Monday, April 27, 2020

Whisky Review: Highland Park Magnus

Over the last decade Highland Park has gone from a relatively unassuming distillery within the Edrington group (even if I remember how much people griped when they switched over to the flat bottles) to a much more high profile brand, often for not so great reasons. While they used to have a rather basic lineup, they started to release an increasingly bizarre array of NAS whiskies with fanciful names and wild price points. They also went all-in on their 'Viking' heritage, from the one-offs named after various Scandinavian deities to the current lineup where most of their core releases seem to be some variant of "Viking X".

While most of their NAS releases were aimed at the higher end of the market, they have finally succumbed to inserting it at the bottom of their list as well. This is now their entry-level single malt below their 10 and 12 Year olds.

This whisky was aged in sherry seasoned casks (ex-bourbon casks refreshed with sherry), then bottled at 40% without coloring but with chill filtration.

I purchase this sample from Raised by Wolves in 2019.

Highland Park Magnus

Nose: pleasantly creamy malt, a touch of rounded sherry, mild peat smoke, green vegetation, heathery floral notes, a bit of ripe banana, light American oak, a little bit of new make spirit. After adding a few drops of water the malt becomes fresher and less creamy, the sherry retreats into the background, the peat gets stronger, and it generally loses whatever complexity it had before.

Taste: opens with creamy malt and sherry sweetness throughout, an undercurrent of new make spirit and pine with some berries around the middle, then a creamy fade out with a touch of oak. After dilution it becomes sweeter but less mature with more pronounced green malt notes, the sherry largely fades, but the peat shows up earlier at the back

Finish: very creamy malt, vanilla, sherry residue, a touch of heathery peat and pine, lingering chocolate

As I have commented a number of entry-level OBs, this is a whisky built to a price point. It is perfectly acceptable given the current state of the market, but there's nothing here that can't be found for a bit more from their age dated expressions. It reminds me of Bowmore Small Batch, which held a similar position in that distillery's lineup and also took the distillery profile and mellowed it down. While I wouldn't say no to this if offered, it's nothing that I would reach for again.

The best I can say is that it's inoffensive and the finish is mildly pleasant. I can see how this might hold appeal for more casual drinkers and could be a gateway for JW Black drinkers into single malts, there's pretty much nothing on offer for the whisky enthusiast. It's not a bad whisky, it's just not for me.

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