Way up in the nether northern regions of Scotland lies the island of Orkney, home to the self-proclaimed greatest spirit in the world. Confusingly, the whisky is named after another region of whisky far to the south. Highland Park, built in 1798 in Kirkwall, which is slightly higher than the surrounding area. Highland Park malts its own barley, using local peat during the distillation.
The 12 year is the entry-level offering from Highland Park, and it really does represent a snapshot of the style and flavor of the brand. The tag line “best whisky in the world” is actually from Spirit Journal in an article and later book from F. Paul Pacult, and he’s referring to the more famous 18 years. In fact, even critics Michael Jackson and Jim Murray enjoy lavishing praise on the 18 years. So what opinions do people have about the 12? Cask Strength, For Peat Sake, Boozebasher, Whiskey Reviews, and of course Michael Jackson and Jim Murray all have a few things to say.
For my money, the 12 year is superior to the 18 for its balance, honesty, and value. Highland Park 12 year displays a bouquet of every aspect of single malt whisky in a sort of equilibrium – honey, smoke, peat, salt, sherry, etc. No one taste dominates over the others. It also has good length and finishes without too much strength which creates a strong impression of complexity as all these aspects play off each other in turn. And all for less than $50 US. I think the 18 year has its place as well, and you will see a review of it here in the future, but in the meantime, Highland Park 12 may be the best daily single malt sipper in the world.