[Highland Park recently redesigned their whole line, but since we received this sample long before that occurred, we’ll just call this one a nod to the classic bottle style now that it’s gone.]
On the nose, the first thing that comes to my mind is the word “golden.” With a particularly rich flavor profile, it’s easy to chalk that term up to a long steeping in capitalism with the lid left on. But “golden” is also the color of the hue of the winter sun and the glowing aura of a tree turning colors on a bright autumn afternoon. All of these apply to the nose here, but so do others: the crispy edges of a pancake and the deep caramel of the syrup spreading over it like a wave of happiness. It’s also “golden” in the sense of shiny and polished, like a candy shell on marzipan toy soldiers, each of whom refuses to break rank. In short, “golden” as a descriptor here warrants some serious unpacking before it can do any helpful work here.
The mouth, by contrast, dances smoothly and lightly, with more smoke than we expected. But again, many of those words fail here: “Smoke” here means peat smoke more than the vegetal smell of the peat itself. For “dances,” imagine ballet slippers worn over the ears of a wolf: balanced and smooth dancing that means, but something wild here as well, and wild enough to evoke the worst case scenario of how those slippers got to their current position. There’s also a mushroom burp here. And by “mushroom,” I mean criminis, so that this second taste is less regurgitation and more recrimination.
Finally, the finish is spicy and gorgeous. Again, what does that really mean? Here, “spicy” means as tingly and deeply penetrating as you ever wanted a massage to be. Simultaneously, that term evokes the forbidden love of a cinnamon tree and a maple: sultry, sweet, but nonetheless shocking in its taboo. It’s also explosive as “spicy” can sometimes connote: here, it blooms with an algae-like insistence when detergent and fertilizer are poured into a stream. “Gorgeous” is even more amorphous and in need of definition. Here, it encapsulates to types of smoke show: on the one hand, entertainment put on by Gandalf, Merlin, and Professor McGonagall, and Susan Sarandon on the other. I could go on, but at some point, words fail. But this dram never does. This is the whisky that you pour for those who wonder what rich people drink.
On the scale of well-defined terms–
The Highland Park 18 is the math term “well-defined”—“An expression is called ‘well-defined’ (or ‘unambiguous’) if its definition assigns it a unique interpretation or value.” I have done my best here to provide a review that is well-defined in this sense. But don’t take my word for it: check for yourself, and you’ll see my calculations are right on point.
–Our thanks to Sammy Karachi and Highland Park for the sample!