About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Saturday, 2 August 2014


Highland Park's latest release, the 'Dark Origins' is a tribute to the founder of the illicit distilling going on at High Park Farm... before there was a real distillery on the outskirts of Kirkwall on mainland Orkney. The man doing this illicit distilling was a man named Magnus Eunson and, according to the records, a churchman and butcher by day and illicit distiller by night, which has resulted in a box portraying a picture of someone looking a bit like a mix of Robin Hood, David Beckham and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Anyway, I'm not going to get into all the marketing surrounding Highland Park these days, it's been well covered elsewhere... but that said I actually like the presentation (bottle) of the 'Dark Origins'... (Have I fallen a victim to the evil hordes of the marketing people??? I hope not... )

This is about the whisky... and I've really have had my hopes up for this one, since I first heard about it earlier this year - why, you ask? because of the 46,8% abv this bottling carries - all a sign, I would like to think, that the good gents at Highland Park has realised and picked up on the voices concerning the abv% on e.g. their 'Warrior'-series not really delivering the punch it should and could have, being at only 40%... I, for one, commented on that in the review of the 'Einar' which can be found here.

So, has Highland Park gotten wiser? have they rid this new release of the quirks of their previous releases? (at least from an anoraks view...?)

Let's give it a try.. and from a full bottle payed for by myself.

Entrance to the Highland Park Distillery, August 6th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Highland Park 'Dark Origins' 46,8%, NAS, Distillery bottling

Colour is deep amber

It's alive! and certainly a Highland Park, as the honey and floral/fruity intensity is very up front here as is a rougher smoky side. It's not Islay smoke - it's more delicate and rushes in after the fruity notes has hit your nose, staying very evident all the time after that. When you nose this, it's either fruity smoke or smoky fruit (Does that really make sense? No? oh, well... )

There's strong tea, hint of nutmeg, ginger powder, baked banana and orange peel and heavy, slightly burnt, toffee notes and sometimes a hint of farmyard. The increased use of 1st fill sherry casks are indeed noticeable here. Then there's the smoke which, by design according to Highland Park, is much stronger than in the standard offerings from then. It works very well with the sherry influence. At times I get like standing in a garden surrounded by flower beds with the BBQ on as the floral notes pops back up again... I'd like to say heather as its usually one of Highland Park's prominent features, but I'm not sure that's it here.

Very good nose!

Sweet, yet drying sherry at first arrival, then the smoke rushes in along with dried fruit all sorts, smoked pineapple from that BBQ on the nose above. Also whisky soaked apple wood chips, cinnamon, orange chocolate notes, old cigar boxes and warming spices I'd normally associate with dark rums. The whole thing finishes off drying with a slightly dirty edge to the sherry, but is very soon replaced by notes of bran flakes and an earthiness until finally the smoke takes over completely, leaving a beach bonfire in your mouth for a good length of time. If you feel this is a little rough, it takes a teaspoon of water just fine. It's all very nice, indeed, though I do get a feeling that the palate sometimes is a bit restrained...

The guys at Highland Park has done something right here and as I mentioned above it starts with upping the abv to 46,8%... it makes a big difference in the arrival and general delivery of flavour in this whisky! Also, there's no doubt that the increase in use of 1st fill sherry casks as well upping the smokiness has done wonders.

But what about it being a NAS bottling, I hear you ask? Does it contain a lot of young whisky? Does it show? and, most importantly, is it worth the price tag they've slapped on it? Well, I'm sure it does contain some young whisky, but honestly if it does, it works fine here as its covered in sherry and smoke and doesn't come across as young. The only slight young'ish feeling I get is at the very edges of the mouth and a hint on the very finish where the smoke gives up and you get a cereal note instead - that's it for me, at least - do make up your own mind about this!

And the price, you ask? I payed £60/€76/$100 for a bottle of this. They do have to pay for the marketing flannel and the fancy black bottle for this and, even though I like the design, I can do without it... but it wouldn't be a 'Dark' Origin if it came in a clear bottle, would it? :-O though if it did, we could admire the lovely colour of the whisky :-) Anyway, I'd be more a satisfied punter with a £47 price tag on this.

Bottom line... it's good whisky! and it will no doubt, become a hit with the regular punter!


Post amended 8th August 2014:

Now that this bottle has been open for a week, the younger whiskies in this vatting is starting to show itself more dominantly. The fruit, especially the delicious pineapple has subsided and now leaves me with alot more younger (slightly feinty?) notes. Also the sherry has moved a bit to the background and, honestly (and honesty is what we're all looking for, right?) this is not as good now as it was, just out of the bottle... :-( The smoke edge is very much still there, trying its best to cover up its (I hate to use the word) shortcomings...

I would have reduced this to (still) a decent 83½/100, but since I don't do ½ points it's now down to 84/100...


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