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I'm generally a fan of Highland Park. It was one of the first whiskies I had ever tried. Luckily for me it was a bottle of the 18 year old and I remember thinking 'Bloody hell! There is no way whisky can taste THAT good!'
The entry level 12 year old is decent enough, in my opinion, while on the other hand the premium 25 and 30 are in a league of their own. Though, mind you, I have had a fairly ordinary 1998 once as well. Which is fine since there is no way you can hit everything out of the park.
Including this one.
Highland Park recently released six Travel Retail Exclusive NAS expressions named after Viking warriors from the ages. All of which have funny sounding Norse names like Sven, Kristoff and Olaf.
Wait, I think that's from the movie Frozen.
Anyway, this particular one is called Harald, named after the 9th century Norse ruler credited to be the first King of Norway and the one who unified the country. Unfortunately, the only thing this whisky is going to unify is the people who think it's quite average.
Produced using both American & European oak casks 50-50 first fill and refill and 50-50 Euro and American oak sherries it is bottled at a rather weak 40%.
Nose: Musty. Cabbage water. Mushy peas. Coastal sea-salt. Quite briney with a hint of malt balls. A touch of that Orcadian peat. Cherries. Red apples. The mustiness clears after twenty minutes in the glass leaving behind a more crisp sherry influence. It's a decent enough nose.
Palate: Caramel. Cereal. Quite mousy. Mild black peppers. Nuts. Brown bread. Yeasty. Drying oak. The palate is a touch underpowered. I don't know what another 6% could have done. No harm I'm sure.
Finish: So short. Chocolate. Cinnamon. Oak. But so short.
If you're going to name your whiskies after Viking warriors make sure they pack a punch. This one just limply shakes your hand.