Having recently been lucky enough to receive samples of Highland Park’s limited release combo of The Light and The Dark, we thought it would be a good idea to pit them against one another, in a compare and contrast set of notes. Following our recent series of posts, we have sought to make this a Triple Tipple write-up too by using the Highland Park 12 Years Old release as the control sample in this experiment – now also referred to as their Viking Honour expression.
For individual tasting notes on the whiskies, please click on the links below:
Last year, we also posted about the rebranded 12yo release here and for the sake of completeness, I’ve included my quickfire tasting notes on the HP12 below.
Well, the colour of the whiskies is not the only thing dictating the names of them here! The Light is so fresh and bursting with yellow summery fruits, whereas The Dark has a richer and fuller orange profile. It is a case of light sugars vs dark sugars. Right smack in the middle of them is the HP12, but with that signature smoke smouldering at the back of the fruit basket.
The running theme here is juicy fruit. Who’d have thought that this tropical fruit bowl of flavours would have come from the Orkney Islands? The Light has lots of light, summery flavours like a zesty fruit salad, whereas The Dark is all about the marmalade flavours and wintry spices. There’s also a delicate malty base to it all. When all the flavours have faded out, the original malted grains and the barrel are just noticeable – like the main ingredients are leaving a calling card behind. The HP12 has a bit more of a salty taste and lets the smoke do more of the talking than The Dark does, whilst The Light does not appear to have any smoky influence at all.
Neither The Light nor The Dark really display the smoky finish that I’ve grown to love from the HP12, but the lasting signature notes in all of them are the barrel and malt. And oranges. I think I’ve mentioned that quite enough now. It makes sense, but the darker the liquid, the longer the flavours seem to last, with the cane sugar sweetness of The Light disappearing quicker than the lightly smoked fruitcake flavours of The Dark, whilst the 12yo’s smoke flavour last the longest.
Despite the fact that I need to look passed the (rather heavy) marketing, the whisky flavours do actually seem to match the seasons well with The Light tasting more of Spring and Summer based influences (think fresh fruits), whereas The Dark demonstrates the Autumn journey to colder and darker times, but with those fruity elements at play, maybe not fully Winter (think stewed fruits). Proving a reliable stalwart however, the HP12 is definitely an all year round affair. It is tough to pick a favourite or preference, as they each carry distinct enough flavours, whilst still carrying a good distillery character. Both The Light and The Dark do work together as a whisky yin and yang, and clearly display the results of a classic bourbon vs sherry head-to-head. On the night however, I preferred The Light to The Dark with the HP12 sitting in the middle… but then again, on a July evening, wouldn’t that always be the case?
Sample disclosure: Both samples of The Light and The Dark were received directly from Highland Park distillery as part of a promotional release. This article (and the individual tasting notes) have been written as an honest review and not as part of a marketing or promotional exercise or in return for anything from Highland Park. The Highland Park 12 Years Old used as the control dram in this tasting experiment was sourced from my own cabinet. You can’t be more transparent than that!
Highland Park 12 (Viking Honour) 40% ABV
Nose: Chocolate, fudge and malt and a little smoky backbone
Taste: Orange peel, salted caramel, maple syrup pancakes with bacon – actual smoke (rather than just being peat)
Finish: Soft body, little tingle, fudge and little smoke at the end. Great balance
Verdict: At the price point this can easily become a constant companion and it ticks so many boxes, without compromising on any of the boxes. A great balance. See our previous write up on the re-release of 12yo here.