A Walk In The Park

Taste Review #100 – Highland Park 12 Old vs New

This is truly a momentous occasion. It’s my 100th review, and its appropriate to mark this with a distillery that has a great reputation. It’s even better that this has happened during my series of old vs new, as I don’t get to taste just one whisky; I get to taste two!

Making a second appearance on Scotty’s Drams, Viking Honour

I’ve reviewed a new Highland Park 12 before, this being the current offering which is called ‘Viking Honour’. I found to be acceptable and value for money. However the Highland Park distillery is one of those which often comes up in the whisky geek conversations that I have online where that it’s said that the previous era releases of this whisky are better. I can’t really speak with any authority on this, as Highland Park like the fellow other fellow Edrington stablemates Glenrothes and Macallan, are bottlings I don’t really purchase much, if ever. However I am in the fortunate position of finding an older Highland Park at auction. £46 for a 10cl bottle was a bit steep, but you can’t really walk into a shop to buy it.

1980’s Highland Park

What you can go and buy in many UK supermarkets is the latest incarnation of Highland Park. Its the youngest age statement in the Highland Park range and is often available for sub £30 if you look for offers. I felt that this wasn’t bad for its price point, but there is usually a bit of compromise involved in whiskies for this outlay. How does it match up to the older edition of the 12 year old Highland Park? It is time to move onto tasting and find out whether the newer one has kept up with the reported standards from previous eras.

Highland Park 12 y.o (1980’s)

Region – Highland Age – 12 y.o Strength – 40% abv Colour -Russet Muscat (1.3) Cask Type – Ex-Sherry Colouring – No Chill Filtered – Not Stated, but did not have any Scotch mist after leaving in the fridge prior to the tasting. Nose – Raisins, Sherry, Honey, charred wood, apples, vanilla, fig rolls, salt laden air, a wisp of smoke. Palate – Entry is mild, slightly oily and sweet, moving towards figs, honeydew melon, dried currants, and a bit of sweet heathery smoke. Quite mild tannins. Finish – Medium. Honey, smoke, light brine and a building wood spice that doesn’t overpower anything else.

1980’s Highland Park

Highland Park 12 Viking Honour

Region – Highland Age – 12 y.o Strength – 40% abv Colour -Deep Copper (1.0) Cask Type – Ex-Sherry Colouring – No Chill Filtered – Not Stated, but did not have any Scotch mist after leaving in the fridge prior to the tasting. Nose – Honey, Slightly smokey, grapefruit, pine Palate – Entry is quite mild, weak and watery, Honey, heather, slightly floral which builds to a nutmeg, peppery wood spice, which becomes quite strong in comparison to other elements. Finish – medium short, wood spices, smoked wood, light sweet smoke. A burn of alcohol as it descends down the throat.

Highland Park Viking Honour


I’m not really wanting to beat around the bush here, but both drams were acceptable to my palate though one was a lot more refined than the other. There was noticeable differences between the drams. There is not any point in looking at the colour, as the colour does not determine taste and may just fool our minds into thinking the darker whisky was better. Highland Park does not add colour to their spirits. However both are chill filtered as far as I can see, though the distillery does not disclose on the packaging whether or not this happens. However as the fellow Edrington owned Macallan does chill filter their basic releases, I’ve no doubt that this is the case here.

New (l) vs Old (r)

There has to be a comparison made and to me the difference was a lot more than marginal. The older dram was smoother, more sweet, not so much sour and not so much wood spice. There was no overpowering flavours and the whole dram was one of harmony. And this is where the rub comes – tasting the newer Viking Honour beside a spirit at least a generation older shows that while many will accept the Viking Honour as a decent whisky, it is faded glory compared to that of the 1980’s dram. A strong citrus sour note, an increase in the wood spice and the rough end to the finish in the spirit burn as it goes down the throat is much more noticeable when compared to the old one.

New (t) Old (b)

In my previous review of Highland Park 12 (Honour) I said that it wasn’t bad and was probably good value. However when compared to the older generation 12, it is easily overpowered by its forebearer. Without a doubt, I’d have to say that the older dram is easily the better one and a lot tastier. If you ever get a chance to try an older edition Highland Park pre-Viking Honour, please do. You will not be disappointed.

Yours In Spirits


Index of tastings here

Index of articles here

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

A Summary Of Summer So Far…..

It may not be the end of summer yet, but seeing as there has been blue skies in Scotland on a few occasions, you never know if that is all we will get!

As the saying goes, “I love a Scottish Summer. It’s my favourite day of the year.” Let’s hope that good weather continues well past July into September when I will finally get time for a break.

A view of my summer

This is a bit of an unexpected post, as due to an unplanned extension to my current project, I’ve been delayed in getting home. This means that at the time of writing this, I’m on a ship beside the Snorre B platform in the Norwegian part of the North Sea, so I hope you can all forgive the lack of content thus far.

Snorre B and a calm North Sea

It also means that I am currently restricted to doing taste tests, as my work regulations mean that I cannot drink, and therefore I have to be cautious about the amount of completed taste tests I publish, lest I run out of articles. However this does not mean I have been standing still. Thanks to the wonder of buying at an airport and collecting later, I have some samples of Wolfburn, Tobermory, Tomintoul, Ben Nevis and Speyburn amongst others to try and review for you.

Summer has seen me visit GlenDronach and Oban distilleries, but autumn sees me visit Aberlour, Cragganmore, Macallan, Glenfarclas and most excitingly Ballindalloch during my annual break in September.

Other joys that I have bought recently have been the unusual Glen Moray “Cider Project” bottling. This is an experimental bottling that involves Thistly Cross cider, based in Dunbar. They mature one edition of their cider in casks formerly used by Glen Moray distillery. This produces a lovely light, sweet cider with a good whisky influence. To complete the circle, the barrels have been returned to Glen Moray for reuse to mature whisky once more. This is highly unusual, as it is currently against SWA guidelines to mature whisky in a cask that has been used in anything other than whisky, wine (or variants of such as Champagne, Port, Sherry or Cognac as far as I am aware), but this one uses the loophole that the cask had contained whisky previously. I look forward to trying this one to review for you, as I am a big fan of Thistly Cross cider.

Also, the modern wonder of the Internet has allowed me to remotely purchase some bottles. Given my enthusiastic review of GlenAllachie 12 year old, I have invested in the recent wood releases. The 3 bottles are an 8 year old Koval Rye Quarter Cask, a 10 year old Port finish and a 12 year old Pedro Ximénez sherry finish. I cannot wait to try them, although I may see if I can get samples of the bottles as only 780 of each bottle has been released in the UK. I am grateful to Matteo at the Speyside Whisky Shop in Aberlour for taking my payment over a satellite link phone call. Probably a first for him, but not for me – I mostly purchase whisky at work!

Take a look at the Speyside Whisky Shop’s Facebook page by clicking on the link below…

Speyside Whisky Shop on Facebook

Finally, over summer there was my collecting advice. To make it easier for you, here are the links for the 5 articles.

Why Collect

What Is Collectable

Budgeting and Collection Policies

Storing Your Collection

Maintaining Your Collection

Hope your summer was better than mine, and I trust you’ll make the best of what’s left.

Slainte Mhath!


A sip starts the journey.

Having had this page now for nearly two months, I’ve not really considered where I want to take it and to be honest, it was just a way of putting more positive stuff into Facebook than the doom and gloom currently on the inter webs. I guess I started to run before I could walk, and forgot to start describing my personal journey with whisky.

I’ve always liked whisky, but sometimes more than whisky has liked me. Early memories of a hot toddy made with Famous Grouse was probably my first taste of the spirit that was going to become a major hobby. Getting into my teenage years, I shied away from Scottish whisky – I made the assumption blends were inferior and at that time, single malts were yet to make the impact again on the market. I hate to say it, but my first steps into whisky started with bourbon.

Initially, it started with Jack Daniels, as this was the popular thing at the time. I then moved onto Wild Turkey, as it was the strongest whisky on the shelf in the bars that I drank in. I even drunk it with lemonade. You could almost say I started with cocktails….

Fast forward to 2006, and a visit to Glenmorangie distillery saw me staring at two bottles of 1993 Truffle Oak reserve. At £150 a bottle, I was thinking more of truffles like chocolate ones. But I bought two, thinking one for a special occasion and one for resale at a later date. That was the start of my whisky journey proper.

From then on, I’d try different malts, but when out drinking beer, I found whisky and Guinness for me wasn’t a good combination for heart burn, so ditched the whisky for rum. It wasn’t until I started to realise it was the Guinness causing the gastric problems and I moved onto real ale that I ventured back into Single Malts.

Mortlach – the beast of Dufftown.

The long discontinued Flora and Fauna bottling.

A great pub for whisky was (and still is) the Grill, situated opposite the Music Hall on Aberdeen’s Union Street. My usual drinking partner and me would peruse the Whisky menu. At the time, the most expensive malt there was a Speymalt Macallan 1938 60 year old at £200a nip. A sniff of that bottle and the smooth, malty and sweet aromas made me determined I had to try it. Being the good Aberdonian, I made sure I got a good fivers worth of fumes!!

This happened on the 7th June 2013. By this time the price has increased to £235 a nip. I still didn’t know too much about whisky at this point, and when I took the first sip, I was so disappointed. The sting of the alcohol hit me, and I instantly regretted my purchase. It tasted like any other whisky. That is, until I swallowed the sip. It was heavenly, without any trace of burn. A very well sherried, sweet whisky, and if I was to close my eyes now, I could still taste it. It’s an experience never to be repeated, as now that bottle is finished. To buy one at auction if you can find one is £7-10k. I can honestly fee I had whisky history right at the start of my journey, and I am now on a hunt for the whisky that gives me that same feeling.

The receipt for the couple of drams that accelerated the journey.

I now try a variety of whiskies, and not just the ones I know I like. What has accelerated my interest is was my move to Aviemore, when I had to drive through the heart of Speyside to get back and forth from Aberdeen. I’d pass distilleries that I and many others never heard of, like Benrinnes, Dailuaine, Glentauchers; distilleries I had, but no experience of like Mortlach, or silent ones like Imperial and Convalmore. They intrigue me, and I decided to get more involved.

The start of a collection in storage. I’ve since had to move locations.

Getting involved meant learning more about the distilleries and their produce, learning more about Scotch whisky and determining more of what I liked. I started to collect bottles that interested me, and tasting whiskies they were new to me. Quite literally it was just a case of taking the opportunity when the chance came. This led me to realise the level of pretension about whisky. I discovered that blends and young whisky aren’t necessarily poor quality, Single Malt does not have to be drunk neat, older whisky isn’t necessarily better. I still draw the line at ice and mixers, but that’s me. The perfect drink for you is the one you like and how you like to drink it. I just hope with my page and blog that I can maybe share what I have discovered, and maybe you too can find something new.

And now I’ve got a modest whisky collection in secure storage which gets added to every now and again. I can make intelligent choices on what may be worth trying, and be brave to try something new. I give the odd whisky talk to tourists and have a wee amateur whisky blog.

Certainly out there, there are a lot of other blogs, v-logs and literature for you to look at. I’ll share some of their content with you by sharing links. I’m content just to do my own geeky thing here, but I’ve learnt a lot from other contributors on the internet. My favourite discovery is from the YouTube Channel ‘Aquavitae’. Roy who runs the channel keeps banging on about Clynelish 14. It was over a year before I gave in and tried it – in Krakow of all places, and it was a stupendous dram! These are the ways in which I hope I can share my experiences with you, and discover more about what you all like, and perhaps move my journey down the road one more step at a time.

I do hope you’ll join me.

One Man’s Meat…..

….. is another man’s murder as we all know how the famous saying goes. And it’s no different in the world of whisky. There are several misconceptions or myths about whisky that really can taint people’s views or experience with the beverage.

Such myths as Single Malt is better than Blend, expensive means best, older whisky is superior to young whisky or you should never add anything to a single malt are all simply a matter of opinion. And opinions are like belly buttons; we all have one. And none of them are absolutely right. Only one fact is right. The correct way to drink your whisky is the way you like to drink it.

Having said that, I don’t see the point in adding ice or mixer to a Single Malt, but hey, different strokes for different folks. At the end of the day, anything published on this site is just a matter of opinion. Feel free to voice your own views on your whisky. At the end of the day all I write is…

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! This is the all new blog site for Scotty’s Drams, a journey through all things whisky and whiskey. But mostly whisky.

Please don’t be shy in sharing your whisky news and views with me, as we go down this delightful road exploring Scotland’s most famous beverage. Perhaps have a wee dram nearby as you peruse or contribute to the content either on the blog page or the Facebook page

All I ask for is a wee bit of patience. Oh, and an avoidance of things that spoil a good dramming session – politics, sport or religion. There are plenty of other forums for that on the interwebs, but not here.

Slainte Mhath!