Glenmorangie 10, etc, and Highland Park shines way above those malts due to the gentle but distinct delivery of peat.

For me, one of the best values to be had in scotch.

Great review of the HP12, this one is one of my favorites as well. My wife likes the HP15 better, so I have that one in my cabinet for her have you tried the HP15 yet?. I recomend it its good. Have good one.

Thanks for the comment! I haven't tried the 15 yet; it's on my to-try list, but it's a little expensive so it may be a while.

@bourbondrinker

A peated nose with warming honey notes on the palate. A gentle harmony in your mouth for the fist 4-5 seconds then a burning spicy finish...a long finish indeed! Very well balanced.

@markjedi1

There are few whiskies that sell better than the Highland Park 12 Year Old, the flagship of the distillery with the same name on the Outer Hebrides’ island of Orkney. Today we will try the modern version, bottled in 2011.

This new batch has a completely different nose from the older ones in the dumpy bottles. Very sweet and grainy, but the bouquet of wild flowers is more like wet grass here, freshly cut. Again quite a bit of honey, of course, and that typical sweet peat from Orkney, which is so dofferent from the Islay peat. The fruit is again a citrus variation, but in this case I would say lime and tangerine. A touch of smoke and even some salted butter. Not lacking in heather either.

The body has not improved. Weak, almost watery attack. The classic HP traits pass the palate one by one: heather, honey, sweet peat, citrus. It does show a nice spiciness on ginger and pepper and a bit of liquorice. Light on smoke, slightly bitter.

The finish is rather shot, but clean, with a hefty helping of pepper.

I must say, I feel the old bottling has the better nose, but the new one tastes nices and has a better mouthfeel, although the difference is small. This is actually standard stuff that should be present in every whisky cabinet. Costs less than 30 EUR.

J

Nose: Sea spray, gentle peppery smoke, thick rich honeys, creamy honeys, some citrus (candied orange peels, melons), lovely sweet maltiness, heather, fine leather, some floral notes.

Palate: thickly honeyed, peppery gentile sea spray , sweet maltiness, lovely notes of toast, creamy rich caramel, rich maltiness, some notes of juicy fruit.

Finish: Slightly drying, a touch of smoke, multiple kinds of rich and creamy honeys, lovely maltiness and notes of well-done toast, some sea side notes (gentle salt, seaweed)

For the price of this whisky you would be hard pressed to find better. A lovely whisky that emphases the concept of balance between flavours. I must confess I am in secrete, madly in Love with the Highland Park range. So with my recommendation filled with bias I have to say that this 'entry' level whisky is the best entry level whisky out of any sigle malt brand.

@Stammos

It has been said many times before that Highland Park 12 year old is a good all-rounder and thus perfect for a whisky starter like me.

The nose is gentle honey, barley, oak and some sweet fruits. And the taste is sweet intense honey, soft raisin, soft peat and a gentle light dry finish.

Highland Park 12 year old offers great value for money and is a perfect whisky to start discovering the beautiful world of Scotch. A bottle of this 'jack of all trades' will definitely stay in my whisky cabinet.

@MaltActivist

A very nice younger expression of one of my absolute favorites (the 18 Year old). The nose is gentle yet firm with honey and barley and a touch of oak. Excellent delivery which is layered with a touch of honey and a gentle woodiness - a very complex undertaking of sweet, oak and spices. The finish is medium to long with vanilla and hints of smoke doing a good job indeed.

@Devo

Nose: Honey malt, buttermilk cereal--to put it nicely (could also qualify as baby vomit and oatmeal, depending on your tastes), soft, damp peat smoke... Way in the background you get some fresh crisp fruits but you really have to search for 'em.

Taste: Much nicer, fresher, than the nose suggests. The honey cereal starts off the arrival, then some wood spice (nutmeg cinnamon) and pepper, progressing to stewed dark tea.

Finish: Tea notes and spice evolve into a very mild mannered smokiness. Finish isn't very long, but is very pleasant--warming. The smokiness fades getting sweeter as it leaves. Faint hints of malt come back just before the finish completes.

Summary: It's a shame about the nose on this one because it's really a nice balanced whisky otherwise--particularly the finish. A great evolution from sweet and earthy to smokey spice and back again.

@maxrecline

This is an absolutely super whisky. The word "balance" is used frequently to describe whiskies and HP12 is the perfect example. HP12 has smoke, sweet, and floral (heather?) elements all playing nice together and sharing their toys. HP12 is good any time of year and any time of day. A favorite.

@luckyshot

Highland park 12 yo is the most affordable expression in the core range, and at a good value. many start here when starting out with single malts. dark gold in color.

Nose: vanilla, toffee, caramel, chocolate covered- cherries. pine cones and oakey smoke. Palate: pancake syrup, pine tree, nutmeg and a nice smoky taste. Finish: smooth and creamy. medium long with a sweet smoky finish. other notes present.

@DaveWorthington

I bought this bottle of Highland Park in September as my 'official' monthly bottle. It came highly recommended and had been on my wish list since starting my whisky journey at the end of 2010. It was #19 in whisky discovery(my blog explains it all). I’m coming to the end of this bottle and thought I should write it a glowing reference, although I’m sure it doesn’t need one from me.

All the way from the Orkney’s, The Highland Park 12 is rich and smoky.

Made from barley malted over burning peat, this Highland malt has a smoky sweetness and a glowing amber colour.

Smoothly luxurious and tingling with spices and hints of lemon and orange peel through to a subtle finish of peatiness. I even love the nose of the empty glass (and it’s only empty if I have to go to bed).

With a delicious sweetness (heather-honey is their preferred description) and a warming, silky mouth feel, this is a whisky that that has really impressed me.

I have just a few drams left, which I’m looking forward to finishing this evening. It will be on my wish list immediately and I’m very keen to try other expressions from this distillery.

Ah - I have a Booker one, so I'll have to wait on that one! Personally I rate the Fine Oak as much better than the Sherry, which I found to be a bit too soft - it goes down like a dream, but I'm not sure I found much else to rate about it (admittedly I was at my friend's bar and had probably tasted about 10 whiskies beforehand, so my judgment was not at its best!)

Oh, next time you get a bottle of HP, see what you think of it after leaving it open for a couple of months. @Victor has an excellent review of it on here as a comparative tasting and I've left a half-drunk bottle open for a couple of months to try it myself!

I agree with your review entirely - I gave it 90 too! I also like your Whisky blog. It's very cheerful and I thought I'd say that I also use Ian Buxton's 101 whiskies to try before you die as a sort of wishlist!

@electricwood

Have acquired this bottle as a less peated companion to my Islay malts and upon good reviews. At initial bottle opening, there's a smell of furniture laqueer that fades out within a few minutes. Very malty with hints of fruits and peat. First tasting expectedly found aromas quite muted with big malt presence and light peat throughout. Velvety mouth feel. After a few hours it starts to unveil itself a little, fruits being more present, so does the oak's warm aroma. Almost evolving sip after sip. So far, I've had quite a good moment with this pleasing malt. I can't wait to taste the result after letting it breathe in its bottle for a few months. Also I wouldn't expect something put to rest for 12 years to awake all of a sudden.

EW - I greatly appreciated your comment re: furniture lacquer that faded out after a few minutes. I not infrequently get that particular nose with that same fading out quality so that it is replaced by the more subtle qualities - maybe that is the opening up in the presence of air that is often referred to. A think less experienced noses will be affected by that more - whereas more well used noses will manage to get past that because they know it is temporary.

Best, Greg

@WTC

the HP 12 is in our special festive tasting, see the website or facebook for details. Dominic's notes are below. Score is combination of all our ratings.

Nose: A flirty flash of malt thigh, with shades of honey, barley and peat, seductively asking if you want to come in without giving too much away. Palate: Taste-wise this one goes through the gears, cruising through a barley and honey overture, steering its way between wood, fruit and spice, and putting the peat pedal down as it accelerate to its conclusion. Finish: The various components finish equal first and in style.

T

This is my first review - I've been considering writing one for some time, but I haven't opened a new bottle for a while and so haven't had that 'Wow! New taste!' rush for some time. Things have changed.

This is a gorgeous malt - it's a perfectly balanced study in the whisky-producing regions of Scotland. Whilst I seem to have found the nose rather lighter than my fellow reviewers, this whisky is absolutely bursting with flavour!

From the moment I sipped it there was a blast of honey rushing through my mouth with a perfect little dash of firey peat coming through afterwards to 'crisp off' the taste. As it moves on there's a touch of salt creeping in - I'm instantly reminded of the heather-covered hills of the Shetlands (my ancestral home) and the ever-present menace of the high seas. Wow. My first whisky-inspired bout of nostalgia!

Others have criticised the finish as brief: I must have had a fantastic bottle as my experience is completely the opposite. The distinctive honey-salt taste lingers at the back of my mouth for some time and fades gently away in a perfectly charming way.

HP12 is, to me, like a masterful piece of furniture - everything has smooth, rounded edges and the flavours are perfectly balanced and married together with consummate style. There's a feeling of 'shininess' that's present from the very first sniff and sip. The honey-salt-peat combination is absolutely perfect. I've been looking for a premium(ish) bottle to buy and if HP's 12 is this good, the 18 is coming up next!

I always read these reviews before buying a bottle to see if I think it'll suit my palate, so I thought I'd quickly list a couple of other bottles I'd associate this with. In short, I'd put it as a mix between Bowmore Legend (incidentally I prefer Legend to 12) and Dalwhinnie 15. It's like the best of both worlds. Glorious!

I hear a lot of people talk about Honey with this one. Maybe an Avocado flower honey (if your from or in California you can get it, but it's a very pungent and not so sweet honey) but this whisky is not one I'd call sweet. I find it to be really complex, salty and marshy, and maybe a seaweed taste, while also being very wood forward, as well as having a really strong sherry flavor (I read someone on this site say that HP12 was not sherried, but according to my palate and their website it is). I hear heather described with this one a lot, and I still don't really know what a heather tasting note is, but this whisky definitely tastes like the coastal outdoors.

@whiskyfriend

I'd say try something like Old Pulteney if saltiness is your thing. I'd also suggest Oban 14 which I recall being very salty or some of the Islay malts - especially Bowmore and Lagavulin (if my memory serves me well).

I can't think of many more off the top of my head (and due to my somewhat limited whisky knowledge!) but there are lots out there!

A

I would certainly not describe myself as a whisky expert, however I discovered malts and after tasting a few got hooked on this one. I love this malt and the only thing I wanted to try more than another 12 year old was the 18 year old. I treated myself to a minature and I have to say i was disapointed. If I had the option to buy 18 year old or 12 year old at 31 quid it would be the 12. Beautiful, what else can I say

@Moose

Color: Dark hay, corn husks

Nose: Rubbery, peat, smokey, leafy and earthy, soil

Body: Light and smooth

Taste: Leafy, peat, salty and oak

Finish: Long, drying, lingering smoke, kipper and salt

Overall: An easy going yet unique scotch, lots of underlying flavors. Great value at < $40USD

@Victor

The reviewed bottle of HP 12 has been open for about 8 months. This review is meant to give a perspective on the whisky over 8 months time.

Nose: at bottle first opened, slight to moderate nose with a little grassy barley grain and a little peat. At 8 months, there is very rich honey, strong high-pitched wine, malted barley mostly in the background, and just a hint of peat.

Taste: the freshly opened bottle yielded moderate peat, very muted malted barley flavour, a little salt and no more than the very slightest hint of honey sweetness. At 8 months, there is a huge honey sweetness, a full delicious barley-malt flavour, a little salt, and moderate peat. The difference in the flavours at the two time observation points is enormous. What is extremely impressive to me about Highland Park 12, and every Highland Park whisky which I have tasted, is the QUALITY of the barley flavour. All barley does not taste the same, or even very good. The same is true of peat. Highland Park's barley, is, in my opinion, exceptionally delicious.

Finish: the newly opened bottle's muted taste led to a rather muted finish. Pleasant, but not impressive. At 8 months the finish is rich, sweet, long, and luxurious, with all of the flavours fading out slowly together.

Balance: this is a great example of how much whiskies change after the bottles are opened, and the need to observe whiskies over time in order to allow a whisky to show its full character, before reaching too strong or conclusive a judgment as to its characteristics and its merits. I have seen quite a few whiskies now that have greatly altered flavour profile after anywhere between a couple of weeks and a couple of years. Sometimes I now think that every review ought to give references as to how long the bottle of the reviewed whisky was open, when the reviewed sample was tasted, whether there have been any observations of changes in the whisky in tastings over time, and what those time periods were. If I had reviewed this bottle in the first few months after it was opened I would have scored it at 78-80 pts. Now, at 8 months, I taste in Highland Park 12 yo the classic delicious whisky that so many love. Review scores are for the bottle at 8 months open.

@Victor I agree - for some sentimental reason I still have a slosh of my first ever bottle of whisky (Ledaig sherry cask no age statement). It's been open for about 8 years which is perhaps a little long but, much to my surprise, it's still delicious and has changed completely. Obviously it's far less harsh as I'm sure a reasonable portion of the alcohol has evaporated but its flavours have evolved admirably.

Sadly it's not available any more - I contacted Burn Stewart but they had none left - but it would have been interesting to be able to compare it to a new bottle.

My bottle of Highland Park 12 yr old has also been opened for about 8 months. It doesn't taste as peaty now and has lost its brown sugar flavour that I loved. I also don't get that bittersweet aftertaste as much as I used to. However it's still better than many other Scotches.

@wylcx

If you like peat, you will love this. Hands down the best for the price, and even better than many more expensive malts.

Extremely malty, and the Sherry cask is obvious. Citrus peel, maybe honey? Wonderful lingering taste. Finishes with subtle peat and toffee tones.

My advice is to drink this neat.

@popery

Restrained aroma - a Glencairn helps. Flowers, caramel, sherry and wood with a touch of smoke. Some brine. Sweet when it hits the tongue and transitions to a gentle burn. Mostly grain sweetness in the taste. More brine notes - still could be stronger, though. Some hazelnuts, walnuts. Nice balance, though perhaps too mild and sweet. Very pleasant dram with HP's unmistakable flavor. Easy to drink. Clean finish with some lingering wisps of smoke.

@Rosal

Nose: Clean and crisp. Nice scent of honey and citrus.

Taste: Smooth and silky honey. Subtle orange peel sweetness.

Finish: Fairly long sweetness to a light pepper spice.

@Taylor

Great color to this Scotch. Has got a very distinctive woody-peat taste to it, finish off with a strong smoke after taste.

I would recommend this scotch for the winter months-- somehow, it has a very cold and dark characteristic to it's flavor profile.

d

I had heard so much about this one that when I finally tried it I had really high expectations. It failed to meet them.

Everything starts off wonderfully. The color is a lush amber, and the nose has a nice honeyed sweetness mixed with hints of smoke that is really wonderful. The nose is easily the best part of this malt.

The palate, though, is a strange mish-mash of different flavors, none of which come through all that well. It seems as though this malt is trying to do too much and, as a result, does nothing well. The smoke is there, the sweetness, hints of fruit, but it just doesn't come together well. All of this wraps up with a long and slightly bitter finish.

I wanted to like this malt, but just couldn't do it. I've tried it several times just to make sure I wasn't missing something, but I have the same reaction each time. I was glad to have tried it, but won't seek it out in the future.

@dmessmer, I can easily understand how you were not overwhelmed by the HP12 and found the enthusiasm for it greatly exaggerated in your own experience. I had a similar experience, to a lesser degree, BUT, I have very recently had the experience of finding my SIX months open bottle of it to have opened up enormously in flavour, and to have become more sweet. You might actually find the whisky which others have been raving about it in your home if you keep your opened bottle around a couple more months before finishing it off.

@dmessmer, I am right with you about not wanting to have to wait for a long time for flavours to open up from a bottle. It is quite a disincentive for me to purchase another bottle of a normally good whisky if I have been previously been burned me by its full flavours being inaccessible to me for a long time. I have commented several times on Connosr previously on this phenomenon of 'flavour migration' after bottles have been opened. I have seen cases of radical flavour change, usually improvement, after one and even two full years time of the bottle opened with some whiskies. Bourbons seem to demonstate this tendency the most of all, but it also occurs with malts and ryes.

@tabendar

Silky smooth on the first sip the evolves into an overwhelmingly malty palate with subtle honey edges. Slight hints of vanilla and citrus with a background of delicate smokiness.

Y

In my opinion, a timeless malt that everybody should try at least once.

N:First notes of obvious peat smoke which is slightly sweet. Light caramel and toffee, followed by a bit of toasty almond and slights of marzipan. Vanilla with undertones of oak followed by a touch of heather. B:The legs are between thin and moderate thickness with a moderate spacing. Small beading and oil seems sparse. Appears a flat gold in colour. T:Sweet warmth, light toffee, touches of peat with more sweet smoke. Sea salt and vanilla make a show with a slight sourness combining itself to the sweeter side making a very pleasant unison. F: Mouth is neither drying or watering, with onset smokiness and tendrils of peat. This is followed by heather honey and citrusy grapefruit. Finish sticks around but is too short.

A very good entry level whisky with alot to give but could improve on the finish.

m

A great drink, it's all there in this bottle. It has smoke it has sherry it has sweetness. Just give it a try, you won't be sorry.

@mattberg

I wanted to try this after being slightly disappointed with the 18 yo but finding the 21yo and 16yo (Travel Retail only) excellent whiskies. The 12 yo is a classy malt for the sub £30 bracket, very drinkable and perfect as an after dinner dram or with a cigar.

Balanced nose with honeyed/toffee aroma, not too treacly on the pallet unlike the 18yo and only a little water needed if any. light viscous on the tongue with a gentle smokiness and peppery bite finish. Very enjoyable and as yet hard to find a comparable Whisky at this price.

@HP12

Highland Park is near and dear to my Scotch loving heart. It was at my inaugural SMSW tasting that I first learned of the HP brand. This tasty malt immediately evoked intrigue as the peat introduced itself to my senses. I needed to learn more and thus my whisky journey began.

For those who are new to Scotch and/or peated styles, this is a nice expression to be introduced to.

This dram review was tasted neat in a 12 oz. snifter, hand warmed.

Nose: A malted honey layer with a distant waft of a salty ocean spray, subtle hints of licorice and lavender with all the aromas bundled in soft peat.

Palate: Within a easy going oily viscosity is a light background of oak and peat with vanilla and honey malt dancing on the tongue.

Finish: The malty honey-vanilla gives way to a little Aussie licorice bite followed by a wonderfully long smokey flavored MMmmm!

Balance: All parts working together nicely with the soft peat artfully present in all segments of the ritual.

This is one of those bottles that will likely always have a front and center place in my cabinet / bunker. A definite keynote member of my rotating gaggle of "daily drams", HP12 led me to the Scotch trail and the journey is well underway!

I was wondering when @HP12 might review HP12! It's a great place to start your single malt journey. Good review.

@LeFrog...yes, it was about time. Thx for the comment.

@phillyslick
@galg

Nose: Sweet heather honey with touches of peat. some fruit (marmalade), wee sherry feeling to it.

Palate: Sweet with some malty notes, round and mouth coating, not over complex, but very rounded.

Finish: Medium length, with the fruits, and a wee ending touch of smoke.

Bottom line:

A good all around player, entry-level whisky. I remember why i appreciate it now. Excellent choice for a beginner, who is willing to take the next step from a decent blend to a single malt. Nice smoky touches.

@jwise

This is now my second bottle of Highland Park 12, so as you might expect, I rather enjoy this whisky. However, I managed to get through the entire first bottle before ever sitting down to do a proper review. I promised myself that when I picked up a second bottle (which I knew I would!), I would make the time to review it. So, without further ado:

Nose: salt and brine on the nose, with sweet nectar and honey. If there's peat in there, it has been melded so smoothly with the whisky so as not to come out from the crowd of aromas. I smell lavender, and flora, and frankly I can't wait to take my first sip!

Body: light construction, with growing intensity. Smooth.

Palate: The salty brine is still there, but not overpoweringly so. The whisky lets itself be known on the sides of the mouth, but gently so. On the second and third sip, the saltiness subsides and the more delicate floral flavors come out, along with the sweetness. There is a bit of smokiness to this whisky, but it never overpowers the other flavors.

Finish: the finish is long, releasing the most magnificent flavors. However good this whisky is on the palate, the finish is where the real explosion comes from. Without the finish, it would yield perhaps a 5 or 6 out of 10 stars. With it, I place this whisky around 8 or 9. Just for good measure, I'll call it an 8.5!

d

Another saturday, another review.

The colour of this whisky is remarkable: it is a beautiful full golden (perhaps even amber?), while no caramel has been used to produce this. Rather, this is the result of using first-filled sherry casks for a part of the production. The whisky shows slow, fat, rich tears.

The nose then. Whoa- there is a lot going on here. First we have honey and fresh fruit. I want to say apricots or peaches but I'm not sure. On the edges there is something spicy going on, and in the background there is a hint - and I do mean a hint - of smoke. Gentle, good-natured, simply marvellous.

Tasting the whisky, it turns into a slightly oil-like texture. Very comfortable. We get more sweetness, with some raw barley.

The aftertaste gives us a short lingering feeling on the tongue, which dies out quickly to leave a dry mouth and a load of the delicious sweet smoke from the nose.

While I did not particularly like this dram while I started out my journey some years ago, it has now become a staple in my whisky cabinet. It is simply beautiful. And if you'll now excuse me, I'm going to have another one...

Good review @drteeth. I also did not care for HP 12 at first ... I loathed the rubbery nose. But during the coarse of that bottle I eventually came to appreciate the pleasant and balanced smoke and the lovely sherry, and it is now one of my goto whiskies as well. My new bottle is noticably different however: no rubber nose, less smoke, and a little more of a fruity & flowery Speyside character. Does anyone else get this impression ... or has all this good whisky perhaps altered my senses ? :)

This is one of the two whiskies (along with the Talisker 10 year old) that are staples in the collections of people who are true whisky appreciators. If you don't like these two, then chances are you have a narrow palate when it comes to whisky, and only enjoy a few flavour profiles. Most of us start with narrow palates, but over time get introduced to heavier and heavier whiskies - and these two are dangerous gateway malts... ;)

@rwbenjey
@jmende1

This is the first bottle I bought. I'm a novice, but I'm currently feeding a small obsession with scotch. Before ever tasting a dram, I read many many articles (online and offline) about the subject and became quite intrigued. I knew that if I developed a scotch habit, it would be a costly one, and one I would have to be patient with. I went to a tasting in a very notable scotch bar here in NYC. I tried about 6 drams there. None that I could justifiably spend money on as my first bottle. After about 2 hours in PJ wine and liquor in Inwood, (and reading many articles) I decided this was the scotch for me.

Pre dilution Nose: gentle smoke, five spice, salt, dark cherries Flavor: wood smoke, vanilla on the finish. Full bodied, and very slighly sweet on the finish, but a saltiness that creeps up. The smoke reminds you of its presence and beckons you to not forget that its there.

Diluted: Nose: sweet, August spice, Late summer squash, sweet potatoes, dark chocolate covered cherries Flavor: molasses, or burnt honey, grainy (blistered corn). Salty presence, pleasantly aggressive on the tongue (asserts its presence when welcome in a rounded tongue). Spicy finish (hints of cinnamon, clove). Medium finish. The smoke is muted a bit after dilution and the salt is prominent.

Season: It's probably best to have this dram when its not super hot outside. I'd say early fall to early winter.

Food pairing: App: goat cheese brulee, bacon crumble Main: Chili. enough said. Dessert: Honey sorbet, banana brulee (there goes that again)

IMHO, this and the Talisker 10 year old are the two single malts that indicate breadth of palate. I've got a couple of friends who love big heavy Islays, but the HP 12 and the Talisker 10 are a bit 'wimpy' - and they can't stand anything lighter at all. And I know plenty of people for whom the HP and Talisker are too heavy and powerful (meaning they will never go anywhere near an Islay dram). If you like either of these, it means you probably have wide ranging tastes, and will probably end up enjoying a wide range of whiskies.

In other words, your scotch obsession really ain't going to be cheap. Welcome to the club!

@TheCasks

The Nose: Apples...no, pears! No...no, apples. Ok, today, maybe pears and apples, specifically the smell of a good, hard pear right before you bite into it. There's Definitely honey here, too. There are cereal grain notes, almost rye-like in their sharpness, a bit of rum-raisin cake as well. Just the faintest hint of smoke, lingering on the horizon, coyly promising to show you more later...smoke, you tease.

The Palate: Great mouth feel, very appetizing. Very grain oriented on the palate, a nice, rich maltiness, and again there's almost a rye quality. Every once and a while, Highland Park 12 reminds me of a heavily ryed bourbon in that way. Along those same lines, it has an Irish pot still quality as well. Honey and a little butterscotch provide sweet notes. There's a little smoke there but it remains flirty, just winking from across the room

The Finish: Ah, smoke, there she is, that minx. Malty, honeyed tones rise sharply again and then...smoke, a deft, delicate blend of peat smoke and wood smoke, neither medicinal nor heavy, just a soft gentle breeze of Highland smoke.

Thoughts: Michael Jackson considers Highland Park 12 to be perhaps the great all-arounder in the Scotch world and I'm inclined to agree (pffffft, right...who am I to disagree, sheeesh, such ego). A Wonderful combination of fruit and grain with just enough smoke to keep things rugged and interesting. If someone said they liked Scotch but hadn't tried much, give them this and they will fall in love with the whole genre. A gateway Scotch, dooming the unwary neophyte to a junkie's life filled with whisky blogs, tasting notes, phenolic concerns, oak-envy and latent hoarding tendencies.

Great Review @TheCasks! I do also agree with @jdcook, the HP12 and the Talisker 10 are two staples. These two Scotch-es alone deliver such a wide range of flavors and notes, that can keep you hooked for a good while. Both whiskies are consistent yet continuously evolving. Every sip (or even every dram) unveils a different, yet to discover, layer of flavor.

All the HPs (12, 18, 21) I've seen in stores for the last 2 years have been in flat (flask type) bottles.

I think of Macallan and HP as the 2 classical, no-frills (in the positive sense), Scotches, eshewing effect (such as excessive finishes or excessive peat). Compared to composers I'd have the Macallan as Bach, immense but a tad austere, and HP to Beethoven, classical yet fiery and mercurial.

@BonnieMac

Okay, here is my first review ~ I heard some good reviews about the Highland Park from various places, was at the HUGE grocery-store-like liquor store, and may have been lost in the bottles hiding in the fancy boxes and tubes, with that blindness I was grabbed by the nice black box and bought it, without doing all the research I should have! I got it home and admired the bottle and uncorked it with a POP...exciting!!!

Nice color between 'sunlight' and 'pale straw'.

I always have my scotch neat in a rocks glass - on first sip it was very overwhelming, tried it again, then added some water. It seems too peaty for me; while sipping again my mind raced to figure out who I could possibly give this to - thinking it doesn't belong on my shelf!

I am sure this 'simplistic' review is nothing like others have posted, but I know what I like and peaty isn't my preference.

I will try it again, after all I paid the $50+ for the bottle and it is taking up space that a more worthy bottle could be...at least I don't have to dust that spot?

Cheers...here's to a future and more involved review!

I have to say, I loved your review ... a lot of fun, but still communicating your feelings about the spirit! And so ... I'll drink to that ... and I did: I went and grabbed my HP 12 so I could compare my experience w/yours.

Prior to reading your uplifting review, I was trying my newly-opened bottle of 16-yr Glenrothes 1991/2007. At first it was uneventful, so I compared it to Macallan 12 and Springbank 10. I have found that it usually takes several samples (1/4 oz or less) to get into the groove where my tastings appear more valid, and I am beginning to have fun with these.

So here are my notes on the 3rd set samplings, with your HP 12 added at the end: (Note: "yummy" means that I really liked it, and "satisfying" means that I had a very positive experience.)

Glenrothes 1991: Smells like bourbon (good), sweet, yummy taste, and warm ... enjoyable.

Macallan 12: deep yummy flavor, nicely warm

Springbank 10: very satisfying. Deep flavor, smoked sausage (which I really like), exciting blast of sweetness ... lots going on ... really fun! (I keep coming back to Springbank, and always liking it).

Highland Park 12: Long, sweet, warm leather and rubber. A bit different, but I still found this quite enjoyable and satisfying.

( But note that my favorite Scotch, so far, is Glenmorangie Original. )

Sheesh ... I seem to like them all .. what does that mean ??

I really enjoy the fun of tasting ... but I hope this was also edifying to other spirit tasters as well. Send me an e-mail with your feedback.

For those who have never tasted anything but blended scotch, or the more famous Highland whiskies, Highland Park (or any island whisky) is a bit strong.

The Bowmore was my first introduction, and I reacted in much the same way. After a few nights, I kept thinking about that whisky, imagining that it would go well paired with a cigar (something to mask its flavor!) A few nights later, after drinking one or two other whiskies, I found myself reaching for the bottle and pouring myself just a short taste. I actually enjoyed it, experiencing the flavor profile with curiosity, as opposed to surprise.

Now, I am in LOVE with the BIG island whiskies! I would suggest you hang on to that bottle, because what you were put off by yesterday, will turn you on tomorrow!

@GhostWorks

2009 December

Two months ago, I bought a Highland Park 12.

I'd never had the pleasure, but I've noticed it's on many 'favorites' lists. I'm a member of a few messageboards (including one dedicated to Scotch ;) ), and there seemed to be a consensus that the Highland Park 12 was a fantastic 'daily drinker' among the single malt-minded members - across the boards.

I've got a palate that favors distinction - I like the differences that make the drink such a singular event with each maker (and sometimes each bottle). Current favorites are: Glenfarclas 17 Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban Talisker 1992 Distiller's Edition Macallan 18 Macallan Fine Oak 10 Glenfiddich Ancient Reserve 18

  • if you've enjoyed any of those, you'll know I like a wide variety in my drams.

That said, there are nights when I don't need a complex event to fill my glass - a 'simple', refreshing taste is what's wanted (the Glenfarclas 12 and the Macallan Fine Oak 10 have been standing in nicely, here). So, it was with that in mind I approached The HP12 (with many personal recommendations) with appropriate expectation.

What a disappointment, then, to find the HP12 a thoroughly dissatisfying single malt.

There's no uniqueness here. It's all nose. The scent from the bottle, and subsequently from the glass (+ one small cube to open it up) is encouraging. There's vanilla and a little smoke. But that's it. You're done in by the time it hits your tongue.

There's no 'ride' whatsoever, it's just down the hatch. Nothing lingers. It's almost as if the taste disappears. There's certainly no hint of the sherry casks they use (which I tend to favor) - this may be due to HP's predilection for 'harmonizing' their Scotch (by continually emptying/filling various other barrels with the Scotch until they consider it's 'done').

Regardless, this is a featureless, bland and forgettable dram that serves no purpose for me.

Understand, it's not 'bad' - there's just nothing there.

So, if anyone needs a bottle (minus a few ounces) just let me know...

In my experience, adding ice tends to completely flatten the taste of a whisky - and there are very few whiskies that need that. Try it neat, or with a small dash of (less than a dozen drops) of room-temp water and see if that makes any difference.

"So, if anyone needs a bottle (minus a few ounces) just let me know..." - I am your man!!! I am just sipping it and it is absolutelley dellicious.

Regarding ICE in the whisky, please do check this out:

maltmadness.com/malt-whisky/…

@chrisrbarrett

Nose of iodine, seaweed and gooseberry. Light-ish body with colour between Fino Sherry and Chardonnay with spicy oak and tannins and dark malt flavours on the finish.

@jdcook

Since I mentioned this one in my Talisker review, I thought I should pour myself a dram and update my thoughts on the Highland Park 12...

The nose is really subtle, even tantalising. Fruity sweetness mixed with smoke and a taste I associate with the smell of old leather.

The taste is honey sweet and fresh initially before being balanced by a lingering smokiness. Very smooth, dry and exceptionally well balanced flavours.

The finish is decently long and smoky, with a hint of the honey sweetness and a slight spicy tingle.

This is, in my relatively inexperienced opinion, one of the best value single malts out there. Superbly balanced, and very low-priced.

Unfortunately for me, I suffered from a little bit of 'name snobbery' when I started getting into scotch single malts. Names like Lagavulin, Glenmorangie, Abelour and Talisker sounded so much more exciting than the slightly prosaic Highland Park. But one day, I wanted to buy another dram, but needed to get the total sale cost over a certain amount to reduce my shipping charges, and I saw the Highland Park was cheap, and thought, why not?

I was stunned. And in love. This is a genuinely fantastic whisky, and when people ask me what whisky they should buy, if they are at all worried about money - this is the whisky I point them to, and none have been disappointed. It's good enough to be a special occasion drink, and cheap enough to be a daily dram.

As another aside, when I can't decide what sort of dram I want of an evening, the HIghland Park is one of those I tend to drift to. If I end up enjoying the smoke more, my next whisky might be a peat monster, if not, then I can move toward a non-peated selection, and it doesn't mess with my taste-buds either way.

If you haven't tried this one, put it on your list, and near the top. The only whisky I would say compares in value for money is possibly the Glenmorangie Astar.

jdcook said: "...the finish is decently long and smoky, with a hint of the honey sweetness and a slight spicy tingle."

Really, JD? I found it hopelessly wanting in the finish. There's simply nothing there!

@AboutChoice - if people don't like peat and smoke, then the HP and Talisker offerings will be where they draw the line usually. But if you can bring people up through the A'bunadh, and the Dalwhinnie, and get them to enjoy it, the next step to the HP 12 or the Talisker 10 is nearly always a good one for them.

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