Highland Park is one of the oldest and best known distilleries in Scotland, having been established in 1798. It is currently owned by the Edrington Group. Highland Park is the most northern distillery currently operating in Scotland, being located near the town of Kirkwall on the Orkney islands. There are only two distilleries on the Orkneys with Scapa being the other. Highland Park is regarded by whisky drinkers as a great all-rounder and the core range is extensive, covering different ages. This all adds up to make it one of the best selling whiskies worldwide. It is also a major constituent in Edrington's leading blend, the Famous Grouse which is one of the best selling blended whiskies in the UK. At Highland Park, they produce some of their own peated malt barley with a reasonably high phenol level of around 40ppm. This is then mixed with malted barley from Edrington's other distillery at Tamdhu, which has no peat influence at all. This creates a spirit which is smoky but not to the degree of the majority of Islay whiskies. It is therefore more subtle and approachable and is a good distillery to try if you don't like too much smoky flavour.
This 12 years old continues to win worldwide awards right, left and centre. The colour is golden and the nose is very promising. There is a gorgeous mix of dried fruits (sultanas and candied peel, i think), some sweet malted barley, a distinct floral note (imagine heather) which are all underpinned with a subtle fragrant smokiness that is different from the stronger, heavier smoke that you get with most Islay malts (this reminded me of a bonfire). On the palate, this is smooth and silky with a honey-like sweetness joining the malted barley from the nose. It is creamy with some vanilla, something spicy and woody (think of nutmeg) and a hint of saltiness. Again, this great marriage of flavours is complimented perfectly by a heathery smokiness. The finish is long, elegant, smoky and very smooth. This well regarded whisky is a real winner with a perfect balance between all the characteristics. It is readily available in most shops and should cost between £25-30. It is a great product for that price.