Highland Park distillery was founded, according to the official website, in 1798 although it wasn't granted a license to distil until 1826 which was also the time that the current distillery was built.

For some years the distillery was passed through the founding Borwick family and then various other owners until 1898 when the latest owner, James Grant expands the distillery from two to four stills.

1937 saw Highland Park being encompassed into the Highland Distillers portfolio.


In 1999 Highland Distillers (the distillery owners) were taken over as a joint venture between Edrington Group and W. Grant & Sons, which is still the status today.

Highland Park is Scotland's most northerly distillery, located at Kirkwall on Orkney.

It operates 4 stills (2 spirit & 2 wash) and has a capacity of around 2.5 million litres of pure alcohol each year.

General whisky characteristics: Smooth, honey and Scottish heather with a hint of smoke



Some more great distillery info here, thanks to Malt Madness


My thanks to Teun van Wel for permission to copy & use the distillery photos




Original Distillery Bottlings (OB)


Highland Park, 12y, 40% ABV

Discontinued 'Sunset' label

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Nose: Very slightly peated Scottish moors on an Autumnal morning after a rain shower.

Palate: Smooth but slightly watery as opposed to creamy, with heather, bracken, wet leaves and a delightful hint of almond.

Overall Impression: I like most HPs, this is no exception as it encompasses certain unique aspects of the wild Scottish countryside.



Highland Park, 18y, 43% ABV

Discontinued 'Standing Stones' label

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Nose: Oak and faint peat with hints of perfumed wet leaves

Palate: Very smooth and creamy whilst offering a slightly peaty and smoky temptation.

Overall Impression: If just a hint of peat and smoke could be combined with an essence of Scottish moor and made into a smooth ice cream, this is how it would taste. Very good!



Highland Park, 18y, 43% ABV

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Dram-atics "Advent-urous" live review


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich (yellow) gold

Nose: Heather blossom, moss, honey and just a faint suggestion of smoke.

Palate: Delightfully smooth and at the same time rich in flavour. I'm finding plenty of fruit in this whisky, perhaps raspberries and redcurrants, but also a faint hint of raisins and everything wrapped in a bouquet of heather and honey, then lightly smoked over an open peat bonfire.

Finish: Long

Overall Impression: Smooth intense excellence.



Highland Park, 25y, 50.7% ABV

Discontinued 'Distillery Outline' label

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich oak / dark amber

Nose: I'm back in the wild Scottish outdoors, somewhere high on a Ben with freshly dubbinned hiking boots. Heather and bracken underfoot, fresh air in my face and slightly smoky treacle toffee at hand. The smoke intensifies over time as this sits for 10 minutes or so in my glass.

Palate: Rich and luxurious mouth-feel with blackberries, raisins and currants, plus rich old wood coated in marzipan. Only the slightest hintt of smoke.

Finish: Extremely long.

With 4 drops of water in 2cl: Slightly more smoke on the nose. The palate is smoother but with less marzipan. The finish is more intense.

Overall Impression: Thoroughly enjoyable, I love HP25, possibly more than HP30. Something for (very) special occasions!



Highland Park, 30y, 48.1% ABV

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Dram-atics live review


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich sunny amber

Nose: Aged oak, bracken, polish and tanned leather. After a minute or two a slightly herbal-floral attribute appears and then expands into what I can only describe as oak flavoured ice cream with a topping of wax furniture polish.

Palate: Initially smooth nuts, marzipan and butterscotch all charge onto the palate, then fade gently to leave oak, walnut and a slightly dry sherry.

Finish: Long with oak and dry sherry.

Overall Impression: An amazing rapid burst of flavours onto the palate fading gently. A sophisticated whisky.





Highland Park, Hjarta, 12y, 58.1% ABV

Limited Edition

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Sunlit Amber

Nose: Rich and penetrating, spirit, drying paint, then eventually some rich fruity notes amongst weathered oak and leather.

Palate: This is massive. An explosion of rich dark fruits. It really needs some water.

With 5 drops of water in 2cl: Marzipan, rich oak and more dark fruit on the nose. Smoother, dark fruits, toasted marzipan and some fresh ginger on the palate.

With 5 more drops of water: A more creamy combination of fruits on the palate.

With even more water: the palate weakened but offered a little more heather and countryside.

Finish: very long, never ending with water.

Overall Impression: For a 12y HP this is a massive flavour bomb, very rich and full of dark fruits. But it does benefit from some drops of water.



Highland Park, Earl Magnus, 15y, 52.6% ABV

Limited Edition

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich gold

Nose: Faint hint of rubber, lots of spirit and a refreshing walk along the cliffs of an Atlantic coastline.

Palate: Very smooth in spite of the high alcohol %abv, but immediately an a-typical HP with slight ginger, a little earth, some honey and the faintest touch of lemon.

With 3 drops of water in 2cl: A slightly fresher nose and more intense palate where the citru (lemon) prevails.

With 3 more drops of water: A little more citurs on the nose and much more spice (a mixture of ginger and lemon) on the palate.

With 5 drops more water: The citrus and pepper have gone, the palate is smoother, but slightly less distinct.

Finish: Long, very long with pepper, slight citrus, a hint of ginger and something almost like white wine.

Overall Impression: I am indebted to Gal Granov of Whisky Israel for sending me this generous sample and he did warn me that this was far from a typical Highland Park. Gone is the Scottish countryside of bracken, heather, slight peat and smoke, to be replaced by something which I can only describe as quite Italian. Fresh and citrus readily come to mind. It may indeed be different, but it's still pretty good.



Highland Park, Earl Haakon, 18y, 54.9% ABV

Limited Edition one of 3300 bottles

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Live Dram-atics review


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich gold / light amber

Nose: Immediately rich with spices (think cloves and ginger), a hint of oil of orange, wood and after some minutes the slightest suggestion of raspberry appears alongside vanilla.

Palate: Also immediately rich and very smooth with a creamy mouth-feel which offers a quite unusual combination of wood and fruit. The orange and faint raspberry are detectable, as are wood and vanilla and something almost clove-like leads into the slightly dry finish.

With 4 drops of water: The spices and wood are increased on the nose whereas the orange is further enhanced on the palate.

A further 4 drops of water almost totally remove the fruit from the nose whilst enhancing the wood even more. The palate is slightly drier with that orange but also with the addition of faint or very light coffee beans and a hint of dark chocolate.

My overall impression is that this shows some family resemblance to the 'normal' Highland Park 18y, whilst still offering quite a few differences, however, the biggest difference really has to be the price. When this becomes available (I believe in late summer 2011) I am told the cost will be 160 GBP, a price which I feel leans towards the 'must have' collectors rather than the day to day drinkers. Yes, it's a good whisky, a very good whisky which I would say is worthy of 89 points and in my mind there's also no doubt that those lucky enough to get hold of one will see their investment increase over some years. But please also consider trying it too.




Highland Park, Thor, 16y, 52.1% ABV

Limited Edition No.1 in The Valhalla Collection, one of 23,000 bottles

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Live Dram-atics review


Glass; Classic Malt.

Colour; Bright glowing gold

Nose; The nose is quite fresh with a hint of maltiness which soon develops a suggestion of bread dough and expands further over a minute or so. It takes a few more minutes but eventually the nose develops some notes of bracken and a very light musty smokiness.

Palate; Also malty but with a suggestion of candy floss and creamy vanilla. Is there a light smokiness here too, not so sure

4 drops of water: Immediately release a little more smokiness and also a suggestion of slightly scorched rubberiness, but this is really light and only a suggestion. The palate also reflects the light rubbery smokiness.

Finish; Quite long and offers a sense of fruitiness.

Overall Impression; This is once again a quite different Highland Park, something which is somehow becoming 'normal' for their special releases. I like it and I could certainly wish a few bottles into my drinks cabinet for special guests





Highland Park, 1971 vintage, distilled 1971, bottled 2011, 46.9% ABV

Limited Edition one of 657 bottles

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Live Dram-atics review


Glass; Classic Malt.

Colour; rich amber

Nose; wood and currants make a ninitial appearance, then a rather fruity but light smokiness, perhaps blueberry and bramble? These are followed by creamy milk chocolate and an almost cappucino suggestion. There's also a light perfume reminiscent of sandalwood.

Palate; wood, bramble, heather and a creamy white pepperiness. Slightly dry and really quite fruity towards finish.

Finish; Very long, fruity and lively.

Overall Impression; Lots of fruitiness and outward "power" or richness. This '71 also exhibits a surprisingly good liveliness within the finish which is a little uncharacteristic of such older whiskies and combines to make this a truly excellent example, but at what cost?



Highland Park, 1976 vintage, distilled 1976, bottled 2011, 49.1% ABV

Limited Edition one of 893 bottles

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Live Dram-atics review


Glass; My trusty Classic Malt

Colour; lightly golden

Nose; very floral wood with some initial maltiness, then expanding with a gentle smokiness and traditional wax furniture polish.

Palate; very creamy mouth-feel, floral vanilla and a good dose of fresh air and countryside, including light grassiness.

Finish; Long with polished wood and lightly smoked vanilla.

Overall Impression; A fine helping of smokiness and a suggestion of what I can only describe as "inner power" make this a very interesting whisky with multiple facets, but still retaining what I call a quite typical Highland Park character of the great Scottish outdoors. Make no mistake, this is another truly excellent whisky!





Official Distillery Samples


Viking Pride, 18y, 46% ABV

Travel Retail Edition

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich dark golden (Oak?)

Nose: Nice with an unexpected initial freshness followed quickly by an oaky woodiness then hints of furniture polish, creamy toffee and even brandy snap appear, hinting at some sherry cask inclusion.

Palate: There's a mild smokiness on the palate alongside fruitiness (red fruits, perhaps blackcurrant?) and also that creamy toffee from the nose.

Finish: Long

Overall Impression: I really like this with the mild smokiness, blackcurrant and toffee.



Valkyrie, 45.9% ABV

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€ (just)


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Glowing 18ct gold

Nose: Lots of initial maltiness and musty fruitiness (red apple?). There's also something quite herbal, could it be reminiscent of sage? The fruitiness expands with more time in the glass.

Palate: The maltiness and fruitiness carry onto the palate from the nose but there's also a gentle pepperiness.

Finish: Long with a creamy, fruity mild nuttiness.

Overall Impression: Love the cremy, fruity nuttiness.



Magnus, 40% ABV

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€ (Just)


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: 9ct golden

Nose: My first thoughts are of a mild mustiness or smokiness before some maltiness comes through. In fact it's more like a malty fruitiness slightly reminiscent of banana stem. Perhaps even peach? But yes, it's now exhibiting lots of fruitiness.

Palate: On the palate the fruitiness is almost, but not fully citrus although it reminds me slightly of mandarin or satsuma. There's very little if any smokiness on the palate.

Finish: Long and fruity.

Overall Impression: It's a nice fruity whisky but not very memorable.



The Light, 52.9% ABV

Doesn't say on this sample label but supposedly 17y

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Pale yellow (just like lager or German helles)

Nose: Fresh with vanilla and a light woodiness followed by a fruitiness which is also light and fresh, citrus? Pineapple?

Palate: An initial creamy mouth-feel soon leads into a gentle tingly pepperiness which in turn is followed by that fruitiness from the nose and yes, it's definitely reminiscent of pineapple.

Finish: Long, tingly, citrus-y

Overall Impression: Lovely bourbon cask whisky, it's honest, fresh and extremely good. Love the pineapple-iness. Brilliant.



The Dark, 52.9% ABV

Doesn't say on this sample label but supposedly 17y

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Dark Oak

Nose: A cocktail of suggestions of furniture polish and dark fruitiness (dark cherries, plums, damson) and marzipan. It's rich and solid.

Palate: It steadily expands across the palate with all the fruitiness from the nose but includes hints of mixed nuts confirming this is a rather nice sherry cask whisky.

Finish: Long, fruity, nutty and just a gentle tingle.

Overall Impression: Wonderful sherried Highland Park with great depth of flavours but not as heavy and in your face as some sherried drams from other distilleries, making it really very civilised and approachable.



Ice, 53.9% ABV

Doesn't say on this sample label but supposedly 17y

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Golden yellow

Nose: Quite fresh and dry as opposed to sweet with lots of vanilla. After some minutes in the glass an almost citrus fruitiness develops alongside maltiness.

Palate: Very creamy mouth-feel which coats the palate before giving way to mildly peppery (tingly) citrus fruitiness and that maltiness from the nose.

Finish: Long

Overall Impression: Another lovely bourbon cask whisky which is quite similar in style to 'Light'. Most enjoyable.



Fire, 45.2% ABV

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€ to €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Polished Oak

Nose: Gently bitter fruitiness reminiscent of green apple or pear with some suggestions of smoke in the background.

Palate: Some initial pepperiness concentrated on the roof of the palate which is followed by a slightly sweeter fruitiness than the nose suggested but still apple and pear.

Finish: Medium

Overall Impression: Nice 'texture' and character but all very subdued and maybe not what I expected from the name. Having said this it's still a decent whisky.



Spirit of the Bear, 40% ABV

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: 9ct gold

Nose: An initial cocktail of faint smokiness and new wood, or freshly sawn wood caresses the nose before expanding to include a dried fruitiness and hint of fresh ginger.

Palate: My first thought is that this is dry or mildly bitter with dried fruitiness, perhaps mild orange or even peach? The whole experience is quite warming on the palate.

Finish: Medium and dry.

Overall Impression: Nice every day whisky and excellent value for money.



Loyalty of the Wolf, 42.3% ABV

Doesn't say on this sample label but supposedly 14y

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Bright oak - polished pine

Nose: Initially offering suggestions of bitter (green) apple and toasted malt but after 5-6 minutes in the glass it begins to include something quite metallic, perhaps akin to a (steel) workshop. This is not unpleasant, just a little metallic.

Palate: The palate is certainly not as bitter as the nose suggests as it has a hint of dried fruitiness with some pepperiness on the roof and back of the palate. Also a suggestion of sour cherry maybe?

Finish: Long and peppery.

Overall Impression: Very distinctive whisky with sour cherry, pepperiness and a metallic suggestion. In reality nice and great value for money.



Wings of the Eagle, 44.5% ABV

Doesn't say on this sample label but supposedly 16y

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Dark Oak

Nose: Smokiness and fruitiness prevail before the general fruitiness develops into tell tale sherry cask fruitiness with suggestions of dark cherry and plum / damson.

Palate: Initially quite peppery alngside a fruitiness suggesting mango. This is followed on the second taste with that darker fruitiness suggested by the nose.

Finish: Long and fruity.

Overall Impression: Nice, very nice. Love the fruitiness.



Full Volume, 47.2% ABV

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Very pale yellow gold (straw)

Nose: Very fresh and fruity where the fruitiness suggests lemon, perhaps freshly squeezed lemon juice. There's also a hint of vanilla and after some minutes in the glass I sense a biscuit-y-ness reminding me of morning coffee biscuits.

Palate: Vanilla alongside light, fresh fruitiness which suggests not only lemon juice but also pineapple.

Finish: Medium length and fruity.

Overall Impression: Another lovely honest bourbon cask whisky from HP. A perfect dram for a summer evening on the patio.


  Some final thoughts on these 11 official distillery samples:

Firstly I'd like to say a very big "thank you" to all at Highland Park Distillery for making these lovely whiskies and for sending me the samples, but at the same time I guess I owe an apology for it taking me far too long to sample them and put my reviews online.

Various of these 11 samples truly surprised me, firstly the character of the bourbon cask whiskies was delightful where I especially liked their freshness and fruitiness with suggestions of pineapple. I'm thinking here of The Light, Full Volume and Ice, lovely.

The Dark was my favourite whisky, only just from The Light as it exhibited some delightful but yet not overriding sherry cask attributes. It had suggestions of dark fruitiness with black cherry, plum, damson, marzipan and other mixed nuts but was still nicely restrained and not in your face like some sherry cask whiskies can be.

Highland Park can be quite adventurous when it comes to naming whiskies and often rely on Viking heritage which is in abundance here but sometimes this might tend to give one a false impression, or expectation of what is to come. I'm thinking of The Light and Ice where for some reason I expected very little from these two whiskies and was very pleasantly surprised by what they delivered. Conversely from the name I expected an element of fireworks or spiciness from Fire and although it was a very pleasant whisky it was rather subdued in this respect. In fact, when I tasted Loyalty of the Wolf my first reaction was that this whisky should have (in my opinion) been bottled as Fire because it had all the attributes I'd expected from Fire. Oh well, what's in a name?

In my individual reviews I don't usually declare my scores but in cases like this summary I feel it's the right thing to do so in order of preference:

The Dark (87), The Light (86-7), Wings of the Eagle (86), Full Volume (86), Ice (85-6), Viking Pride (85-6), Loyalty of the Wolf (85), Valkyrie (84-5), Spirit of the Bear (84), Fire (83), Magnus (82).




Independent Bottlers


Adelphi, Highland Park, 12y, 60.9% ABV

Cask No. 10463

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Nose: Scottish moors, heather and a little faint smoke.

Palate: At 60.9% this is extremely strong and the alcohol slightly overwhelms. There are some lovely smoky notes over heather, but I quickly added water ...

With 4 drops of water: Delightfully smooth, a wonderful HP with heather, smoke and just a hint of treacle toffee.

With a further 4 drops of water: Some wonderful floral elements now appear in the after-taste to dance around the palate.

Overall impression: I love this HP, especially with the water added.


A second tasting of this one at a later date shows similar results;

Palate: Initially smooth with a touch of liquorice and Scottish moor, then the alcoholic burn comes along to remind you it's just over 60%.

With 5 drops of Water in 2cl: The water release more heathery and meadow-like notes to the nose. On tha palate it's still smooth, but the burn doesn't kick in so much and a previously missing floral element soon makes itself known.

With a further 5 drops of water: The floweriness is enhanced, especially in the after taste which remains long and very pleasant.



McKillops, Highland Park, distilled 21.9.1981, bottled Jan. 2006, 24y, 56.3% ABV

Cask No. 6080, bottle No. 055

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light gold

Nose: An Alpine meadow in the afternoon sun, with lots of gently warming floral aromas and just a hint of light smoke in the background.

Fruit, biscuit and lots of alcohol. Let's add some water.

5 drops of water: Fruity smoke on the nose,  Still fruity on the palate, but now with a little more smoke and a hint of peat.

With a further 4 drops of water: The nose is now more like a Scottish than Alpine meadow. Less fruit on the palate, but a little more light smoke, bracken, heather and moss on the palate remindine me of a good Sunday afternoon walk in the Scottish wilderness.

Finish: Long

Overall impression:
The fruit and Alpine flora make this an unusual Highland Park, but with water it turns more Scottish. I love the variety within this whisky.



Glasgow Whisky Festival 2010, Highland Park, 14y, 52.3% ABV

Bottled by David Stirk's "Creative Whisky Company"

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light yellow (9ct) gold

Nose: Faint but offering hints of slightly sweet Scottish meadow (bracken, heather) with just a hint of smoke. After some minutes this develops a suggestion of leather which immediately makes me think of a pair of (leather) slippers warming in front of a traditional open fire.

Fruity on the palate with apple, peach and pear alongside the heather and bracken. Perhaps a fruity picnic on an open Scottish hillside.

Finish: Medium to long and fruity.

Overall impression:
The palate is pretty decent, but somehow it doesn't quite live up to the promises made by the nose which grew in strength over some minutes. But it's still a good whisky!



Murray McDavid, Highland Park, 46% ABV

Chateau LaFitte finish

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich gold / light amber

Nose: Leather shoes, wax furniture polish and slightly scorched red wine, perhaps even mulled wine or the German Christmas Glόhwein? There's also a suggestion of aged wood left to scorch in midday summer heat.

Fruity red wine with a splash of pear schnapps and dried fruit.

Finish: Long, perhaps too long.

Overall impression:
An interesting nose turns into an unbalanced and quite unremarkable palate. Here's one wine finish that shouldn't have been.



Silver Seal, Highland Park, 18y, 1992, 53.1% ABV

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Dark glowing amber

Nose: Lots of wood, in fact more akin to a freshly (wax) polished antique oak table. Then comes a burst of fruit with banana stem, black cherries and bramble,  overlayed with a slight smokiness and bracken-covered Scottish hillside.

Immediate pepper right on the front of the palate whilst smoky bracken (does this exist? It does now) and dark fruits sit firmly in the middle of the palate. Creamy banana and butterscotch lead towards the finish.

With 4 drops of water: More, but lighter, wood on the nose. The palate is creamier with lots more fruit.

With 4 more drops of water: A much more rounded nose with aromatic, slightly floral wood. The pepperiness of the palate is further reduced to be replaced with butterscotch.

Finish: Long and luxurious.

Overall impression:
Did I mention this is a sherried HP? It's delightfully different but still manages to retain that typical bracken and light smoke so typical of Highland Park. A very good whisky.



D. Laing "Platinum", Highland Park, 33y, 3.1978-3.2011, 55.7% ABV

Sherry Butt, one of 207 bottles

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€

Reviewed (blind) as part of MMA 2011


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich gold

Nose: This is what I can only describe as warm, very warm and soothing. Do I sense toasted coconut macaroon? Then comes a countryside farm with lots of fresh air and light farminess. This is followed by a very gentle smokiness as if yesterdays bonfire or BBQ is still glowing lightly. More time in the glass allows the smokiness to expand and include a faint peatiness. This just gets better and better as time passes.

The palate is also smooth, gentle and very soothing with that initial farminess and fresh air of the nose being repeated on the palate. This is Scottish countryside at its best. There's also just a hint of (wood) smoke over a light nuttiness too.

Finish: Long and very sophisticated.

Overall impression:
Wonderful, truly wonderful.




The Nectar of the Daily Drams, Highland Park, 24y, 51.8% ABV

Distilled 1.1.1986, bottled 1.1.2010

Original cost of this bottle; €€€€€


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light gold

Nose: A slightly bitter fruitiness prevails with apple, pear and something else, could it possibly be gooseberry? But definitely all very 'green'. After 2-3 minutes there's a hint of bread dough, maybe slightly grassy too. Very fresh.

Grassy and fruity with a light (white) pepperiness. Mixed spices? Why am I reminded of chicken tikka in a late night Bradford restaurant? It's really quite dry.

Finish: Long, spicy and dry.

Overall impression:
Most unusual, very different for a Highland Park, but really pretty good.










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