Distillery: Highland Park
Age: No age statement
Leaving the usual Viking theme aside for a moment, Dark Origins pays homage to Highland Park’s founder, Magnus Eunson. Magnus lived a bit of a double life, being a preacher during the day and a smuggler at night. He was rightly famed for his cunning, and there are many stories of him outwitting local excisemen, often in his guise as a servant of god. The Lord doesn’t seem to have minded very much, since fortune shone upon Magnus’s business, and Highland Park has become a very successful (legal) distillery indeed.
Dark Origins has been aged mostly in first-fill sherry casks, and these have not failed to leave their mark on this whisky. Dark Origins is much heavier on the sherry front than other Highland Park bottlings, with flavours of dried fruits and dark chocolate very prominent. As such, this dram has lost some of its maritime freshness, but instead displays a more sensuous complexity that fits the theme all the better. The same can be said of the packaging, which is stunning. The only drawback is that it keeps you guessing as to how much of that precious liquid is still in the bottle, but being enigmatic as he was, I’m sure Magnus Eunson would have agreed.
Colour: Dark amber
Nose: Deep, sweet and musty, much like an underground wine cellar. The sherry profile is positively bursting from the glass, exuding aromas of raisins and Christmas cake. The nose reminds me of Aberlour A’bunadh in that it’s a true sherry bomb. Fruity intertwines with nutty, as scents of blackberries and walnut tingle the senses. The maritime distillery character has been very much forced into the background by the influence of the cask, meaning this whisky is not instantly recognisable as a Highland Park. But I’m not complaining, this is compelling stuff!
Palate: Full-bodied, with an oily lushness to it. Dried fruit and nuts are in bountiful supply, eventually giving way to notes of allspice and cracked black pepper. Then dark chocolate and butterscotch take over, guiding this whisky towards the finish.
Finish: Pleasantly warming, with a lingering nutty aftertaste. Finally cracks appear in the facade of sherry sweetness, as Highland Park’s salty, smoky character breaks through and Dark Origins at last reveals its Island pedigree.
Verdict: This dram is right up my alley, as I am a fan of both sherry bombs and peated whisky. Highland Park Dark Origins provides a delicious mixture of these two styles. Admittedly the sherry cask has drowned out the peat character somewhat, but towards the finish the balance is restored. On top of this, the sherry flavours are so tasty that any lack of balance is easily forgotten. As much as I love this whisky, I’ve also seen some negative reviews. My advice is simple: if you like sherry finishes, this is an excellent dram. If you don’t, well, then better stay away. Dark Origins doesn’t come particularly cheap, but in my opinion it comfortably beats many other bottlings in this price range. It’s a truly terrific whisky that never fails to put a smile on my face 🙂