Originally launched in 2007 for travel retail, Highland Park 21-year-old grew quite popular, but unfortunately it also faded rather quickly as stocks became depleted. There was a point when the proof was lowered from 47.5 percent down to 40 percent before it disappeared from store shelves completely. Luckily for us all it returned in 2012 with its original 47.5 percent ABV, which is what we have here for tasting today.
The 21-year-old is a little darker in color compared to the 18-year-old, so on top of being older, I’m going to guess that there’s a bit more first-fill Sherry casks being used for maturation – Perhaps somewhere around 50 percent first-fill casks like there is with the 25-year-old.
I mentioned in my previous review that the islands of Orkney (there are 70 islands that make up the Isles of Orkney) are windswept, but I didn’t go into much detail on this. For approximately 25 percent of the year, the winds blowing across Orkney reach a massive 100mph. These winds, as well as the sea salt that they bring, are why trees on the island are a rare occurrence. Despite this, I’ve never seen much coastal qualities within Highland Park’s whiskies. Not to say that there isn’t any to be found.
Let’s also not forget that Highland Park is not the only distillery on Orkney. The Scapa distillery is a nearby neighbor also located in the town of Kirkwall, just off to the southwest of Highland Park. I’ve never been that big a fan of Scapa, but perhaps I’ll get around to reviewing one of their malts sometime this year. For now, I’ll just concentrate my attention on this Highland Park.
Price: Approx $180/750ml
Nose: Straight away there are notes of toffee and floral/heather honey that fill the air and are very prominent right from the start. Nicely mingled with that is gentle smoke, chocolate shavings, zesty orange peel, some of that baked apple we saw in the 18-year-old, a bit of mixed roasted nuts, raisins and prune.
Palate: Nicely aligned with its aromas and full of that rich toffee, zesty orange citrus, some cocoa dusted almonds, cinnamon and clove, heather honey, prune, vanilla, a little bit of cedar and throughout all of that is a gentle peat smoke (more prominent than the 18yo) that fills the palate right from the start and flows right into the finish. Take your time with this one, kids. It’s one to enjoy slowly.
Finish: This is a Highland Park that keeps on giving – Long and lingering with spiced orange peel and smoke.
I really wish this was available stateside. Aside from the 30-year-old, this is probably my favorite of the Highland Park range. The added ABV no doubt aids this one a lot. It’s rich, sophisticated, very well balanced, complex, coating and just fills the mouth with flavor. If you love Highland Park and you’re traveling abroad (or if you live on the other side of the pond), do yourself a favor and grab a bottle. While you’re at it, grab me one, too. Very well done!