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Highland Park Valknut

Sweet Home Valhalla

4 1182

@cricklewoodReview by @cricklewood

30th Jun 2019


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

Everyone loves to talk trash about Highland Park, more so than Macalllan I think. It's largely in part to how far they've leaned into this whole Viking mythos, coupled with the sheer volume of new releases.

I personally don't mind the whole Viking thing that much. What's at issue along with other Edrington properties is that one feels as though the marketing department has taken over all aspects of the product. Anyone who's watched early episodes of Mad Men will be familiar with the kind of cynical marketing techniques that cares very little about the actual product itself.

With this series they've combined several tried and true marketing techniques. "limited" editions (15,000 to 20,000 bottles isn't really that limited), creating a new series of 3-4 scheduled releases and finally a story or myth to bind them all together. With the promise of more "sherry" and more peat what could go wrong? Let's lean into this one.

Nose: Burnt hay, peameal bacon, it's a bit closed at first, then opens up with vanilla & seaweed. The sherry eventually shows up and takes over the proceedings. Lots of dried grape, and grape candy, yeast, a bit of ink and plasticine and sulfur.

Palate: Ashy, mineral very sweet like glycerin and honey. Further time brings, vynil, old books, wine gums, faint smoke a touch of BBQ pork. Sour oak, stir fried broccoli, then the return of a lot of sweetness.

Finish: yeasty, grape reduction, a touch of balsamic and seaside. The finish is medium in length but mouth drying.

Blab: Underdeveloped nose. Sharp and stuffy peat. There's sulur but no depth to the sherry. Plenty of that weird plum/grape sweetness that is almost cloying like px. I never thought I'd say that I missed dark origins but I do.

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Nozinan commented

@cricklewood I am astounded.

I’ve only heard of this expression through discussion mostly on connosr, and I thought for sure people were mocking HP by making up the name.

Now I hear it’s actually a thing.


22 days ago 1Who liked this?

RianC commented

@cricklewood - Nice review of a malt I doubt I'd be going anywhere near; I'm happy to live vicariously through you though smile

I think you're right about the marketing bods. I feel I missed the better days of HP and it's a shame because i feel their style is one that I should find more enjoyable than I generally do.

Sorry to digress but why can't more distilleries just do the simple things well a la Springbank to name but one? i.e. have a few standard flagship age statements that are well-presented and reasonably priced and then throw out the odd random finish or cask along with some more unattainable older malts. Heck, even throw in a young NAS with all the frills and bells and Vikings you can wield an axe at if you must but just don't let the overall quality suffer.

21 days ago 2Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

I’m happy to increase the amount of Macallan trash-talk, if you like. stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye

I’m sad that sulfur is such a common theme with many of these new Viking BlahBlah expressions. HP was a distillery I always enjoyed, but I doubt I’ll buy another bottle from them without tasting from the batch first...

21 days ago 0

Nock commented

@cricklewood, thanks for the review. I picked up a bottle not long ago based on a number of factors. So far I am disappointed. I agree that I think Dark Origin is much better. This seems extremely young and raw in comparison to DO. And typically I am the kind of guy that would like that. But . . . this bottle just isn't doing it for me. I wish I knew why.

21 days ago 1Who liked this?

cricklewood commented

@Nozinan it's fascinating how far the marketing team will go in the search for obscure viking mythos, all that to sell a bottle of booze.

20 days ago 1Who liked this?

cricklewood commented

@RianC I think many of us missed the boat on the truly good days of HP before they went full on viking lore.

Not all of these special editions are bad, some are really quite good like the Loki or Thor but what is so special about those bottles of 15 yr old whisky to warrant them fetching such prices! None of the series they've released recently has been truly limited in scope 15,000-20,000 bottles is enough for worldwide distribution especially when they are priced like that.

A good comparison to note is Springbank, I read an interview recently with someone from Mitchell's and they said they lay down only about 150 casks of Longrow per year, that's a good week or day for many distilleries.

19 days ago 2Who liked this?

cricklewood commented

@OdysseusUnbound go forth young man and trash talk away! I think we connected with this on Instagram, Brimstone is fast becoming an Edrington signature and I'm not the most sulphur sensitive person so I can only imagine for the folks who are.

@Nock It's not a horrible whisky per se, as you said it's a bit raw which can sometimes be fun with a peated or character whisky but in this case the sherry overcoat doesn't help. I would prefer buying Full Volume over this (they retailed for the same price in my area)

19 days ago 1Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@cricklewood It’s one of the reasons I’ve grown to appreciate some exclusively bourbon Cask matured whiskies. I’m noticing more and more sulfur lately and it’s really off-putting. That said, I enjoy a well-produced unsulfured malt as much as the next person, it just seems to be a rare thing these days...

19 days ago 2Who liked this?

Nozinan commented

@OdysseusUnbound I had some unsulphured sherry-matured Amrut, Intermediate Sherry, in Calgary. It was awesome.

19 days ago 2Who liked this?

Victor commented

@OdysseusUnbound it looks like what happened to me is happening to you. I didn't used to be sulphur sensitive at first, but then, over time my taste became more and more sensitive. Now, if there is more than the tiniest amount of sulphur present my taste buds will scream out, "YUK!".

For many people this evolution never occurs. They could be considered lucky for not tasting something awful (or tasting it as awful) which others cannot enjoy.

Your comment about preferring bourbon matured malts echoes where Jim Murray has been for many years, and for the same reason. Mr. Murray is generally very reliable for detecting sulphur in whisky.

18 days ago 2Who liked this?

OdysseusUnbound commented

@Victor Absolutely correct. And although he is prone to contrarianism, I find myself agreeing with Mr Murray’s assessments more often than not, maybe 80% of the time or so...Which is pretty surprising. A friend of mine has a pretty fine palate for picking up subtle nuances, but he has never tasted the rotten eggs, raw onion, or spent matches I associate with sulfur. Probably a genetic blind spot. Lucky guy.

18 days ago 2Who liked this?

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