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This was also a present for my birthday - this was one of two bottles my wife purchased for me (the other being a Glenlivet 18 year old). I'm only just getting over the flu, so it's been a frustrating few days not being able to open them.
The nose is big but not overwhelming. It starts with warm salted butter, which is complemented with honey and gentle floral notes. Hints of peat and oak come through in further sniffs. It leaves me feeling warm, with a residual smokiness. A lot going on here. This is really easy to keep sniffing.
The taste is warm and full - almost chewy. Creamy toffee sweet, complemented with salted peat, and notes of oak. A hint of chocolate. Fruity undertones. For such a big palate, this is a lot lighter than you would think and very drinkable. It has a little bit of everything, and all of it is good!
The finish is long and very sweet - loads of creamy toffee, but this is kept in check with a warm smokiness with just a hint of peat which keeps it from being overwhelming. Just a gentle tingle of spices (I noticed the tingle before I noticed the spices).
I'd heard really good things about this dram before buying, so I guess I'm ever so slightly disappointed. This is an excellent whisky, but it's not world-beatingly good (which is where I expected it to be). Don't get me wrong, I'll drink this any minute of any day (it's worth every bit of the 9 stars), but I was expecting it to give all of my out-and-out favourites a bit of a shake, and it doesn't quite reach that level. It has the perfect mix of sweet and savoury, but it's almost a bit too light for my taste. Mind you, we are in the dead of Winter here, and this might work better as a Summer dram - it is fairly light and easy to drink.
This would also be easier for people new to Highland Park than the 12 year old (which is a bit too smoky and peaty for some), but the price tag would be a significant deterrent.