Highland Park 12
Strength: 43 %
If you want to hook a friend onto Scotch, I recommend using Highland Park 12. While your newb friend may just get "honey", this whisky is nearly unrivaled in terms of complexity and balance while remaining accessible and just flat out enjoyable. On the nose: soft smoke, sherry, honey nut cheerios, and peat. The heathery peat is clear but not over-powering and is a much different style than Islay peat. In the mouth, the smoke and peat make way for sweet cereal and spicy sherry notes. The packaging suggests that the whisky is aged in sherry casks, but this is not a sherry monster and I suspect that only a portion of the vatted casks are sherry. The finish is beautifully long and turns dry and smoky.
Highland Park pulls off a lovely marriage of sherry, honey, smoke, and peat. Other whiskies that aim for this level of complexity usually end up either unbalanced or confused, but Highland Park does it by accentuating different influences at different stages of the drink. However, while the whisky is smooth, it is also a bit malty and lacks some fullness. A few more years in the cask fixes this but at the expense of nearly losing the wonderful peat and smoke notes. I'd love to see what a cask-strength version of this whisky is like. 93 points (A-).
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