Highland Park 12 Year Old

There are those scotches, and I won’t mention Ardbeg & Laphroaig by name, that really seem to relish knocking the wind out of you.  Strong, challenging, complex, and at times overwhelming, but all in a good way.  They leave us lying in the dirt with only one shoe on, laughing as they walk away, knowing we’ll be back for more.  Then there are those like Highland Park 12, that can still knock you over but do so in a more subversive way, and they’re always there to lend a hand and help you up afterwards.  They might even dust you off a bit before leveling you once more and rolling you into the gutter.

The Nose: Apples…no, pears!  No…no, apples.  Ok, today, maybe pears and apples, specifically the smell of a good, hard pear right before you bite into it.  There’s definitely honey here, too.  There are cereal grain notes, almost rye-like in their sharpness, a bit of rum-raisin cake as well.  Just the faintest hint of smoke, lingering on the horizon, coyly promising to show you more later…smoke, you tease.

The Palate: Great mouth feel, very appetizing. Very grain oriented on the palate, a nice, rich maltiness, and again there’s almost a rye quality. Every once and a while, Highland Park 12 reminds me of a heavily ryed bourbon in that way. Along those same lines, it has an Irish pot still quality as well.  Honey and a little butterscotch provide sweet notes.   There’s a little smoke there but it remains flirty, just winking from across the room

The Finish: Ah, smoke, there she is, that minx.  Malty, honeyed tones rise sharply again and then…smoke, a deft, delicate blend of peat smoke and wood smoke, neither medicinal nor heavy, just a soft gentle breeze of Highland smoke.

Thoughts: Michael Jackson considers Highland Park 12 to be perhaps the great all-arounder in the Scotch world and I’m inclined to agree (pffffft, right…who am I to disagree, sheeesh, such ego). A Wonderful combination of fruit and grain with just enough smoke to keep things rugged and interesting.  If someone said they liked Scotch but hadn’t tried much, give them this and they will fall in love with the whole genre.  A gateway Scotch,  dooming the unwary neophyte to a junkie’s life filled with whisky blogs, tasting notes, phenolic concerns, oak-envy and latent hoarding tendencies.

I think this is the one that started it all for me.  I liked whisky, I liked cheap whisky, I didn’t know any better.  My dad had a bottle of this in his cabinet and with a knowing glance poured me a bit.  It’s his fault, really.

Thanks Dad.

Highland Park 12 Year old, Highland

40% ABV

Score: 91


3 thoughts on “Highland Park 12 Year Old

  1. You’re welcome, son. It’s nice to know that fathers do have a lasting impact on their progeny. What is my legacy to you, bicycles and whisky. I can live with that. Now, if I can only get you into a kilt… Tonight I will have a bit more than a wee dram of HIGHLAND PARK in your honor. Hell, I was going to have one in any event.


  2. First off, I think you have a nice blog, keep up the good work! I think this post is interesting because I had somewhat of the opposite experience. I drank mostly bourbon, then started reading about scotch and getting excited about how great single malts were going to be. Highland Park 12 was my first single malt purchase. It actually disappointed me a bit at first, because I was expecting to be thoroughly “wowed.” After a few days drinking it, I grew to appreciate the wonderful mood and complexity this has to offer, and now I think it’s pretty special. You’re right that this one is great in a much more subtle way than some others; for me, my “wow” moment came when I tried Talisker 10 yr!

    1. Thanks Ryan!

      I still get “wow” moments with Talisker! As for HP, I’ve led tastings where people sipped the HP12 and just shrugged their shoulders, but as they came back to it, they liked it more and more. It doesn’t knock your socks off initially like Talisker or Laphroaig might, but to me, Highland Park is one of the better whiskies out there.

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