Review – The Juxtaposition of Highland Park: The Light & The Dark

Juxtaposition. [juhk-stuh-puh-zish-uh n] an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast. the state of being close together or side by side.

Highland Park have come in for a little criticism recently.

People have either loved or hated their recent ‘Viking’ rebranding / restyling and many of their new releases have been a little uninspiring to say the least.

We’ve all been around long enough to see past the marketing waffle and focus on the contents, but we also don’t like our favourites being changed and we also like pretty bottles.

We are indeed a fickle bunch.

Highland Park have many ardent fans and for many years has been a cult distillery. Older expressions of HP have always been mentioned when discussing the greatest whiskies of all time. Currently there are over 100 expressions listed as scoring over 90+ points on well respected whisky writer Serge Valentine’s WhiskyFun website.

I stand by my assertion that HP 12 (now with the sub-heading of ‘Viking Honour’) is still one of the greatest ‘cheap’ whiskies out there. A drinks cupboard stalwart for many and at a price of only circa £30.

I’ve recently taken a look at both the Valkyrie and Magnus expressions which were both pleasant but rather average. You can find these reviews (along with many other Highland Park features) in The Archives.

Two new expressions recently arrived so I thought the perfect way to sample them would be a bit of compare and contrast…

Highland Park – The Light, 17yo,OB, 52.9%abv, official sample, available here.

This is a 17 year old expression which has (according to Highland Park) been inspired by the Orcadian Spring and Summer) This was exclusively matured in refill American oak.

Highland Park The Light will set you back £190.

highland-park-17-year-old-the-light-whisky

Appearance:

Light straw with thin, slow legs.

Nose:

The nose is big on vanilla. Lightly toasted vanilla pods mixed with touches of vanilla essence. There is a tangy soft peat and sea spray intermingling with pineapple chunks.

Palate:

The palate is tangy and somewhat fruity. There are elements of lemon curd, malty biscuits, distant honey all wrapped up in a soft butteriness. Given time theres a hint of pear drops and some unripe apricots.

Finish:

The finish is nicely spiced with a slight oak presence. Perhaps its not oak, more like a gentle cedar. The soft peat reappears and lingers for a while.

Water opens up slightly and accentuates the vanilla notes and brings forth a slight banana element. I prefer my abv around the high 40’s but this, at 52.9% is spot on.

Highland Park – The Dark, OB, 17yo, 52.9%abv, official sample, available here.

Like The Light, The Dark is also a 17 year old limited release of 28,000 bottles (limited?? 28000??)  As it’s name might suggest this has been matured in Sherry casks and is, apparently, reminiscent of the Autumn and Winter seasons on Orkney.

The Dark will also cost you £190.

highland-park-17-year-old-the-dark-whisky

Appearance:

Dark, chocolate tinged copper with some slow and thick legs.

Nose:

The nose is deep and immediately inviting. There are strong tobacco influences along with red fruits. Theres a subtle undertone of peat, its there but not overpowering. Roasted pineapple is here, along with brown sugar (muscovado specifically) There is the faintest wisp of sulphur in the distance but not to any detriment.

Palate:

The palate is buttery and tannic. Quite chewy with elements of salted caramel, toffee and well buttered gingerbread. Touches of butter emerge which coat the mouth in fantastic combination with some gentle spices. Mild tangy peat lingers softly and fades.

Finish:

The finish has elements of ginger biscuits, cinnamon and other soft spices, perhaps a twist of allspice and mild cloves. Theres a nice wood influence here too.

I have to admit that I had a foreboding feeling of  ‘oh no, not more new Highland Parks’ but I find myself pleasantly surprised by both.

I do love a refill bourbon cask matured whisky and its nice to try a ‘stripped back’ expression. By trying both Light and Dark it is almost a ‘deconstruction’ of the components of Highland Park.

They feel similar in nature to single cask expressions ( yes, I am aware your average cask doesn’t hold 28,000 bottles) as they are so different to the standard releases but share the same DNA.

Genuinely the best Highland Park expressions that I have tried in quite some time. The only sticking point for me is the price.

Going back to my original single cask comparison then £190 would buy you several single cask expressions of similar quality, granted these OB’s are very, very good.

Just depends how badly you want them and how big your budget is.

Find many more tasting notes and whisky news in the Amateur Drammers Archives.

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