Whisky Review: Highland Park 18 Years

Written by Joshua Chambers on 8 February 2012 in Culture

Subtlety is a rare but valuable characteristic. A little nuance never does any harm, while a gung-ho machismo can get you in all sorts of trouble.

Certainly, though, subtlety is not what you’d expect from a malt whisky made on the Orkney Islands: an archipelago exposed to such violent vicissitudes of weather that you’d expect any resident to be hardy and just a little bit rough.

However, this whisky delivers subtlety in abundance – if that isn’t a contradiction in terms. The nose is delightful; a kaleidoscope of sensations. There’s sweet honey and fudge, followed by coffee and caramel, before an alcoholic pang of sherry and a slight smokiness. Smell it again and the sweetness is gone, instead replaced by the weather and the wind of the Orkneys barraging your nostrils.

Sip it, and it sweetly starts to sing, hovering on the tongue before settling down and mellowing gently. As it rounds out, it warms, like slipping into a bath. Then, when it trickles down the throat, it loses its sweetness and tastes of a fire in fields of heather.

The 18-year-old is available in shops – though at £67, you’ll reserve it for special occasions. You could plump for a bottle of 12-year-old instead; it’s another fine malt. Both are often found knocking about in pubs and bars if you only fancy a dram – just don’t drink them with ice. Some whiskies, especially those from Islay, need a drop of spring water to curb their intensity and bring out the flavours. A more delicate malt requires only a clean glass.

Does CSW recommend this whisky? Take a guess! It’s got everything a whisky needs – so if you’ve had a gloomy, grey February day, kick back with a snifter and take it easy. Satisfaction guaranteed?

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