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Tasting The Highland Park Warrior series

14 November 2013 3,823 views Written by: Gal Granov

highland_park_0913_600_1Highland park is one of my top three scotch distilleries and this is no secret, I’ve tasted most of their OB starting from the 10 CS, Hjarta, 12,15,17,18,21,25,30,end even tasted  the wonderful 40 yo (when the blog was celebrating 500 posts!). You can understand how keen I was to be able to taste the new Travel Retail line of expressions online, and was delighted to know I was going to take part in this EPIC tasting of all 6 Warriors in this series, with the help of Steve (The whisky wire, who is well-known for organizing those tastings) and Daryl Haldane Global Brand Advocate for Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

So here we were 2100 Israeli time, all ready for the tasting, led by Steve with Daryl also being very active, responding to questions and engaging in conversation with some of the online tasters.  If you’ve been around you will know that HP are taking the entire Viking lore etc. very seriously, especially in naming their recent non standard core line expression (Earl Magnus, Leif Eriksson, and now those fearless warriors).

Basically the HP Warrior Series is a range of six single malt whiskies that were created to show the very best of Highland Park. Offering a spectrum of flavors but all adhering to  Highland Park’s gently smoky but surprisingly sweet character.Available only as Travel retail (duty-free) and as NAS (no age statement) they range from the affordable Svein to the very very expensive high-end Ragnvald and Thorfinn (1000 EUR mark).

Highland Park Svein: 40% ABV , RRP €40.00Highland-Park-Svein-117x300

Svein has been created to mirror the hospitable and generous nature of many of the Viking leaders, including its namesake. Svein is Produced using a high percentage of American oak but also European oak casks. 30% of which are  first fill casks.

Nose: Lovely nose sweet, and heathery with hints of smoke, but dominated by the sweeter notes. quite shy at first, and takes time to open. Some orange peel is detected when the nose ‘opens’, and so are the faintest notes of pineapple.

Palate: More bitter than expected by the nose, with Grapefruit pith, lots of barley, dark chocolate of the bitter kind, a bit of peat, as well as sweetness on the 2nd wave. a wee hint of apples too.

Finish: Dark chocolate, rum, oak and cereal box.

summary: A nice whisky, not amazing or very complex, but does share some of HP’s DNA. A a good session whisky without attempting to be something more.

Score: 83/100

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Highland Park Einar: 40% ABV, RRP €53.00Highland-Park-Einar-120x300

Einar was crafted as a tribute to one of the most feared and ruthless Vikings of his time. Apparently this Einar was a hard and successful Viking, often venturing on treacherous long voyages. This is a vatting of both American & European oak casks.
Nose: A lot more citrus and peat smoke. pickled lemons? quite a lot of wood and sherry with some Ultra sour apples ,even a hint of  calvados and raisins.

Palate: Bigger and ‘wider’, and a better mouth feel to it,  sherry, ripe apple, sugar, sweet wood, quite a bit of wood smoke , lovely feel to it. I like that.

Finish: Smoke, sultana, apples.

summary:This is indeed a notch better than the Svein. bigger and rounder and more intense, with only a small price hike.

Score: 84/100

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Highland Park Harald: 40% ABV , RRP €75.00Highland-Park-Harald-120x300

This expression is produced using both American & European oak casks. 50:50 first fill and refill, almost 50:50 European and American oak sherries.

Celebrated through this release, King Harald was famed for his army, which was revered across the world at that time.

Nose: Sour balsamic vinegar with bits of ginger, then some peat, oak, quite restrained, quite a few lemony notes too…  With a bit of time in the glass we get a lot of apples and spice , sort of an apple pie on steroids and then smoke.

Palate: Spicy mama! : spiced wood,  wood varnish, ginger, sultana. it’s very very good and powerful.

Finish : Charred wood, sultana, dark chocolate praline, smoke and quite a bit of spiciness.

summary:A spicier, fragrant version with a good mouth feel and more in the HP style.

Score: 84/10

Highland Park Sigurd: 43% ABV , RRP €150.00HP-Sigurd-275x300

This marks the starts of the “premium” warriors in the series, the ABV is a wee bit higher (at 43 which is not a lot, I know, but better than 40%) and also there is more European oak in those to allow for richer sherry profiles. As for Sigurd after which this dram is named : Sigurd is considered amongst the strongest & most courageous warriors and ultimately one of the most feared Viking Earls.

Nose: Lovely ripe fruit salad going on here. Sultana and plum shine in addition to vanilla and pudding like aromas.

Palate: Sweeter and  thicker indeed , not without ample spice  ,enough  smoke , damp wood, heather, sweet nectar, Kirsch and  apple toffee.This is more like it!!

Finish : Sweet, thick and rewarding.

summary:I like this one a lot. It’s a step up, and you can feel the extra Spanish sherry casks kick in and give it that trademark HP sweetness, but with the right amount of smoke and wood to balance it all. Lovely, but not cheap.

Score: 89/100

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Highland Park Ragnvald: 44.6% ABV , RRP €400.00HP_Ragnvald-229x300

We’ve arrived at the point where the whisky starts to shine, but the prices begin to get much more expensive, and out of reach for most whisky fans,at least for me.

Ragnvald was most at home aboard his longship undertaking his many great expeditions throughout the Middle East & Asia.

Nose: Now my friends, this is a BIG whisky. It has an amazing nose, really so. We’re no longer in “good” whisky territory, we’re in the bloody amazing league here: Old wood, yep this one has seen a lot of cask, yes sir. Wood varnish with tasty Parma ham. Tobacco smoke, it’s a bit coastal too, as fitting someone who spent most of his life on a long ship. You can smell that long ship the sweat, the wood, the smoked meat. it’s manly and classy, and superb.

Palate: Whoosh! : sweet nectar of the goods. dried fruit, smoke, Parma ham, wood, sherry, oh my god. this is intense. plum jam, tobacco, candied ginger, old bookshelves. kirsch. You name it,it’s here and in full force.Damn this is tasty stuff. It’s excellent.

Finish : Sugar, kirsch, plum juice, wood varnish, dried fruit salad. rum.

summary:I could sniff this all day and then drink it all night. It’s an amazing dram my friends. High in the 90’s. I am in tears of joy here. Superb stuff. Do I like it? OH YEAH. Can i Pay for it? No. sadly it’s priced beyond my reach.

Score: 94/100

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Highland Park Thorfinn: 45.1% ABV , RRP €1000.00HP_Thorfinn-257x300

Thorfinn was a man of much power and influence, who at one stage controlled the whole of the Orkney Islands. The Orkneyinga Saga described him as a great chief, the tallest and strongest of men whose remains are buried in St Magnus Cathedral on Orkney. This expression contains about 60% first fill sherry casks.

Nose: Oh my :This is an interesting nose with a lot of mint. Some  Cinnamon gum, and maybe a hint of pine. You also get a lot, and i mean A LOT of old wood , cough syrup. old wooden shelves, tables and furniture. Deep deep stuff. One can sniff this a long time. Most of it is quite old indeed.

Palate: Mega thick. with lots of dried fruit goodness, tons of spice, ginger, pepper, old wood, coffee, tobacco, you name it it’s here dense, dark, and deep.

Finish: Tobacco, PX sherry, plum jam and rum.

summary: Priced at a whopping 1000 Euro, this is a very expensive whisky, although it’s of the highest quality, I would not think of paying that amount for this whisky. At more than two times as much as Ragnvald , It is a bit too much for me. If you have very deep pockets and you’re a HP collector , then you might consider this. I was privileged to have tried it though, quite an experience indeed.

Score: 93/100

throughout the tasting Daryl sent out images which make it easier to see the percentage of EU/American sherry casks per dram. very nice, here’s a summary image of them all.

HPTravelRetailRange-300x276

So, what have we here? 6 very interesting drams. Out of the first 3 I’d go with either Harald or Einar, those are whiskies one can afford, and are of high quality. Not sure if people mind them being NAS and not bearing an age statement, but at this price point of up to 75 EUR it does not really matter, as far as I am concerned. However, when we climb up and reach the more interesting whiskies such as the Sigurd and Ragnvald, them being a NAS might be a problem for some who find it hard shelling out 400 EUR for a whisky no matter how old, and especially for a NAS. Having said that, I was really blown away by the quality of those 3, especially Ragnvald. It is a marvelous dram, nothing short of that, Too pricey for me and most,I wish it were priced at half that amount, then it would have shot right into my top 3 of “to get” when flying.

Many thanks to Daryl and Steve for a splendid evening, with 6 really inspiring drams and a grand finale! Well done. It was a pleasure. Those warriors were a good bunch.

Slainte!

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  • Peter Benkoczki

    Is Svein better than the standard 12 yo? It’s not cheaper, thats sure.

    • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

      in short. NO.

      • Peter Benkoczki

        Thanks, i suspected this – it’s a pity, i would like to try it, but why to pay more for less? Ehh….

        • http://www.whiskyisrael.co.il Gal(WhiskyIsrael)

          Ragnvald. say no more