Highland Park 18 Year

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Class:  Island Single Malt Scotch

Reviewer:  Andrew Owen

To complete the core range of Highland Park's age stated whiskies, we now turn to the 18 year old.  Note that there are older bottlings in Highland Park's core range, but they are well beyond the price range of 99% of enthusiasts, us reviewers included.  Sure, reviewing a $600 whisky sounds fun, but publishing it for you all has little practical purpose!  Before we move any further, click here to see the review of the 12 year (which includes additional distillery information), and here to see the review of the 15 year.

The 18 year old follows the same formula as the 12 and 15 year - utilizing about 20% of Highland Park's own moderately peated and malted on site barley, and 80% sourced and unpeated barleymalt.  Like the 12 year (and unlike the 15 year), the vast majority of casks used in the 18 year are sherry-seasoned European oak, with a small portion of sherry-seasoned American oak hogsheads thrown in.  Note that the 18 year uses substantially more first-fill sherry casks than the 12 does.   Highland Park then goes through the unique process of what they call "cask harmonization" where the selected casks for the batch are vatted together for an additional 1-6 months of aging before being bottled.

Notes:

  • No color added
  • Chill filtered
  • Bottled at 43% ABV

Nose: Warm and tropical. Sweet tropical fruits that remind me of juicy fruit gum. Heavy doses of pineapple and mango. Underneath are hints of banana saltwater taffy and soft floral/mossy peat. After a rest, a chalky dried papaya note appears alongside paprika and ginger. Very deep, smooth, and well integrated.

Palate: Creamy malted barley shows up first, but is overtaken after a couple seconds by both dank and fresher pineapple notes, a light briny characteristic, tart floral peat, vanilla, key lime, and hints of honey. Medium body. Literally no alcohol heat whatsoever.

Finish: Juicy reprise of the tropical fruit, with the peat becoming more smoky alongside some oak. Long.

Score:  94/100

Buying Recommendation:  Must Try!  Highland Park 18 year is complex, evolving, and very tasty.  Its unique and packed with flavor, with no apparent flaws.  My only critique is that I really wish this whisky wasn't chill filtered, as the liquid has a bit of a thin mouthfeel.  Still, be on the lookout for Highland Park 18 and try it if you get the chance.  This is the whisky I always recommend to anyone who wants an *older* bottle of scotch than the typical 10-12 year olds, as it is actually relatively affordable at $120-140, compared to many other 18 year olds which have crept up as high as $180 (and don't even mention the current retail price of Macallan 18 to me).  Don't let the price deceive you; this is one of the best 18 year old whiskies on the market today, and its relative value is an added bonus!

 

The Rating Scale

At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:

1-49: Varying degrees of bad

55: Average

60-69: Better than average

70-79: solid/good

80-89: excellent

90+: truly exceptional

All thoughts and opinions expressed are original to the author of the review or article. We are in no way paid to express any specific opinion about any specific company or product.

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Publisher

All Time Favorite Whisky: Balblair 1990 2nd Edition

Daily Drinkers: Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, Springbank 10 Year

A former craft beer enthusiast, Andrew fell in love with whiskey after tasting a pour of Laphroaig 10 year and being amazed that such a flavor could exist within a liquid. With a college background in biochemistry and a passion for history, Andrew quickly grew to love the science of whiskey making, the history of different distilleries, and the exploration of flavors within a dram. To Andrew, whiskey is more than just a drink; it is a fascinating mix of art and science – an intricate beauty to be pondered and appreciated. Besides this, Andrew has found that a nice bottle of whiskey has an amazing ability to bring people together and unite people from all different backgrounds together as friends.

While Andrew can be found drinking any style of whiskey from any region around the world, he has a particular affinity for spice-laden bourbons and coastal scotches. Besides drinking whiskey, Andrew also enjoys weight lifting, road biking, and cooking.

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