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Review: Highland Park The Dark Single Malt Whisky

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The first of two themed special edition releases from Highland Park, The Dark is a 17-year-old single malt whisky that matured exclusively in European oak sherry-seasoned butts.  The 28,000 bottle release is bottled at a hearty 52.9% ABV and can be found for around $250.

The Dark takes inspiration from the winter solstice on Orkney.  Highland Park’s follow-up release, The Light, focuses on the contrasting spring season.  The jet black bespoke bottle is a departure from Highland Park’s recent bottle rebranding.  The tall bottle features an embossed dragon on the front and comes in a black oak box.  Highland Park’s Viking and Nordic heritage is certainly on display here.

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Highland Park is generally known for its use of American and European oak sherry casks.  Recent releases saw the distillery play with different casks for their maturation, including bourbon and port.  As I mentioned earlier, The Dark uses only European Sherry-seasoned oak casks, which deliver more spice notes compared to American sherry oak casks.

I recently hosted Highland Park Global Brand Ambassador Martin Markvardsen on my Youtube channel for a Highland Park whisky tasting, which included Magnus, Valkyrie, Full Volume, Highland Park 18-year-old, and The Dark.  It was interesting to compare and contrast The Dark and the 17-year-old Full Volume, which was matured exclusively in first fill ex-bourbon casks.  Both feature the same distillate and are the same age, leaving the cask types as the only variable (painting in broad strokes here).  Full Volume’s bourbon cask maturation really showcases those bourbon notes of vanilla and tropical fruit, where The Dark leans in the dried fruit and smoky direction.  You can see that video below:

I don’t generally mention color in my reviews unless the whisky is all natural and free of caramel coloring.  That’s the case with Highland Park.  They don’t add any coloring to their whiskies.  The Dark is a beautiful copper color.  Those sherry casks contribute that slight red tinge.  A slow swirl around reveals legs that stick around for days.

The nose is bold but rounded, with hints of fruit cake, spice, heather and an Oloroso sherry nuttiness.  A slight tinge of smoked oak sits in the background.  On the palate, honey and dried fruit kick things off.  Cinnamon and cardamon develop soon afterwards, followed by vanilla pod and cognac-soaked fruitcake.  That wonderful Orkney island heathery peat comes in on the back palate, along with charred old oak and  a touch of smoke.  The fruity and slightly smoky finish lasts for days.  Put the water away.  The Dark is best enjoyed neat.

Highland Park is one of my favorite distilleries.  I’ve found myself thoroughly enjoying every one of their releases.  Not one has disappointed me, and I obviously enjoy some Highland Park whiskies more than others.  This one sits near the top of that list, along with their 18-year-old, 25-year-old and Odin releases.  The Dark is a perfect winter whisky, nicely balancing those dark, heavy dried fruit notes with spice and smoke.  I can’t wait to compare this to the upcoming The Light bottling.  By the way, the finish is still around two hours after tasting.  Time for another glass… 9/10

highlandparkwhisky.com

Thanks to Highland Park for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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The Macallan Edition No. 1 Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review

Photo courtesy of The Macallan.

Photo courtesy of The Macallan.

The Macallan Edition No. 1 is the start of a new series from the distillery, with a new expression scheduled to be released annually.  Each edition will be “co-created with different partners” while “showcasing The Macallan’s mastery of wood.”

Edition 1 features a blend of single malts matured in 8 different styles and sizes of European and American oak casks.  As is the new norm for Macallan releases, this new series does not feature age statements.  This first expression in the series is bottled at an above average 48% abv and retails for $99.

Those different casks lend to a very rich, sherried nose one attributes to a Macallan whisky.  Dried fruits, spice, and vanilla dominate alongside sweet, honeyed malt.  Some of that malt is young, which provides a vibrancy in the nose.  Taste-wise, there’s a large toffee note right off the bat.  Sherried dried fruit follows and combined, everything comes across as a sort of Christmas fruit cake. Some spice (clove, nutmeg) makes itself known in the mid-palate.  With all this and the 48% abv, you’d think this was a “heavy” whisky.  On the contrary, like on the nose, these heavier notes are balanced with citrus and young malt.  The long, warm finish is spicy and sweet, with the latter provided honey and sherried fruit.

At $100 a bottle, Macallan is priced right for what’s in the bottle.  Is this worth $35 more than the 12? I think so.  It’s got more character for me than their standard 12-year-old expression, but only a bit.  I like what Macallan is doing with their blending of different casks.  It’s richer and more sherried than the 12.  Good stuff.

8/10
(Note: A review sample was provided by Edrington Americas.)

The Macallan 18-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review

The Macallan 18-year-old is the kind of whisky someone looking to impress would have in their collection.  After all, a single malt with an 18-year-old age statement carries some weight.  Especially if it comes from the Macallan distillery.

Look past that and focus on the whisky itself.  You’ll find a damn fine example of a Highland single malt.  Macallan 18 is aged exclusively in ex-sherry casks.  It’s known as a sherry bomb, due to the high influence of flavor those casks provide.  This expression is bottled at 43%.

The nose here is spicy, with ginger leading the charge.  Close behind in full force is luscious toffee and sherried dark fruit, with fruit cake rounding off the nose.  The palate isn’t as sweet as the nose suggests.  I get big sherried dark fruit right up front.  There is also some wood smoke and vanilla bean.  Mid-palate, I pick up a nice amount of spice (cinnamon and ginger) along with some bitter orange rind.  Spiced berries and brown sugar carry the medium finish.

Macallan 18-year-old is richer than its 12-year-old sibling.  Flavors are a tad bolder and more refined.  I see the appeal of this over the younger expression.  A bottle of this runs $200+, while the 12-year-old is $60+.  It’s up to you to decide if six extra years of maturation is worth $140.  Value aside, Macallan 18 is an exquisite sherried whisky I thoroughly enjoyed.  Recommended.

8.5/10
(Note: A review sample was provided by Edrington Americas.)