Highland Park 12 Year

by on December 5, 2017

Island Single Malt Scotch

Average Price

$40-50 US Retail


Showcases the uniqueness of Orkney peat. The relative youth allows the Orkney peat of the new make spirit to shine without much sherry masking.


The dram is relatively harsh and unrefined, and the sriracha note on the palate is slightly off putting.

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Buy it now!  This Orkney peat has me totally captivated by its uniqueness.


Before we even get into this review, let me answer one of the most common questions I see:  Yes, Highland Park 12 and Highland Park 12 “Viking Honour” are the same thing.  Throughout 2017, Highland Park, the northernmost distillery in Scotland, has been undergoing a re-branding effort in order to better, er, embrace? the Norse roots of the Orkney Isle on which the distillery sits.  While I’m not crazy about the new packaging, as long as the 12 Year keeps the age statement, they can add whatever descriptors and funky designs to the bottle that they want.

Highland Park appears to be jumping fully on board the NAS train with this rebranding effort, releasing two new NAS bottlings this year – Magnus and Valkyrie.  Besides taking the battleaxe to the beloved 15 Year (see what I did there?) it appears they will not be eliminating the age statements on their core range whiskies.  I even have to commend Highland Park before going further, for just recently releasing a new Limited Edition whisky that has a vintage date, age statement, full cask details, AND a reasonable price! This is the kind of thing that makes an annoyingly opinionated enthusiast like me smile 🙂


Onto the distillery now, which inhabits the Orkney Isle like a small city of stone, complete with 26 (!!!) onsite aging warehouses, most of which are traditional single story dunnage style buildings.  Highland Park also does a portion of its own floor maltings on site, which is increasingly rare in the modern scotch industry.  Highland Park takes full advantage of Orkney’s native peat bogs, moderately peating much of their barley with the local peat, which is one of the main contributors to Highland Park’s somewhat eclectic signature flavor.

Highland Park utilizes sherry seasoned American and European casks for aging its whisky.  The older age stated whiskies typically have a higher proportion of first fill sherry casks, and the distillery’s special releases and NAS bottlings often display some special marriage of different proportions of cask types.

Onto the review of the 12 year now, which sits in the affordable $40-50 range on most store shelves.


  • Combination of sherry seasoned casks (most likely a majority of refill sherry casks)
  • No color added (yay!) but chill filtered (boo)
  • Bottled at 43% ABV (American release)

Nose:  Sweet vanilla and light orchard fruits – pear and peaches.  A hint of earthy peat in the background.  The peat here is pungent, almost sour; it is not smoky.  Some tropical pineapple citrus notes linger with the peat.

Palate:  Right away there’s a unique spice, not unlike sriracha.  Spicy pineapple and citrus – borderline dank.  Cayenne, dry earthy peat, seasalt, paprika.  Fairly thin mouthfeel.  This dram is the opposite of sweet and “smooth”, but its fantastic.

Finish:  A reprise of the peat and citrus notes, with some smoked paprika.  Some lingering oak.  Long.

Buying Recommendation:  Buy it now!  This Orkney peat has me totally captivated by its uniqueness.  Everyone who wants to explore scotch needs to experience Highland Park, and the affordable price and excellent flavor of this 12 Year make it the perfect place to start!

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
50-59: 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.

[wpurp-searchable-recipe]Highland Park 12 Year – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]

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  • Moleskino
    December 5, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    Well written. I would only like to add that the USA market (and perhaps Canada, not sure) is getting the 43% ABV version while everywhere in Europe you will be encountering a 40% version which is a lot more fragile taste wise. Still good but the rating would probably drop by a few points…


    • WBSE
      December 7, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      Thank you for this info! Odd to me that scotch distillers would want to water down their whiskies more for their home market than those abroad.


  • December 12, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    Love the Review.
    Expect this to be My next purchase since its in my Price range


  • December 15, 2018 at 7:00 am

    The heart and soul of Highland Park, VIKING HONOUR is a perfect harmony of aromatic smoky peat, sweet heather honey and rich fruit cake.


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