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

Break Out Your Inner Viking!

Taste Review #44 – Highland Park 12 Viking Honour

Highland Park Distillery Pagoda

Sometimes good things come from situations that you may not expect much from, and the surprise makes the good thing seem that much better. One of those things for me was a holiday in 2004. Myself and a couple of friends took advantage of a Northlink Ferry offer for 4 nights B&B and a car between Aberdeen and Kirkwall, the main town of the Orkney Isles.

To be brutally honest, I wasn’t really expecting much from the break, as it was mid April, and that isn’t a time of year that promises great weather that far north. If anything I was just going for something to do, and I was hoping my luck would be in with one of the ladies I was travelling with. Needless to say nothing that I expected or hoped for came to pass.

The holiday was fantastic. The weather came to hold for the time we were there. Orkney has so much to see. I won’t say too much, but if archeology, Vikings, World War 2 history and looking at some fairly desolate landscapes are your thing, you need to go. It is a really great place to go.

Orkney is home to 2 distilleries, Scapa and Highland Park. Both are close to Kirkwall, but Highland Park is the most northerly of the two. The distillery was founded in 1798, but wasn’t fully licensed until 1826. It still retains an olde worlde appearance with its traditional stone buildings and the fact it is one of only a handful of Scottish distilleries still using a malting floor.

Highland Park Malting Floor

I remember thinking when I saw the malting floor as to whether or not the distillery had a cat. As leaving a food source on the ground often attracts mice, distilleries often had cats as pest control. The last three distillery cats unfortunately met their end on the road that passes beside the distillery and I reckon Health and Safety would probably frown on cats in distillery now, so that’s not going to happen. Perhaps they would still be there had they been fully paid up members of the Tufty Club.

Highland Park 12 y.o – Viking Honour

And onto the dram.




12 years


40% a.b.v


Light honey gold


Honey, Heather, slight smoke, citrus, milk chocolate, dusty wood.


Quite sweet, honeyed, which then opens up to a creamy, silky wood and heather taste. Floral notes. Light smoke there that has come with the use of peat, but by no means peaty.


Smokey wood, syrupy. Quite a solid, but medium finish. Lightly smoked wood.

The Dram


It’s been quite some time since I’ve had any Highland Park and I am kicking myself. I shouldn’t have left it so long. It’s actually a pleasant dram, with plenty of sweetness and heathery honey notes. Although the official line from the distillery is that it has been matured in Sherry casks, sources tell me that some of the casks are ex bourbon. It’s a shame that producers can’t be a bit more up front. It doesn’t make a difference – it’s still a great drink.

As Highland Park is owned by Edrington, the owners of Macallan, this is part of a luxury brand of whisky, and Highland Park can command good prices at auction. I’d be wary of non-age statement HP in the same way I am with Macallan whisky, as premium prices don’t always give you a truly premium whisky, but this 12 year old is great and I could thoroughly recommend it.

My sample cost me £5.65 from The Whisky Shop Dufftown, and a full bottle should be around the £30 mark, but can be cheaper on offer.

Definitely recommended.

Slainte Mhath!


Index of tastings here

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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

Colin Smith / Highland Park Distillery Pagoda / CC BY-SA 2.0

Lakeworther / Malting floor at Highland Park Distillery CC BY-SA 3.0

All other photos – Authors own.