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Highland Park Dark Origins

Second Chances

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@VictorReview by @Victor

1st Jun 2015


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

The first bottle of Highland Park Dark Origins which I sampled and reviewed was very bad, with nothing to smell and taste, after 6 weeks open, but sulphur. Happily, Take # 2 from a different bottle is a better experience. The currently reviewed bottle is owned by @Nock, and has been open for 6 weeks

I make a big deal online and in person of pointing out that two or more bottles of whisky with the same labels can taste and smell markedly different from one another

Sometimes you get a great bottle, and then find disappointment in a second one of the same expression. Other times you get a bad bottle, but find a later bottle of the "same" whisky to be much different and much better. I have had quite a few experiences of both of these extreme examples of whisky brand 'cognitive dissonance'. Some very popular whiskies I was ready to abandon for good until I realised that it could be that only one bottle in 5, 10, 20, or 100 was of the crappy sort of my first experience of it. I did indeed find out that more often than not that whisky was indeed much better than had been my first experience of it

Nose: decent Highland Park malt, with nice sherry wine flavours, and some sulphur. In this bottle the nose sulphur is noticeable and a defect, but it is not enough to ruin the whisky. You can still also smell most of the other flavours

Taste: sulphured sherry is 'dirty sherry'. The sulphur presence in this bottle is more noticeable on the palate than in the nose. It is still not enough to dominate the whisky and to override the other flavours. You can taste the Highland Park barley malt. You can taste the sherry wine flavours. The wine and malt flavours are quite pleasant here, and only partially marred by the sulphur presence

Finish: the continuation of the palate finishes on the dirty side of the sherry

Balance: subtract the sulphur and Dark Origins is another great Highland Park whisky. I am not surprised that those who are not sulphur sensitive like this batch of Dark Origins whisky. This is still a significantly damaged whisky. Every sample of Highland Park 15 yo and 18 yo which I have tasted, has been much cleaner than is this, the cleaner of the two bottles of Highland Park Dark Origins from which I have sampled

I managed to total score this better bottle of Dark Origins the same as did Jim Murray. Don't buy the OTHER bottle of this which I reviewed. But then, you won't know which of those bottles being sold are the ringer bottles

Water added: 1) bundled the nose flavours, and mades the whisky higher pitched and sweeter, 2) bundled and homogenised the flavours on the palate, and somewhat reduced the sulphur influence, and 3) greatly lessened the sulphur influence on the finish. Water is a good way to go with this partiular bottle of this particular whisky. I would say that water adds 3 points to the score

Strength: 22/25; very good strength of flavours across the board

Quality: 18/22; some very good flavours, some lousy flavours

Variety: 21/25; good variety, but you just wish one of the prominent flavours were absent

Harmony: 20/25; it's hard for sulphur to harmonise with anything else

Comment: this is the sort of review which I love to do, because it illustrates two points which I think need to be more emphasised, 1) that there is frequent significant batch and bottle variation in whisky, and 2) that for those who are sensitive to it, sulphur currently frequently ruins even the best brands of Scottish malt

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BlueNote commented

Thanks for the update @Victor. A great and comprehensive review, as always. Everyone and everything deserves a second chance. Although it sounds as if this batch is better than your first one, I think I will still give this one a miss. Sad to see the dreaded sulphur rearing its ugly head yet again. I have always been happy with the 12, which in my experience has been a reliable and consistent dram. And it costs considerably less than the DO, so I think that's where I will continue to put my HP dollars.

4 years ago 0

Victor commented

@BlueNote, thanks for joining in. Sometimes I wonder whether it is a curse being able to taste the sulphur clearly, because those who can't taste the sulphur have a wider range of whiskies available to them which they can like.

For my taste buds, though, because I do taste the sulphur, when I have the experience of tasting a very clean sherried malt whisky I am able to greatly glory in the purity of the sherry.

4 years ago 0

BlueNote commented

@Victor, have you tried BenRiach 12 yr. old Sherry Matured? I'm on my second bottle and it is a very nice sherried whisky; not a hint of sulphur, very clean, NCF, NC and 46%. Their 15 yr. old PX finished is also a good one. I think the very best I've had, a few years ago now, is the Glenmo Sonalta PX. I've pretty much given up on Macallan these days. Cheers.

4 years ago 0

Victor commented

@BlueNote, I've had 3 or 4 BenRiachs, including, I think, the 12 yo sherry matured among them. I don't remember smelling or tasting sulphur in the ones I've sampled.

I like Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX so much I named one of my cars Sonnalta. You and I will have to have some Sonnalta PX if we ever taste face to face. I made a point of putting several bottles of it away.

Macallan is tricky. The North American Cask Strength had a good clean sherry, but that one is getting rare to find.

Even Glenfarclas isn't always clean in the quality of its sherry.

If I want flawless sherried malt, I drink Amrut Intermediate Sherry.

4 years ago 0

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