In the Spring of 2018, the Highland Park distillery has released “The Light” – a counterpart to its 2017 Autumn-Winter release, “The Dark”. Given that you can’t have one without the other, this expression seeks to contrast its sibling release and focusses on the fresher, more vibrant flavours associated with Spring and Summer. The Light’s release has been limited to a total of 28,000 bottles and comes with a £170+ price tag for a full sized bottle. Whereas Highland Park are traditionally more associated with their sherry cask led maturations, this 17 year old whisky has been matured in refill American bourbon oak casks, and so carries a “Light” colour. The packaging of the main release offers a sleek, embossed clear-green bottle that carries the usual Norse/Viking imagery that we are fast becoming associated with all of the Highland Park releases of late, as the Orcadians’ delve into their ancestry and history to give additional gravitas to their already-revered whiskies. Just like The Dark, this whisky has also been bottled at a hearty 52.9% ABV.
Quite a tingle, right up the nose, on the first sniff (that high percentage clearly delivering the first blow) but once you get passed that, there is a good citrus fragrance to it. Lots of summery fruits in fact. Its making me thing of mangoes, pineapples and oranges. There’s a little grassy/hay-like smell in there too. Nice little whack of malt too.
A whacking great thwack of oranges hit you with that big 52.9% booze in a pleasing 1-2-1 combo. After the impact, there are some lovely sherbet-y sweet and malty tones at play. The summery fruits continue too with a nice papaya and pineapple sweetness and juiciness.
That’s quite the little firecracker. And that cracker has been cracking peppercorns too. The creamy texture of the liquid coats the throat and is surprisingly silky for something that’s over 50% alcohol.
This is a very pleasing whisky. Whilst I want to try and ignore the marketing behind the release, I cannot deny that it does indeed have a real summer feel to it. It is light (as the name would suggest) and fresh, and that’s despite 17 years in a barrel. On that note, it is nice to see a new release with an age statement too, but also, that the age of the whisky is not the dominating feature of the whisky, but rather a footnote, albeit assuring the consumer that there’s a fair amount of investment gone into it in terms of time, patience and care. Back to the tasting notes though, and once the whisky was gone there was good bourbon barrel nose left in the glass, but that was in spite of the fact that none of that woody flavour seemed to be present when drinking it – or at least it was not detectable with all of those other big juicy flavours happening. And, for me, that is what this whisky was all about. Those big fruity flavours. I find it surprising sometimes when drinking a whisky like this to think that it has never once come into contact with any fruits at all during its lifetime, and yet it seems to taste of so many of them! It is a shame that, at £170+ a bottle, few people will get to taste this, but with such a limited production and with (at least) 17 years in a barrel, you can see that Highland Park have pegged it about right for the (cash-ready) whisky enthusiast. I mean, if I try and rationalise it, that’s just £10 per year, right? That’s ok isn’t it? Well, maybe not for me. But for someone with more cash, or a very special occasion looming in their near future, sure. The thing is… for the completist types… of which there are many within the whisky world, myself included… Highland Park have very sneakily/cleverly/opportunistically released it alongside The Dark. And you can’t have one without the other, can you…?
Sample disclosure: The sample used to produce these notes was received directly from the distillery via the mail. I am grateful for the opportunity, but have not let that try to lead my thoughts and notes.