Highland Park Dark Origins Review

“Smuggler’s Blues

Country: Scotland
Region: Islands
Brand: Highland Park Dark Origins
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS 
ABV: 46.8%
Chill-Filtration: No 
Buying Advice: Negative. The 12 - and 15 Years are better choices.
Whisky Review # 570

Colour: Dark Amber/Copper (Natural Colour)  

Nose: Young and a little Edgy. The Alcohol is quite noticeable. Unfortunately some Sulphur and Varnish notes slip in as well. I find Sweet Barley, Toast with good quality Margarine, Caramel, Toffee, light Vanilla, Straw, Dried Fruit like Raisins and Figs, Dough, Cassis, Salted Nuts, Toasted Oak, Tomatoes sprinkled with Balsamic Vinegar, light Heather-Honey, Apple, Citrus Peel, Tobacco, Milk, Cocoa Powder, Winter Spices, Light Licorice and traces of Aniseed. In the background I notice some Earthy Peat and light Smoke. Despite the relative large number of Aromas, the Dark origins is not a well-balanced Single Malt. It is most certainly too young for that. On the Nose, the Dark Origins feels like a younger, less balanced and more aggressive little brother of the 12 years.

Taste: Young, Edgy and quite Thin despite the high ABV. The Alcohol is very present and the Sulphur/Varnish note is there as well. I find Toasted Cereals, Toffee, Caramel, Treacle, Dried Prunes, Nut Shells, Artificially Flavoured Cough Syrup (Cherry), Bitter Orange Juice, Bitter Tea, Menthol, Licorice, Winter Spices, Pepper, Cocoa Powder, Earthy Peat, light Dirty Smoke, light Oak and Balsamic Vinegar.    

Finish: Middle-Long, slightly Harsh, Bitter-Sweet and Herbal. Almost too Dry in the end. The Sulphur note is still there I'm afraid. I find Toasted Cereals, Toffee, Caramel, Orange Peel, Cocoa Powder, light Earthy Peat, light Dirty Smoke, Nut Shells, Dried Herbs, Peppered Vodka, Licorice, Aniseed, Toasted Oak and Bitter Tea. A bit of Rubber as well after a while.

I added a few drops of Water and on the Nose the Dark Origins becomes Thin but also less aggressive. Light notes of Butterscotch and Milk Chocolate are now perceptible. The Palate and Finish become too Thin for my taste but the Earthy Peat comes more to the front. You can carefully experiment with a few drops. 

Rating: 81 

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 20 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5

General Remarks: Dark Origins was released in 2014 and is the most recent addition to the core range. It is inspired by the courageous personality of the "founder" of Highland Park, Magnus Euson. He was a well-known smuggler in his days who mostly operated in the darkness of night. It matures in a combination of 80% First Fill Ex-Sherry Casks of which 60% is European Oak and 20% Refill Ex-Sherry casks. The average price is around 80 US Dollars (October 2016).

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay

Conclusion: Unfortunately, the Dark Origins is another example of what is wrong in today's whisky world in my opinion. A clever story, packaging and marketing are paired with young, immature Whisky with an awkward Price/Quality ratio. And a higher percentage of First Fill casks and a high ABV can't hide those facts.
If you like Highland Park, just stay with the seasoned 12 - and 15 Years, as long as they are around anyway. Highland Park, leave your Dark Origins behind and show us a Brighter Future!

Jan van den Ende                                                                 October 31, 2016

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