Apr 082018

Highland Park Fire

45.2% abv

Score:  80/100


One of two in this mini-series from Highland Park (I think this one came out second, actually.  We’re probably doing this backwards, but oh well).  The Fire Edition is a 15 year old malt finished in refill port wine-seasoned casks.  I have no clue what that actually means.  Same concept as sherry-seasoned barrels, I assume.  So…are these full pipes then, or maybe just hoggies?  No clue.  Anyway…

Nose:  Slightly muddled and barnyard-y.  Nutty.  A touch of rubber and some peat, of course.  Suede.  Faint coffee.  Damp hay.  Pepper and chili.  Cinnamon.  Faintly floral (dead, faint potpourri).  And an organic earthiness that isn’t entirely pleasant.

Palate:  Earthy and dirty.  Slightly cardboard too (almost cork taint-ish).  Orange.  Herbal and kinda leathery.  There’s a touch of smoke and an organic peatiness, but its all rather restrained.  A drying sensation at the back end (some tannins from the port, I imagine).

Thoughts:  Ultimately…not awesome and rather boring.  I expected bigger and bolder.  


Highland Park Ice

53.9% abv

Score:  81.5/100


And the other in the series.  Ice was a 17 year old HP composed from ‘rebuilt first fill bourbon’ casks.  Ummm…aren’t they all?  Or is they again just referring to inserting a few staves in the ‘bebuild’ and being able to call it a hogshead.  No matter.  More importantly, I suppose, these have been capped with virgin oak heads.  That should bring some spice and fat vanillins, no?

Nose:  Definitely noses as the fruitier of the two.  Quite some eucalyptus.  Peppered melons.  Floral notes (heathery).  With a touch a bubblegum.  Marzipan.  Cinnamon cookies.  Faint whiffs of peat and a soft smokiness.

Palate:  Vibrant – definitely moreso than Fire – but sharp and tangy.  Ginger.  Almost wine-y (ironic, considering Fire was the port-seasoned malt).  Lemon pepper.  More peat here.  Citrus.  An almond sweetness.

Thoughts:  Meh.  I do like it better of the two, but it’s still just okay.


Wrapping up:  Over-packaged.  Over-priced.  Over-promised.  Under-delivered.  Anyone else over Highland Park’s Viking obsession?  Once one of my unquestionable favorite distilleries has become a rather sad triumph of style over substance.  I’ll stick with the 12 year old.  It’s the only one in the range that offers any value (seeing as the 18 is now $220, the 21 about $350, the 25 running at almost $800 and the 30…fug.)


 – Image & words:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:24 am

  5 Responses to “Highland Park Fire & Ice Editions Review”

  1. While these whiskies weren’t, indeed couldn’t, be improved by simply having their age declared, it does raise the question why they weren’t better with 15 and 17 years behind them as time FOR greater improvement wasn’t the issue. Where aging is present, but improvement is not, it’s time to look to casking, cask definitions (or the lack thereof) and the wonders of wood management. If superior wood management techniques (at least compared to the Stone-Age ideas of the past) are taken as a given, then we’re left with the questions of what lumber’s (left) being managed, or “what happened?”, or “did someone think that this could be talked good?”

    Fire is $429.95 at the LCBO, $396 (ex-tax) internationally on Wine-Searcher, and Ice is the same price in Ontario and $416 on Wine-Searcher. Aggregate critic scoring on W-S gives them 88 apiece while a range of colourful opinion gives the former an average of 83.79 and the latter an average of 84.89 on WhiskyBase. Given what it’s producing, Highland Park might be trading on its reputation as much or more as Macallan or Ardbeg. Does any of it matter, in the smaller or larger sense? It remains to be seen.

    My concern isn’t that HP will “forget” how to make an 80-class whisky for less than $100 – it’s that they won’t have to if consumer thinking on the subject gets much sloppier, and all the “new but not improved” trending with Macallan, Glenlivet, Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin raises exactly the same sort of concern. These distilleries have traditionally set the bar against which other distilleries, their products and product values, are judged. If the thinking at large becomes “like Lore, our whisky isn’t really all that good, but we manage to sell it for less than $199.90”, things will go to shit rather quickly.


  2. Hi there,

    owner Edrington seems wildly determined to go the Macallan way with Highland Park as well.

    Small wonder that your reviews reminded me of something the malt activist wrote as conclusion under a Macallan review.


    Contrarily to his opinion I did not even find much promise in the two Highland Parks… nor in any others of late.
    A shame they pushed the 18yo so deep into premiumisation country that nobody wants to pay for it anymore. Which could rise the question what would justify the price points of the above mentioned malts. Quality of product seems unlikely but I digress…


    • Sadly, the overpriced 18 is nothing like it was 10 years ago. My most recent bottle is quite bland and lacking in any real complexity. Very easy to drink, it just doesn’t provide a particularly memorable drinking experience.

  3. Curious what your thoughts are on the HP Full Volume, Curt. Some of the fellas here in Montreal are big fans. I liked it and it’s pretty good value for age/ABV. Not the classic HP profile by any means, though.

  4. Hi there,


    says a lot.


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