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Let’s welcome the newest member of the HP core range. This NAS expression was matured in 80% first-fill sherry butts and 20% refills, so we can expect a good dose of fruity depth here. Apparently the “dark” character of this whisky alludes to a legendary illicit distiller on Orkney, Magnus Eunson, who ran his business under the cloak of night before he founded HP as a legitimate operation. Ok, sure. Let’s taste.
Nose: Initially quite closed, this needs time and water. Caramel, oranges, sherry, heather, coffee, and barley. With time we get cinnamon and sweet cocoa.
Palate: Thick, sweet mouthfeel. Big sherry, tangerines, sweet sultanas, dark berries, milk chocolate, peanut brittle, and some hazelnuts.
Finish: Medium length and sweet. There’s lots of heavy caramel, butter, tangerines, faint smoke, nuts, heather, baking spices, oak, licorice, and loads of both milk chocolate and dark chocolate.
Thoughts: This definitely benefits from water and time. Initially it’s a pretty closed-off whisky. The longer it sits in the glass, the more luxurious it becomes, as sherry, tangerines, and chocolate come to the fore. This is balanced and rich, and the evolution in the glass makes it especially interesting.
Overall this is a very solid Highland Park. It’s nice to have a member of their core range with a decent abv. As usual, the caramel note tends to steal some of the clarity of the peripheral flavours. But the traditional HP flavours of thick caramel, quality sherry, and lush barley are here in spades. But after all the marketing and talk of added sherry casks, this is still closer to the standard profile than I’d hoped. It’s delicious and recommended, but just a tad expensive and over-hyped for what it is.