Highland Park continues to refresh its venerable whisky lineup, its most recent update being the introduction of Viking Heart, which replaces its old 15 year old. This is entirely new liquid — bottled in a ceramic decanter from Wade Ceramics, no less — and includes a “high percentage” of first-fill sherry casked whisky.
Let’s dig in.
Highland Park Viking Heart 15 Years Old (2022) – The softer side of Highland Park is on display here, kicking off with a cereal-heavy nose that offers notes of fresh hay, almost burlap-like, undercut with a sharp and oxidized citrus note. The palate is immediately bright and lightly sweet, offering a gently doughy shortbread note that serves as a lovely base upon which to build. A light brown sugar element gives way to plenty of orange and lemon from the sherry barrel, then moves into a grind of fresh-ground pepper and sharper baking spice elements, including some gingerbread on the finish. The lightest whiff of peat smoke is evident as the whisky fades away — clearly less influential here than in older expressions of HP, but present nonetheless. Very well balanced and easy-drinking at 44% abv, it clearly stands as a workhorse, door-opener of a whisky for the brand. 88 proof. A- / $100 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Highland Park Cask Strength Release No. 2 – I tried this “uncut & unfiltered” expression — “selected mainly from sherry seasoned European and American oak casks, along with just a few ex-bourbon casks” — at a recent whisky event and found it a bit overwhelming, but in quieter, more pensive times it showcases much more nuance, just like its big brother. Unlike Viking Heart, the sherry makes for an aromatic bomb here, pungent on the nose with aromas of torched citrus peel, cloves, barbecued meats, and dark chocolate. It’s rich and intense — again quite Christmassy, just like No. 1 — and intensely warming on the palate, notes of honeycomb, sugar cookies, and a lingering note of oxidized wine clinging to the roof of the mouth. There’s ample sherry lingering on the finish — for quite some time — all nutty and rich and full of those racy oxidized notes. It may not exactly have the magic of Release No. 1, but it’s still a solid experience. 127.8 proof. A- / $79 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]