It’s nice to return a bottle to its homeland to polish it off, though still hundreds of miles from Orkney as i’m in Annan to visit to the newly reopened Annandale distillery. Back to the HP. A highly respected distillery and core expression, though still bottled at 40% and still with no indications that it’s unchill-filtered or without colourant – though it doesn’t look too duped. At a time when most distilleries are upping the abv to 46% especially for their age-statement range, Highland Park is doing the opposite. The 12yo used to be bottled at 43% around +/-1998 and +/-2003.
N: Boy was this bad when I first opened it. It went straight next to the Laphroaig Select in the reject pile. However as the months past, it develops nicely on leathery raisins, curiously sweet herbal notes with a [Clynelish-ish] pong, dry fungal-fence panel oak, coconut<<vanilla=honey>lime sponge, peaty<tutti-fruity, a dessert leafiness,… and yet after all these months there’s still an off-putting & underlying surgical spirit note. Yet those complex notes keep reaffirming themselves, so yeah – I’m in two minds.
T: Frankly rejectable. Adding water initially only adds to a surging aniseed heat, albeit with less but still significant prickliness. After a few months on the ‘naughty shelf’, it has genuinely softened with only a mini kick and a diminished heat build [maybe this explains the 40% bottling strength?]. This softening encourages a touch of the sherry character to the fore with [desirable] sulphurous touches. Develops a definable waxed mouthfeel and a little peat smoke with notes of waxy/plastic-y=leathery>raisin=prune>fig. On reflection, it’s overall sweet-to-sour but still with a tiring aniseed burn.
F: Plastic-y=waxy with a little more spirity/sour>sweet, heather/smokey>witch hazel finish alongside waxy Caramac and a dirty cocoa-coconut oiliness. Really interesting stuff at the end.
C: After my initial rejection things improved enormously, but after months and months im still in two minds. Two things have happened to the HP12 in my view. There’s a more prominent use of younger bourbon casks [less refills], over a considerably far smaller proportion of [refill] sherry. It also appears more clean & clinical, meaning the more interesting heathery/sulphury/peat-smoke elements have been somewhat sterilised. Scores swung from 80 to going on 87.Scores a C+