Highland Park Dark Origins and 18 Year Old

Located on the rugged Orkney isles, Highland Park can lay claim to being the most remote distillery in Scotland, piping its next door neighbour – Scapa – by just half a mile.  Last week though, this whisky made its way to Scottish capital for a Tweet Tasting, which involved not just whisky but also the opportunity to shake up a mysterious sounding Dark Origins Old Fashioned cocktail.  Speaking of Dark Origins…

Highland Park Dark Origins – 46.8% ABV
Dark Origins is a new additional to the Highland Park core range, which celebrates the early days of Magnus Eunson’s illicit distilling on Orkney.  Magnus was as a butcher and church official by day, but by night, he was a legendary whisky smuggler and distiller.  And to honour its hero, Highland Park has released a whisky with a suitably dark character, using a combination of 80% first fill sherry casks (of which 60% are European oak and 20% American oak) and 20% refill sherry.  The sherry influence has added some spice, with lots of autumnal fruits, including baked apples and pears.  The typical warming Highland Park smoke is also there, although the edges have been rounded off slightly.  The palate is much sweeter than a normal Highland Park, although not overwhelmingly, with lots of dark chocolate and a bit of brine on the finish.  Like the nose, it’s gently warming, with the shorter smoky note behaving themselves.

Dark Origins Old Fashioned
Now, here was a treat!  Along with the whisky, Highland Park had also sent a basic cocktail kit which allowed all the Tweet Tasters to make their own Dark Origins Old Fashioned.  I’m partial to a whisky cocktail when out and about, but never really attempt them at home.  This couldn’t have been simpler though.  All it took was a miniature of Dark Origins, a sachet of brown sugar, a few drops of bitters, a slither of orange peel and some ice.  And for my first attempt, it was bloody brilliant!  The orange helped to boost the fruity flavour, although the smoke and sweetness still shone through.

Highland Park 18 Year Old – 43% ABV
Part of the core range for 18 years now (a happy coincidence?), the Highland Park 18 Year Old has long been considered a favourite of whisky fans across the industry.  Following on from the superb 18 year old though, I can’t say that I was blown away.  There’s loads of oak on the nose, with a lot of dried fruit and nuttiness, which reminded me of a Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bar.  The smoke is more subtle on the nose compared to the Dark Origins and I felt it was almost absenct on the palate.  There lots of sweet, dark berries to enjoy here which made it all taste a bit like jam, with some tropical fruits thrown in for good measure and the tiniest hint of fresh mint right at the end.

Overall, I definitely preferred the young upstart to the old man of Orkney.  Worryingly though, I could easily become accustomed to Dark Origin Old Fashioned cocktails at 7pm on a Monday night!