Highland Park Spirit of the Bear Review

“Teddy Bear”

Whisky Review # 834

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands - Islands - Orkney
Brand: Highland Park Spirit of the Bear
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Mix of Bourbon Casks and Sherry Seasoned American Oak Casks
Chill Filtration: Yes
Price Range: US$ 45-60 (September 2019)
Price/Quality Ratio: Okay if you can find it at around US$ 45
Buying Advice: 😔It's not bad but better stick with the HP 10 or 12 Years


Golden Straw (Natural Colour)


Young, Light, Thin, slightly Musty, Mineral and Sweet but not in an unpleasant way. Smoke and Peat (Dry Earth) are quite present and so is the Alcohol. There is some Sherry Wood influence but the 40% waters that down considerably.

Main Aromas:

Toasted Barley, slightly Burnt Buttered Toast, Heather-Honey, Vanilla, Apple-Filled Puff Pastry, Smoke, Earthy Peat, Mixed Dried Fruit like Raisins and Prunes, Orange Peel, Cinnamon and Ginger.

Supportive Aroma Accents:

Salted Caramel, Nuts and Nutshells, Wax, Lemon, Pear, Coconut, Gooseberry, Wet Stones, Iron, Caffe Latte, Wood Pellets, Nutmeg, Pepper, Banana-Flavoured Yogurt, Menthol and Leather.


Young, Thin, Watery, Bitter-Sweet and Medium Dry. It doesn't taste bad but it's so Watered Down it looses all energy. The Alcohol is not really integrated.

Main Flavours:

Toasted Barley, slightly Burnt Toast, Vanilla, Smoke, Earthy Peat, Ashes, Grass and Straw, Nuts & Nutshells, Orange Peel, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Pepper, Ginger and Herbal Tea.

Supportive Flavour Accents:

Salted Caramel, Heather-Honey, Iron, Wet Stones, Lemon, Tart Apple Juice,  Bacon, Caffe Latte, Cocoa Powder and Tobacco.


Short/Middle Long and Bitter-Sweet. This is the most forgettable part without any doubt. Really Thin. I find Toasted Malt, slightly Burnt Toast, Smoke, Earthy Peat, Ashes, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, Brown Sugar, Grass and Straw, Seville Orange, Nuts and Nutshells, Lemon, Herbal Tea, Licorice, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Tobacco, Cocoa Powder and Toasted Oak.

Drinking Advice:

This Bear does not need added Water. It's Thin enough as it is.

Rating: 80.5

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 20 - Finish: 19 - Overall: 20

Drinking Experience Neat: Okay/Good


The distillery was founded in 1798 by David Robertson. It is located in the small town of Kirkwall on the isle of Orkney.  Orkney is still quite strongly influenced by its Viking past and the distillery has increasingly used this past as a rather successful marketing tool. Highland Park currently produces around 2.3 million litres of Alcohol and is owned since 1997 by the Edrington Group. The core range consists of the 10 years (Viking Scars), the 12 years (Viking Honour), the 18 years (Viking Pride), the 25, 30 and 40 years.

The Story behind this Single Malt is the following: Many Viking warriors believed they could channel the Spirit of the Great Forrest Bear by assuming its form wrapping themselves in Bear skins. Bears were admired for being resilient and self sufficient with a highly developed instinct for survival.

The Spirit of the Bear was released in 2018 as a part of the revived Travel Retail range. I'm not gonna start raving again about Highland Park's Viking obsession as my opinion on the subject is well-known. But I can't help noticing that this Spirit of the Bear is another one of this endless stream of Highland Park malts that are not better and usually more expensive than the core range. It's not a bad Single malt but it smells and tastes so utterly watered down that you will loose interest quite quickly. I don't see much similarities with Great Forrest Bears either. This is a Teddy Bear at best!


Jan van den Ende                                                            September 26, 2019

All pictures were taken during our visit in May 2019

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