GSN Review: Highland Park’s The DARK Whisky

Highland Park recently announced the global launch of their latest special edition, called THE DARK. This 17-year-old single-malt Scotch whisky has been exclusively matured in first-fill European oak sherry-seasoned casks and bottled at 52.9% ABV.

THE DARK is presented in jet-black bespoke glass; the serpent dragon embossed on the front takes its inspiration from Viking lore. THE DARK and THE LIGHT are inscribed in Viking runes on the bottle and oak cradle in a nod to the brand’s heritage. The rear of the glass bottle is embossed with “Made with Pride on Orkney” — a heartfelt tribute to the men and women of the distillery who create Highland Park single malt.

Orkney’s climate is mild, reaching highs of only 60 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and lows of around 35 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. The wild winds that assault the islands generate a landscape in which few trees survive. This creates the aromatic peat used in malting.

THE DARK’s oak cradle has two circles etched on the top and bottom to represent both the high sun of the summer solstice and the low sun of the winter solstice, key dates on the Viking calendar. They, in turn, embody the contrasting seasons and their influence on Highland Park whisky.

Jason R. Craig, brand director of Highland Park, commented, “THE DARK is the first of two special editions. It will be followed by THE LIGHT in spring 2018. Both editions share the story of the contrasting seasons of our Orkney islands home and the resulting perfect balance of Highland Park whisky.”

Highland Park’s The DARK Whisky (105.8 proof)
Visual: Medium gold.
Nose: Thick and rich evocation of smokey malt floor. Saddle leather, currant, and hearth all find a welcome home in this dram.
Taste: Intense mouth-bomb of slightly sweet malt, patinaed with a single broad stroke of smoke.
Finish: Long and with some gentle caramel tones softening the high ABV.
Overall: You can almost taste the combination of rustic island living and the celebratory sense of the passing of winter. A real star in the Highland Park special edition series.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Highland Park Whisky

GSN Review: Highland Park Fire Edition Single Malt Scotch Whisky

image001Highland Park Fire Edition is limited edition single malt Scotch whisky that delves into the world of classic Norse mythology and celebrates the Viking roots of Highland Park’s Orkney islands home. According to Viking legends, Surtr was an evil Fire Giant who ruled the Fire Realm.  He would sit at the edge of the kingdom, defending the land by holding a burning sword, which shone brighter and hotter than the sun.  The culmination of these tales is an apocalyptic battle between the Gods and the Giants. Surtr led the sons of Muspell across the bridge of Bifröst, burning everything in sight at Asgard (realm of Gods; Thor, Loki, Freya and Odin) and destroying the world at Ragnarök, heralded as ‘The doom of the Gods.’ The world perished in a blazing and burnishing ball of flames and from the ashes, a new earth was recreated.

Matured exclusively in 100% refill Port wine casks, Fire Edition follows the release of Ice Edition which was awarded 99/100 and the Chairman’s Trophy in Paul Pacult’s Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2016. Fire Edition completes the two-part series inspired by the stories of the Ice and Fire Giants and their battles against the Gods to rule the world.

The bespoke crimson red colored glass was specially commissioned to represent the fierce and molten world of the Fire Giants from Viking mythology.  The bottle is encased in a distinctive black wooden cradle with accompanying black wooden stopper.  A booklet, also included with the bottle, recounts the story of the realm of the Fire Giants.

FIRE Edition, a special release of 28,000 bottles globally with 4,398 bottles in the US, is available from specialty spirits retailers in the US at a SRP of $300.

Highland Park Fire Edition (90.4 proof)
Visual: The bottle is tinted red, the whisky itself is a light gold.
Nose: As befitting a fire themed release, there is a fair bit of smokiness on the nose. Notes of cinnamon stick and fine airy toasted malt round out the overall effect.  Everything is surprisingly subdued.
Taste: Initially, quite fruity and delicate on the palate, within a few seconds a smoky, creosote bomb hits.  The port flavor barely manages to temper the bracing island character of this whisky.  With subsequent sips, the effect replays itself over and over.  From light and almost elegant to a darkening rumble of brimstone.  They definitely captured the fire aspect.
Finish: Medium long with a good amount of heat that stays on the back palate, but the smokiness wisps away evenly and surprisingly soon.  Which makes it all the more intriguing to reach for another sip.
Overall: Highland Park has indeed captured the idea of fire in the glass.  This is a single malt that does not disappoint.  Very well done and aside from the quality of the whisky, the bottling and cradle make for a great piece of art on your bar.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Highland Park

GSN Review: Highland Park Dark Origins

HP-Dark-Origins-bottle-pack-70cl-1000One would think that Highland Park whisky originates in the Highlands of Scotland.  But, one would be wrong.  In fact, the distillery is the northernmost located in the Orkney Islands.  Highland Park also malts their own barley using a mix of local peat and heather.  They have a small, but solid portfolio of aged whiskies.  The latest is a tribute to a man many suppose founded the distillery, or at the very least smuggled it past the constant surveillance of excisemen.  It is his portrait which is given artistic license as a mysterious hooded character on the bottle’s container.

His name was Magnus Eunson, and the following story about him made an appearance in an early tome about the whiskey trade “Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom” by Alfred Barnard written in 1887.

“Hearing that the Church was to be searched for whisky by a new party of excisemen, Eunson had all the kegs removed to his house, placed in the middle of an empty room and covered with a clean white cloth. As the officers approached after their unsuccessful search in the church, Eunson gathered all his people, including the maidservants, round the whisky, which, with its covering of white, under which a coffin lid had been placed, looked like a (funeral) bier. Eunson knelt at the head with the Bible in his hand and the others with their psalm books. As the door opened they set up a wail for the dead, and Eunson made a sign to the officers that it was a death and one of the attendants whispered “smallpox”. Immediately the officer and his men made off as fast as they could and left the smuggler for some time in peace.”

Highland Park Dark Origins (93.6 proof)
Visual: Yellowed gold.
Nose: Mild smokiness with a hefty dose of malted barley.
Taste: Quite smooth for such a high-proof.  The initial impression is of sweet roasted grain, but is soon followed by a dose of smoke.  The two flavors play tag over a few minutes, until the game fades leaving a dusky memory.
Finish: Medium long with a defined balance of malt and peat.
Overall: Slightly smokier than a blended whisky, but the same approachability.  Perfect for a chilly Autumnal evening’s enjoyment.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Highland Park

GSN: Backbar Review – March 11-15, 2013

imagesUltra-premium Avión Tequila, part of the Pernod Ricard USA portfolio, is being extended with a new Avión Espresso liqueur. The new entry combines Avión Silver with Italian espresso, and will launch nationwide beginning this month, priced at $24.99 a 750-ml. bottle. Avión founder and chairman Ken Austin tells Shanken News Daily that the extension will be aimed at the on-premise, where its versatility and mixability will be touted.


imagesEdrington Group’s Highland Park single malt Scotch whisky has released the second offering in its “Valhalla Series,” a 15-year-old, limited edition whisky called Loki. Retailing at around $249 a 750-ml., Loki is at 48.7% abv and comes in the same viking ship-inspired wooden box as its Valhalla series predecessor, Thor, which sold out. Loki, named for the mischievous Norse god, was aged in both Sherry casks and “heavily peated” casks, Edrington says, and “has a smoky punch, while retaining a light color.” Edrington’s Highland Park, Macallan and Famous Grouse Scotches are handled in the U.S. by Rémy Cointreau USA.

imagesConstellation Brands is set to launch a restaging for its Svedka vodka brand that will start this spring and continue throughout the year. Initiatives will include upgrading the packaging across the brand’s core flavor line—Citron, Clementine, Raspberry, Vanilla and Cherry (all priced at $12.99 a 750-ml.)—as well as a reformulation of those flavors “to deliver smoother, richer, and brighter flavor profiles”.


imagesCampari America’s Skyy vodka has unveiled its latest flavored entry, Skyy Infusions Moscato Grape. Leveraging the popularity of the Moscato wine category, the vodka will be priced at $18.49 a 750-ml. and will be positioned for cocktail consumption. Campari will support the launch with a fully integrated marketing campaign featuring advertising, on- and off-premise promotions and social media. Moscato Grape joins an Infusions portfolio that includes Coconut, Dragon Fruit, Blood Orange, Pineapple, Ginger, Cherry, Grape, Citrus, Raspberry, Passion Fruit and recently released Wild Strawberry.

imagesThe Bacardi-owned Dewar’s Scotch brand is entering the thriving flavored whisk(e)y category with its launch of Dewar’s Highlander Honey. Rolling out in April, the 80-proof, honey-infused offering will be priced at a slight premium to the brand’s core White Label variant. The new entry is part of Dewar’s overall efforts to engage younger LDA consumers, particularly brown spirits drinkers in the 25- to 29-year-old range.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily