To say that Highland Park has been prolific over the last 12 months is rather the understatement. A veritable glut of new bottlings, from single casks, limited editions, travel exclusives and core range rebrands have been released with something to satisfy even the most hardened of HP enthusiast. In that regard, Highland Park Dragon Legend is rather the oddity as it seems to have sneaked out of Orkney with scarcely a whisper.
Information on Dragon Legend is presently a little scant, though it appears to be an exclusive release for UK supermarket Tesco. I do wonder if Tesco have jumped the gun a bit here as whilst bottles are appearing on the shelves, and it is listed (somewhat haphazardly in term of its copyediting) on their website I’ve seen no other official information to date. I presume this will be coming via the HP Inner Circle shortly and a stock controller somewhere is going to get his/her knuckles rapped. Addition: Now announced as a Tesco UK exclusive (in selected branches from September 2017), with plans to release in Northern Europe in early 2018.
Dragons are pretty much in vogue currently – especially blue-eyed zombie dragons. But, with HP Dragon Legend we’re firmly in Viking myth rather than the Seven Kingdoms. The bottling is described as a ‘distinctive and unconventional expression of Highland Park’ inspired by tales of the Viking Warrior Sigurd who bested the evil dragon Fafnir, and receiving the gifts of wisdom and prophecy by licking the dragon’s blood from his thumb. The story is taken from the Norse Völsunga saga, which, if you’re interested, you can read more about here: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Fafnir.
Back to the bottling. Presented in black glass, Dragon Legend is bottled at 43.1% ABV and labelled as ‘The richer, smokier side of Highland Park’ with a description on the box that highlights both Hobbister Moor peat and a long maturation in sherry seasoned oak casks. The number of bottles available is presently unknown.
Nose: The sweet meets the peat as was promised. Honey, golden syrup, salted caramel and an assortment of dried fruits provide a warm sugary introduction. This is followed by the traditional aromatic, floral HP peat, which is indeed upped a notch for this release. It’s quite ashy and is supported by some damp earthy hay-like malts which provide depth. Light citrus, apple peels and a healthy dose of oranges make for rather the fruit orchard. Both smoke and sweetness are enhanced after a short period of resting. The addition of water is interesting – immediate orange barley water with a hint of ginger!
Taste: A tingly sugary arrival which subsides quickly in to nice viscosity. Excellent translation from the nose – the rich prominent fruits, distinctive heathery smoke and damp hay malts form a well-balanced medley of sweet meeting peat. The fruits are enriched here, turning to marmalades and preserves and are accompanied by some nutty flavours and light cask spicing. Less benefit for adding water here – which dulled some of the liveliness of the top-end flavours.
Finish: Medium in length with a good balance between sweetness and oak bitterness. Slight astringency.
Whilst the colour of Dragon Legend is similar to the 12 year old, and both possess the trademark HP heathery peat, the comparison for the most part stops that. This is rather the different beast. Dragon Legend pronounces both the sweeter and smokier aspects of the HP DNA – in many ways you could see it as a step in the direction of Valkyrie (released earlier in 2017) – and I find it largely successful in that regard. There’s certainly enough complexity and distillery character to be able to recommend this whisky at its £40 price tag.