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Highland Park 12 and general questions

Just had Highland 12 for first time and I really liked it. It was a pretty long night of drinking, so perhaps my taste buds were skewed. I was actually sipping balvenie 12 all night until they ran out the switched to Highland.
Anyway, I really liked it and noted that it tastes similar to Lagavulen, in that it had a thick, smokey taste. After a little research, my observation doesn't seem to make sense, being that one's an Islay...and Highland apparently isn't known for being smokey (or petey).
1. Are my taste buds f'd up?
2. Is Highland slightly smokey/petey, and only after drinking Balvenie, did it seem extremely smokey?
3. Help sort out the confusion!!

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  1. Trust your palate, it's all you've got. Highland Park, one of my favorites, is located on the Orkney Islands, off the northeast coast of Scotland. It is the furthest north distillery in Scotland. HP, indeed, has some underlying peat, and while it has nowhere near the punch of something like Lagavulin, after a peat-less Balvenie, the peat taste may well have been particularly noticeable. Try lining up three glasses: one Balvenie, one HP 12 and one Lagavulin 16 and try them in that order. I'm guessing you will notice the distinct differences in those drams.

    And remember, geography is not destiny. How peaty a Scotch is depends on how much peat was used to dry the malt; it has nothing to do with where it was produced. While Islay is known for some of the peatiest malts, it is also home to non-peated malts (Bunnahabin, Bruichladdich's original bottlings) and the Highlands have some peat monsters (BenRiach, the old Broras).

    1 Reply
    1. re: sku

      Note: "Smokeyness" too can be attributed to the inherent moisture in the peat. Islay is a wetter region so subsequently the peat used can be wetter thus producing more smoke when heated and therefore impart a smokier flavor to the whiskey.

    2. It has been a while since I had Highland Park, I was not a fan, but why not try it again? It could be that your taste buds were off, or not. Drink what you like.

      1. I have not tasted either of those single-malts. Generally, the single-malts from the Highlands are not nearly as peaty/smokey as those from Islay, but they do have more of a smokey taste than the Speyside single-malts. As noted above, the best way to satisfy your curiousity is to taste them again.

        The other nite I had a dram of 14-year old Clynelish (from Brora in the Highlands) that tasted smokier than I remembered.

        1. Tried to post this comment last night, and the new site wouldn't let me. Hopefully . . .

          Are you comparing Highland Park 12 to the Lagavulin 16? I ask, because that's the only Lagavulin I've tasted, and I want to frame my reference so you'll understand my comments better. I've tasted Lagavulin 16 several times, and each time I'd disliked it. (Different strokes for different palates!) I find its "peatiness" and iodine/seaside character overpowering to my palate and unpleasant. ("Does this amp go to 11?") But I quite enjoy Highland Park, as the level of "peatiness" does NOT, to my taste, overpower the other characters, qualities, flavors of the whisky..

          1. HP 12 is wonderful stuff, perhaps the best whisky in the world at its price point. It has a lovely complexity, balance, and depth of flavor. If I could only have one scotch to drink the rest of my life (and I had to pay for it) Highland Park 12 would be my instant choice.

            1. Had Highland 15 last evening. I found it to be utterly smoke-less with pronounced salinity and a wonderful bouncey, rubbery mouthfeel reminiscent of MacCallans (due to sherry cask I think). Nice!

              1. I had a general question about scotch. I understand that Islay region scotch tends to be smokier. But does any region's scotch tend to be more "oceany" or contain more "iodine/seaside character"? I really enjoyed that in my Highland Park.


                5 Replies
                1. re: Chinon00

                  Island malts tend to have more "iodine/seaside character." Although it's a Hinghland malt, Highland Park is from the Orkney Islands, and so it will have more of that than other Highlands like Glenlivet or The Macallan, etc.

                  Lagavulin, from Islay, is not only smoky, but has the "iodine/seaside character" in spades.

                  1. re: zin1953

                    But if i want "iodine/seaside" without smoke, Highland Park is my best bet?


                    1. re: Chinon00

                      It's certainly *one* of your best bets. Others would include the aforementioned Bunnahabin or Bruichladdich's (both from Islay but without anywhere near the skomy qualities of Lagavulin and Laphroaig), and you might want to try some ofthe malts from Springbank in the Campbelltown region.

                      Your best bet (IMHO) is to gind a bar/restaurant with a realy good selection of malt whiskies. That way, you can pay for a drink, not a bottle -- if it's disappointing, you only spent a litle money . . .

                      1. re: zin1953

                        I'd second the idea to go to a bar with a good selection and try some different whiskys. You might also do some research on by seekign some reviews and figuring out the locations of the distilleries. Whiskys will tend to have flavors that are associated with where it was brewed, fermented, distllled and aged. Try some from different Islands, like Islay, and places on the coast like Campbelltown.

                        However, the saltier whiskys do tend to be peatier or smokier.

                      2. re: Chinon00

                        Some say that coastal whiskies are salty or oceany. Try an Old Pulteney, which has some of these characteristics without any peat.

                  2. The environment when aging in the barrel has a whle lot to do with ocean/salt flavors. And remember the Michael Jackson called Highland Park one of the great whiskies of the world. I find smoke and heather in it when I have some. I currently have an Old Malt Cask bottling of 16yr old Highland Park that is just wonderful. Keep tasting and be anal about it. Write stuff down. And always remember to try Ardbeg in any form. Not really for the weak.