Highland Park

Highland Park Magnus Whisky Review

A new US and Canada exclusive from Highland Park, Magnus pays homage to the distillery’s founder, Magnus Eunson. According to Gordon Motion, the distillery’s Master Whisky Maker, Magnus uses a “high proportion of Sherry seasoned American oak casks along with refill casks.” It’s bottled at 40% and carries a $40 price tag.

As this sample was en route to me, I tried Magnus at one of my local spots. I thought the whisky was bland and lacked character. Of course, this taste came after trying some rum and cognac. In other words, my palate was off. The preceding spirits colored my tastebuds, thus altering my first impression of Magnus. A few days later, the sample arrived and I was excited to approach the whisky with a fresh palate.

I don’t comment on color a lot, but I have to happily note that Highland Park does not add caramel coloring to their whiskies. This whisky’s pale golden color is all natural. The nose is light and easy going with hints of lemon, grilled pineapple, light smoke, and heather. Taste-wise, Magnus features light toffee, vanilla cake, some spiced fruit and a touch of peat. Those notes carry onto the medium-length finish, along with the slightest hint of wood smoke.

I’m so glad my initial impressions were wrong. Magnus isn’t a nice whisky for the price – it’s just a nice whisky, period. Magnus plays to the lighter side of the Highland Park distillery character, probably because of the use of American casks instead of the spicier European casks. Press materials suggest Magnus could be used in an Old Fashioned. At its inexpensive price, I wouldn’t mind using Magnus in a cocktail. Whatever your preferred imbibing method, Magnus is a versatile addition to any bar. Recommended. 7.5/10

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


Highland Park Full Volume Whisky Review

Just in time for the holidays, Highland Park has released their newest creation – Full Volume. The distillery compares the creation of Full Volume to that of producing music. How’s that? It’s about keeping balance while delivering full, big flavors. Same with music. You want the final mix to sound balanced and, even when played at full volume, without distortion.

The distillery is known for exclusively using ex-sherry casks for maturing whisky. This is where Full Volume makes a left turn. It is created using only ex-bourbon casks. Two hundred barrels and 250 hogsheads, to be exact. The casks were filled in 1999 and the whisky bottled in 2017. Eagle eyed readers will notice the lack of an actual age statement. If this whisky were 18 years old, I think Highland Park would proudly tout that. Just putting that out there for those who care. Age statements don’t mean as much to me as the quality of whisky in the bottle.

The nose on this pale golden whisky is incredible. Bourbon barrel influences of soft vanilla and coconut complement Highland Park’s signature floral and heathery peat character. A bit of light toffee and sweet oak relax in the background. Bottled at 47.2% abv, Full Volume has oily legs for days. Creamy vanilla, lemon tart, and cinnamon toast form most of the flavor profile. Touches of light smoke and leather appear in the background. The finish is medium in length and rather clean in nature, leaving behind lingering hints of lemon custard, light baking spice, and a wisp of smoke.

Full Volume is a delightful deviation from the distillery’s profile of sherry cask maturation. Kudos to Highland Park for bottling this release higher than 40% abv. The blender was after balance and that’s what he achieved here, especially for the $110 retail price. Wonderful stuff! 8.5/10

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

Highland Park Valkyrie Single Malt Whiskey Review

There's something about the way Highland Park intermingles sherry casks and their signature heather-filled peat that excites me. It's one of my favorite flavor combinations. With their new Valkyrie release, the folks at Highland Park have ramped up the smokiness with the addition of more peated malt. Though Highland Park traditionally use only ex-sherry casks for its whiskies, Valkyrie sees a majority American Oak sherry-seasoned casks and ex-bourbon casks.

The bottle was designed by Danish designer Jim Lynvgild, who turned to Viking mythology as inspiration. Orkney, Highland Park's home, probably has more in common with its Nordic ancestry than it does with its Scottish one. Highland Park has fully embraced the Viking culture over the last several years, even redesigning its core bottles in 2017 to reinforce its Nordic heritage.

The nose here carries the classic HP aromas of sweet malt, dried fruits, heather and some freshly squeezed lemon juice. A touch of orchard fruit pops out of hiding from time to time. Those smoky and fruity notes are alive and well on the palate as well. An initial burst of red fruits lead to spice, dried fruit, figs, heather, and fresh ginger. A moderate wisp of smoke builds. The finish is long, with lingering notes of spiced fruit and light smoke.

Wonderful. Simply wonderful. Cranking up the smoke characteristics over the sherried malt base simply works. I like this NAS offering more than Dark Origins. Valkyrie doesn't come across as vibrant as that other expression, mainly due to its slightly lower abv (it is 45.9% here, by the way), but feels richer and more complex. It reminds me most of the 12-year-old expression with a little more zing. Nicely done! 8.5/10