Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Assassin's Tweed

Highland Park: Dark Origins - 46.8%

Highland Dark

It was only a matter of time. Macallan went there. Glenmorangie went there. Ardbeg regularly go there. Et tu Highland Park? Et tu? The inevitable march towards NAS continues, it would seem.

Well, hold on a second; let's not be too hasty. Yes, this expression comes without an age statement. Yes, it comes with a cool bottle design and a mystical backstory (although that's hardly new ground as far as Highland Park are concerned) but what are these magical words I see on the bottle? Non chill filtered.

Yeah, yeah Stumbler but with a name like Dark Origins I bet it's loaded with caramel.

Admittedly, it doesn't say anything concrete on the bottle but it does allude to being naturally coloured. There's 80% first-fill sherry casks in the mix and the whisky isn't as dark as some of the cask strength sherry monsters out there. Whiskybase certainly have it down as being free of E150a. Plus it's a bit weightier than your standard Highland Park fare, coming in at over 46% abv.

Shall we do something crazy and judge it on its merits?

I immediately get what I think is a hint of young spirit. Oh balls, is it really going this way? Well, actually, no. On second sniff what I'm getting here is a huge amount of milk chocolate followed by rum and raisin ice-cream. After a little while there's that trademark Highland Park heather-smoke. It's all rather delicious and multi-layered. Given half a chance to open up, there's butterscotch and almond biscotti. Great nose on this.

Initially, not as sweet as the nose would have you believe. There's a carnival of spice and smoke and the chocolate is richer and darker with a hint of bitter orange zest. There's oak in the mix but it's light and not overpowering. After a while you come across something herbal and woody...I'm stuck between cardamom and mild clove, something along those lines. All the way through this there's a hum of incredibly gentle peat and not-so-gentle smoke but it does nothing to affect the balance.

The sweetest part of the whole affair. Not absurdly long but creamy, spicy and smoky. There's something missing though and I'll be fudged if I can think what it is.

This is good whisky. It's a step up from the 12 (although not quite as balanced on the finish and a lot more expensive) and stomps all over the 15. Is it as good as the 18? On first tasting, no. However, I didn't really rate the 18 until I got to the last third of the bottle. A little time to breathe and who knows?

Grade: B
I recommend you try this, although don't expect a sherry bomb. Very capable but falls short of greatness. I may have to come back to this one.

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