Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Review - Highland Park Ice Edition

This whisky is the latest limited edition single malt from Highland Park. The Ice Edition follows on from the recent Valhalla Collection and again pulls on the Nordic heritage of the Orkneys.  This expression is inspired by stories of the Ice Giants in Norse mythology and will be followed by the Fire Edition in 2017. The single malt is 17 years old and has been matured predominantly in ex-bourbon casks. It is presented in a blue glazed glass bottle, which in turn is housed in an bespoke wooden stand.  The bottle features an intricate circular design to represent the Viking circle of lifeand is accompanied by a booklet that tells the story of the Ice Giants.

Highland Park is the most northern whisky distillery in Scotland and is located close to Kirkwall, the capital of the Orkney Islands.  The distillery is one of the oldest whisky in Scotland and was established in 1798 by Magnus Eunson, an interesting character who legend has it was known as the 'whisky priest' - this was because he was a priest by day and an illegal whisky distiller by night. Highland Park is currently owned by the Edrington Group and has an annual production capacity of 2.5 million litres.

The Highland Park Ice Edition is bottled at the natural cask strength of 53.9% ABV. There will be 30,000 bottles of the Ice Edition and is available through specialist whisky retailers and high end department stores worldwide. A bottle will cost £190.

Our tasting notes
The colour is pale gold and the nose is vibrant and fresh.  The initial aromas are of dried apple and vanilla, with golden syrup coming through.  Underneath are further aromas malted cereals and delicate earthy peat smoke, plus hints of lemon sherbet sweets and dried mango.  A late and warming whiff of ginger and cinnamon finishes things off.

On the palate it is the malted cereal and delicate peat smoke notes that hit first, and they are much more prominent than on the nose.  The combination is reminscent of slightly burnt or caramelised oat biscuits.  After this, the sweeter and fruitier notes begin to come through - think of vanilla and golden syrup especially, plus elements of tropical fruit (imagine crystallised pineapple and dried mango).  With time and patience, further sweetness and fruitiness appears in the form of butterscotch and candied lemons. Everything is complimented by a delicious warming and earthy spiciness, which has elements of cinnamon, ginger and a hint of eucalyptus.

The finish is long and warming, especially once the sweet and fruity notes begin to fade.  Initially there are plenty of the syrup and vanilla notes present, along with hints of the dried tropical fruits, but these are quickly overtaken by the soft peat smoke and the woody and earthy spices.  This gives the finish a very pleasant and lasting dryness.

What's the verdict?
This is an intense and interesting whisky with plenty of character and depth.  It is different to most other Highland Parks that we have sampled over the years, which tend to have some ex-sherry cask influence.  The sympathetic use of predominantly ex-bourbon casks for the Ice Edition allows the spirit to express itself and it takes time and patience to evolve on the palate.  It feels refreshing and exciting to experience this lesser seen side of Highland Park. 

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