Scotch

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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Review: John Walker & Sons King George V Scotch Whisky

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This past November, I left my job of nearly nine years for a promotion at the competition.  Scandalous!  The night I accepted my new position, I celebrated by opening my bottle of John Walker & Sons King George V.  Notice it’s not Johnnie Walker.  I guess once it surpasses a certain price threshold, Johnnie becomes a more formal John.  King George V costs around $600, though I’ve the price as high as $800.

John Walker & Sons King George V is part of John Walker & Sons Exclusive Blends, which also includes Odyssey, The John Walker, and the annual Private Collection.  The whisky commemorates the Royal Warrant awarded by the late British monarch.  According to the brand’s website, the blended whisky only uses whiskies from distilleries that were in operation during George’s reign (1910 – 1936) and blended to “reflect the distinctive Johnnie Walker style of the era.”  That includes Port Ellen, among many others.

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The nose features hints of stewed fruit, toffee, wood smoke, and a light touch of earthy peat.  Bittersweet dark chocolate and peanut brittle hit the palate first. A bed of light smoke complements rich notes of honey, figs and blackberry jam.  Hints of spice and leather appear on the back end and into the long, slightly smoky finish.

I like Johnnie Walker whiskies, but I love when they are bottled at more than 40% ABV.  King George V is slightly higher at 43% ABV.  A little alcohol can go a long way in terms of flavor and mouthfeel.  King George V turned out to be a superb choice for a celebratory pour of whisky.  Because of its high price, this whisky won’t be poured a lot at my house.  I say that, but a third of the bottle is already gone.  This luscious whisky will most certainly be replaced by another once the bottle is empty. 9/10

Review: Glenmorangie Astar (2017)

Glenmorangie Astar is back on the market after a few years. It is essentially a high proof version of the beautifully delicate Glenmorangie Original. The distillery uses only ex-bourbon casks from specially selected slow-growth, American oak trees from the Ozarks. They are very picky about wood, if you haven’t noticed.

Where Glenmorangie Original carries a ten year age statement, Astar does not. What this whisky lacks in an age statement it than makes up in a fullness of flavor delivered at 52.5% ABV versus Original’s 43% ABV.

The nose features delicate aromas in a slightly robust way, with hints of vanilla bean, light toffee, coconut macaroons, and a sprinkling of nutmeg. The palate is creamy with hints of whipped vanilla creme. Splashes of mild spices, toasted oak, honey and light fruits soon develop. The finish is clean, but warming, driven by spiced vanilla and lightly roasted coffee bean.

This is everything we love about Glenmorangie Original turned up to 10. The higher proof delivers those flavors in a more concentrated way. It doesn’t come across as young, so those with a penchant for dismissing non age statement whiskies should rethink their stance here. Highly recommended! 8.5/10

Glenmorangie.com

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