In the first release of a one-two punch that will highlight the distinct seasons on the Orkney Islands, Highland Park released The Dark, a 17-year-old single malt Scotch whisky that will be followed in the spring by —you guessed it — The Light.
The Dark, which represents autumn and winter on the Orkney Islands, was exclusively matured in first-fill European oak sherry-seasoned casks. While it hasn’t been announced yet, we can assume The Light will have been aged in something that will act as a stark contrast to The Dark.
The packaging of The Dark is just as important to the folks at Highland Park as the whisky itself. The bottle is black bespoke glass embossed with a dragon on the front. There are various Viking runes inscribed on the bottle and on the wooden cradle that the bottle comes in. The cradle, too, is inscribed with two circles (on the top and bottom) which represent both the high sun of the summer solstice and the low sun of the winter solstice.
Appearance: Highland Park The Dark takes its name seriously and is a deep, potato skin brown.
Nose: On the first smell, it is like hovering above a dried fruit and nut plate around the holidays, if the plate itself was made of a slab of oak. These dry notes are underpinned by the peat smoke, as if there was a small fire lit under the aforementioned tray of goodies.
Palate: Moderate to heavy fruitcake and cinnamon flavors up front lead into a cedar wood and fairly light peat smoke middle. On the end of the palate you’ll get some notes of almond and more cooked fruit flavors. The whisky sit fairly heavily on the palate, a perfect thing since the release was intended to represent the colder months.
Finish: A long, slow finish with more wood notes — both dry oak and cedar, with little tastes of dried fruit throughout.
Final Thoughts: While there is a slight heat on the tip of the tongue, the 17 years in barrels helps this not feel like a Scotch whisky that is above 50 percent ABV (52.9 percent, to be exact). It is a Scotch that certainly lives up to its intended goal of representing the cold side of the calendar. It will be interesting to see how The Light stacks up against The Dark when it’s released and, more importantly, how they drink side-by-side. (For science, we will be doing just that upon release.)
Highland Park The Dark retails for around $300.
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