Highland Park 18 Year Old – Review.

I’m more excited about Father’s Day this year than I have been about most of the other Father’s Days before. It’s not because, for once, I got a card into the mail on time…I didn’t, at this point, that’s to be expected. No, this year marks the first Father’s Day that I’ll be on the receiving end as well as the giving end and though there’s a certain Hallmark/weekend-sale cheesiness to the whole event, I’m looking forward to celebrating with my new son by changing a smelly diaper at 5:30am, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, really.

I’m sure my dad has enjoyed a few moments of Schadenfreude-esque, you-had-it-coming glee as he watches me dive headlong into the joys of parenthood. I suppose that’s fair, though he has to admit I was an absolute angel of a child. Still, Fathers Day is all about celebrating the things dads and their kids share, and in that regard I’m pretty much a chip off the old block…or a stave from the old hogshead, if you will. From Spiderman and Star Wars to John Adams and whisky with a lot of bicycled miles and hardcover books in between, many of my favorite things throughout my life are ones my dad has introduced me to and ones we continue to share. I can only hope that my son  one day thinks his dad is as great as his dad thinks his dad is.

What better glass of whisky to raise in toast then, than one of his favorites, Highland Park’s 18 Year Old. One of the more remote distilleries in Scotland, up there on the Norse-tinged Orkney Island, Highland Park traces its beginnings back to the late 1790’s, officially becoming a licensed distillery in 1826. Today, it’s one of the few distilleries to malt their own barley, though demand is such that they’re only able to provide around 20% of what they need. Softly peated with the Orkney version of the decayed veggie matter, The 18 Year Old is aged in nearly half re-fill sherry and half first-fill bourbon.

Sláinte Mhaith, Dad.

The Nose:  Such a beautiful, integrated, complex nose. Initial notes of raisins, stewed prunes and warm, fresh applesauce are nearly overcome by thick, luscious floral honey. The sweet, fruity tones are balanced by a light breath of dried grass smoke, smooth polished oak with firm tannins, light ginger, tree sap, and that distinctive, lighter, cleaner Orkney peat.

The Palate:  Creamy, slightly oily mouthfeel with that rich, floral honey coming back and joined by roasted, salted nuts. The wood warms and asserts itself quickly, with gingery, zippy, drying tannins swelling as baking spices. An apple-tinged sweetness hoovers throughout and towards the end a wave of dry, grassy smoke rolls over the proceedings, keeping the wood from getting too out of hand.

The Finish:  That light, clean smoke swirls around the continued light fruit and drying, smooth tannins.

Thoughts:  Oh baby. So complex, so comforting, so eminently drinkable, Highland Park 18 Year old, like its 12 year old sibling, is simply a fantastic,  beautiful, delicious all-around Scotch. There’s something here for everyone, or at least for me; sherried fruit, heathery honey, pungent peat, and woody smoke. Both rugged and a little delicate, it really shows off its Orkney Terroir. Highly, highly recommended.

Highland Park 18 Year Old, Island (Orkney)

43% ABV

Score: 93

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