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.
Highland Park 12 Year old, Highland