Highland Park 12 year old

12 years old, 40% ABV, European Oak ex-sherry casks, Orkney Islands, Scotland

In the far north of Scotland – off the tip of the mainland – you’ll find the Orkney Islands, home of the Highland Park distillery. Among their core range you’ll find the expression reviewed here, the Highland Park 12 year old.

Highland Park 12

The 12 year old is matured in European Oak ex-sherry casks and is bottled at its natural colour. The flask shape bottle you see in these pictures (and used for the rest of the Highland Park range) was first introduced around 2006.

Highland Park 12 tube

The canister has moved into the new age as well, with interesting use of typography on the back. It even has QR code printed down the bottom, which takes you to the Highland Park’s member’s club, The Inner Circle.

Did you know…

According to Highland Park, they first began distilling whisky in 1798 – that’s just 10 years after Australian was colonised by European settlers! However, like many distilleries at the time, it wasn’t all above board and they weren’t actually granted a licence to distill until some 28 years later in 1826.


From a freshly poured dram I got an immediate hit of sugary confectionary-like sweetness, closely followed by fragrant smoke. This has quite a rich, creamy sugary nose. Left to sit in the glass for a while, the sweetness seems to fade, highlighting more of the flinty, fragrant pipe-smoke notes.


I found this to have a pretty oily, creamy mouth coating texture – quite surprising from something bottled at 40% ABV! The sweetness from the nose carries through, followed by some sweet smoky tobacco notes. A chewy palate shows some oaky spice on the sides of your tongue towards the end.


Sweet and creamy with a fairly short finish (warmth wise). The smoke lingers on the back of your palate and becomes a bit earthier and peatier as the minutes roll on.


If you search for list of the top ten single malts anyone new to whisky should try, there’s a good chance you’ll see Highland Park 12 mentioned – and for good reason. The quality sherry casks really seem to impart a honeyed sweetness that works well with the gentle peat smoke, creating a nicely balanced dram (albeit a tad on the sweet side for my liking).

If you’re not overly keen on the boisterous peat of a big Islay whisky (like an Ardbeg or Laphroaig) but you’re still intrigued by smokey whisky – I highly recommend giving the Highland Park 12 a try.

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