Distillery: Highland Park
Age: 12 years old
With names such as Einar, Svein and Drakkar, the Viking theme has always been strong with Highland Park. Indeed, Orkney was a Viking outpost for over 600 years, and their influence is found all over Orcadian folklore. Apparently it makes for good marketing too; recently Highland Park’s core range was given a makeover, with each expression gaining a new Viking-related subtitle and an elaborately carved bottle. I actually preferred the simplicity of the previous packaging, as the new look and feel is a bit over the top.
Packaging aside though, the whisky remains very much the same. And that’s a good thing: where many distilleries have mainly focused on NAS bottlings, Highland Park’s aged range is still going strong. The 12 year old is a classic, epitomising the honey sweet, smoky spirit that the distillery is known for. Highland Park is often referred to as everyone’s friend, and you’ll be hard put to find someone who severely dislikes the distillery’s drams. That doesn’t automatically make this a great whisky though, so let’s see what Highland Park Viking Honour is actually like.
Colour: Light gold
Nose: Fresh and floral, like a hay barn on a warm summer’s day. Underneath this somewhat vegetative character we find fragrant aromas of pineapple and orchard fruits. There’s some typical Highland Park here too, with that sweet, heathery smokiness we’ve all come to recognise as Orcadian peat. On the whole, this seems quite a friendly and inviting dram.
Palate: Medium bodied, with more herbal, malty notes. Oatcakes and a hint of sage give way to breakfast cereal sprinkled with honey. Viking Honour is quite light on the smoke, and dissipates into an earthy, leafy character, in which the heather from the nose makes a clear comeback.
Finish: Not overly long or warming, but the aftertaste is pleasantly dry and earthy, like hay smouldering over a peat fire.
Verdict: You can’t go wrong with Highland Park 12 year old. This is an aromatic, flavourful dram that combines a light smokiness with a sweet, heathery profile. But while this whisky is bound to please, it also doesn’t really excel. It’s friendly but not rewarding, a touch tepid even. I would love for this Highland Park to be dialled up a notch, and a higher alcohol percentage would be a good place to start. Given the price point though, this is perhaps asking too much. If you want a solid dram for a very reasonable price, you could certainly do worse than Highland Park Viking Honour.
Value for money: 🤩🤩🤩🤩
3 thoughts on “Highland Park 12 year old – Viking Honour”
i think you’ve really hit it on the head. i just opened a bottle that arrived yesterday. ordered online here in japan, it cost me about 27~28 U.S. dollars: an absolute steal for any decent SMSW–and this one fits the bill. decent; balanced; i would say “gentle” is an apt description of what it delivers. still, i can’t help but feel that this comes up just short. the opening notes on the nose are probably the highlight for me. the follow on the palate is still nice, but not quite up to the challenge laid down by that first sniff. alas, i feel that it falters at the finish line: short and neither warm or memorable enough to leave a positive lasting impression. like you, i expected that higher abv would help, and so i ordered the 43% version–but received the 40% version, much to my disappointment. i certainly would like to have a go at the higher proof expression. perhaps, too, it will deliver more of the magic trick of turning heather into smoke that i enjoyed with my first bottle of HP 12, a pre-Viking incarnation nearly 6 years ago…
So true, and sorry to hear you didn’t get a hold of the 43% version! I see Highland Park as a nice dram to ease friends who are new to whisky into the smokier side of things. I remember the first time I had Laphroaig… I was completely put off! Instead this dram is gentle like you said, but having become accustomed to the Islay heavy hitters, HP now certainly can’t compare to the excitement of a Lagavulin 8 or a Ledaig 10!
thanks for the thoughtful reply. ah, ledaig! have discovered that distillery more recently, and absolutely love it! started with an 8 y.o. independent bottling (at cask strength!) from the carn mor “celebration of the cask” series; progressed to the OB 10 y.o. (and found little lost from the luster of the turbocharged version); now finishing up the signatory 7 y.o. “unchill-filtered” version (of course, since ledaig’s OB goes at 46% NCF & NC, it’s not a significant parade, just a one-off curiosity, but still wonderful!)… as for lagavulin, i recall sampling the 12 y.o. CS version (at baxter bar in sydney, on a work-related trip) and being a very happy camper, nose to finish…