Thursday, August 28, 2014

New release - Highland Park 'Dark Origins'

The Dark Origins is the newest single malt release from the popular and multi award-winning Highland Park.  The distillery was founded in 1798 by David Robertson, although the legendary 'whisky priest' Magnus Eunson had been illegally distilling whisky on the site for years before that.  It is Eunson and those early shady dealings that they are saluting with this new 'no age statement' whisky. The Dark Origins is quoted as having "twice as many first fill ex-sherry casks as the classic Highland Park 12 years old".

The Highland Park distillery is located on the Orkney islands, close to the capital of Kirkwall. It is the most northerly single malt distillery in Scotland.  It is currently owned by The Edrington Group and has an annual production capacity of 2.5 million litres, with the majority being bottled as single malt. This enables the brand to have an extensive portfolio of whiskies including a core range, travel retail exclusives such as The Warriors Series and limited editions such as The Valhalla Collection.

The Dark Origins has been bottled at 46.8% ABV and is non chill-filtered.  It is also of natural colour, with no E150 caramel added.  It is available globally now through specialist whisky retailers at a cost of £65 per bottle.  Please note that due to the limited initial allocations of this release that many retailers are capping the maximum number of bottles at one or two per person.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow with a hint of amber.  The nose is a mix of aromas with dark dried fruits (especially raisins), toasted nuts, honey and a delicate earthy smokiness to the fore. Underneath are further aromas of candied oranges, milk chocolate, malted barley and a hints of caramel and gingerbread.

On the palate this feels viscous, oily and immediately savoury.  There are initial notes of cocoa, spiced oranges and burnt caramel.  Then comes a wave of earthy peat smoke - this has a more acrid edge to it than is present on the nose and this is reminiscent of soot, as it seems to add dryness as well.  This increasing dryness is added to by notes of woody spices, especially some cinnamon.  Finally some sweetness begins to come through in the form of sugary sultanas, raisins, toffee and hints of crumbly brown sugar and milk chocolate.

The finish is very savoury and dry with the ashy/soot-like smoke, wood spices and burnt caramel notes prominent.  Sweetness fights its way through in the form of sugary dried fruits and hints of honey and chocolate try to redress the balance.

What's the verdict?
This is an interesting single malt from Highland Park and one that is quite different from any other whisky that we had sampled from the distillery.  It is savoury, sooty and smokier.  This suggest some younger whiskies may be present in the construction of the final product, which tend to have this robust and feistier nature.

Some whisky commentators seem to have criticised Highland Park for this but it reminds us of the similar fuss around the recently released Laphroaig Select.  After all, why just release another version of the same thing in to a range?  Variety is the spice of life ...

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