ABV: 40% Distillery: Highland Park Region: Islands
Highland Park is a familiar sight in most Travel Retail outlets. For the past few years, the distillery’s offering has come in the form of their Norse Warriors series – but now, following a wider (even more Viking – if that were even possible) brand re-fresh, there’s a new HP Duty Free collection. ‘The Beasts’ is a series of three bottlings ‘drawing inspiration from the animals that held great significance for our Viking ancestors’. They’re joined by a new limited edition marrying strength 18 year old.
Over the next four days, The Dramble will be reviewing each of the new Travel Retail expressions. Interestingly, if you take a look at the Highland Park website, it seems as if not all of the previous Warriors series has been phased out – Svein, Einar and Harald have been consigned to the ‘Legends’ section of the site, but the more expensive Sigurd, Ragnvald and Thorfinn bottles are still shown as current ‘Heroes’.
The entry point into the new Beasts range is Spirit of the Bear – an NAS bottled at 40% and available in both 1 litre and 35cl sizes. It’s described as having been aged in sherry-seasoned American oak casks and is available for £44 from UK duty free outlets.
Nose: Light and quite ex-bourbon in outlook – lots of vanilla, cream cakes, coconut shavings and buttered toast sitting alongside tart apples and pear drops. There’s a very youthful metallic aroma – copper and aluminium cans. Smoke is very gentle (strange for an expression described as bold), wispy and a touch floral. The addition of water allows some hints of sherry influence to come through – milk chocolate, chopped walnuts and honey.
Taste: Fairly sweet with golden syrup, vanilla and digestive biscuits. Copper and metal polish again – almost new malt spirit like – there’s some very young whisky in here. In the mid-palate, earthiness, hay, burnt straw and a touch of ginger spicing. Water improves things, adding some soft orchard fruits, barley water and chocolate cake.
Finish: Medium with sweet earthy smoke and just a hint of salinity.
The marketing blurb suggests that Spirit of the Bear is a bold Highland Park expression – not to my taste. Whilst inoffensive, it’s far too young and quite unremarkable as a result. It’s worth noting that despite its obvious youthfulness, this never slips into any rawness – it’s well-balanced and certainly drinkable. Whilst you do get a whole litre of this for £44 I still believe there are far better options for spending your money (Highland Park 12 for instance).
But don't take our word for it..
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