In my latest whisky news overview I talked about the new travel retail whiskies from Highland Park distillery.
Here is my first review of two expressions, the Highland Park Spirit of the Bear (a no age statement releases, primarily aged in sherry-seasoned American oak casks) and Highland Park Wings of the Eagle, a 16 years old whisky matured in both sherry-seasoned European oak casks and American oak casks.
I’ve heard some critical remarks about the distillery’s urge to come up with marketing stories and farfetched names, even when the Norse legends seem exhausted, but let’s discuss that some other time and focus on the whisky for now.
The new collection has already been launched in European airports. Asian and Middle Eastern airports will follow in September, USA from December.
Highland Park ‘Spirit of the Bear’ (40%, OB 2018, 1 litre, travel retail)
Nose: sweet and quite smoky, with oranges and raisins, roasted nuts, and a metallic, coppery touch (which is not a bad thing here). A slightly sour touch of berries and a hint of mint.
Mouth: the sherry makes it quite sweet again (honey, oranges, vanilla) before it moves towards light mocha and roasted nuts. Hints of ginger and nutmeg from the oak. A good balance of sweet and dry notes.
Finish: not too long, with some lingering sweetness, vanilla and soft smoke.
The Bear is a rather simple Highland Park, but it’s well put together and finds a decent balance. Can’t be against it given the price. Available in 1-litre bottles for around € 55. Also available from Master of Malt.
Highland Park 16 yo ‘Wings of the Eagle’ (44,5%, OB 2018, 70cl, travel retail)
Nose: there’s more obvious oak here, and a nice fruity maturity. Lots of apricots and fresh orange juice, plenty of (heather) honey, soft eucalyptus, as well as light hints of pine needles. Vanilla custard, toffee and marzipan. Faint hints of fresh figs in the background. Fresher, less smoky too.
Mouth: in keeping with the nose, which means apricots, vanilla fudge and honey with spices. Marzipan. Mint and nutmeg, as well as some peppery oak. Fades on cocoa notes. A rather discreet peatiness this time.
Finish: medium long, with dark chocolate and a slight gingery / spirity sharpness.
The Eagle is spicier and oakier, more complex while at the same time displaying more fruity roundness and freshness. Easily my favourite. Around € 95 for a standard bottle. Also available from Master of Malt.