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Like an omen foretelling the death of your favourite entry level drams, or a new stellar mark-up: NAS, the acronym that sends shivers down the spine of most whisky enthusiasts. Seemingly whenever a NAS is announced, distillers are about to retire (or at least reduce the availability significantly) a classic, or cash in on our eagerness to pay good money for a fancy bottle by releasing a gimmicky bottle. The result is often an inferior or at least overpriced whisky young and relying mostly on a strong cask finish. So when Highland Park announced Dark Origins accompanied with its own special video advertisement and a stylish black bottle complete with a hooded figure, most of us were rightfully sceptical. Looking back we were proven wrong: they kept their original range and the price stayed at an acceptable level (between the 12yo and 15yo). So what about our second prejudice? Is the dark origins a flavour-driven NAS or just a gimmick, let’s find out…
Description: no age statement, matured in twice as many 1st fill sherry casks as the regular 12yo, bottled at 46.8% ABV, mahogany in colour.
Nose: a rounded sherry nose with a full assembly of appetizing fragrances: dark damp earth, heather, honey and roasted chestnuts. Want more? It has some chocolate notes, lush camphor, a soft touch of orange, while an odd note of potatoes (Glenesk anyone?) is lurking in the background.
Mouth: medium dry body, a palate born in wood smoke and liquorice, with notes of raisins, rough grind dark pepper and cinnamon.
Finish: a medium finish with tones of ham and camphor, the iodine gives it a nice salty edge.
Verdict: To answer my own question: definitely a flavour-driven dram. While expecting an easy sherry bomb, the nature of this beast is something entirely different. While this dram presumable has a young body, inside still beats the heart of an old man, resulting in multiple layers worth exploring. Given the acceptable price, definitely one worth buying.