Finally, the wolf has been snared and brought in from the cold. Recently on MALT we reviewed the new Highland Park animal collection. Exclusively on parade in the realm of travel retail, neither blew us away its fair to say in all honesty. And that is what matters at the end of the day. We’re honest and transparent here. Others are attached to brands and seeking freebies and paid trips to Scotland might not retain that air of honesty.
The Spirit of the Bear and the Wings of an Eagle were disappointing. Actually, can I just say right about now I feel like I’m presenting some wildlife programme rather than sitting down to review a whisky. The keen-eyed will remember a particular animal eluded our previous review for one reason or another. The Wolf, or the Loyalty of the Wolf – here we go again Nature Watch viewers – is a 14 year old that sits right in the middle of the new range.
Apparently, the inspiration for this animal series are the creatures that once held iconic status for the Vikings. The fact that there aren’t any bears or wolves in the UK is beside the point. There’s not even a fox on Orkney if you want to be candid so the actual theme for this collection feels a little muted and lost in translation. The last wolves in Scotland were killed sometime in the 1700’s in the Sutherland area according to a BBC article. This makes sense as the northern Highlands are far more rugged and sustainable for a wolf than the fairly windswept landscape of Orkney. There, we’ve all learned something and nothing to do with Vikings either! Moving on viewers, we have the latest weather report and then the latest sheep prices from Inverness.
Can you imagine the outrage from enthusiasts if Springbank decided to join the brand parade and come out with a series centred around a pointless concept? It’d be legendary and far more marauding than any Viking invasion. The point being that these concepts and ranges are not born of a wonderful idea or anchor point. Rather a gap in the market or price point that can be quickly filled, an excessive maturing inventory that can be quickly parcelled up and sent off to the slaughterhouse, or even a disappointing selection of casks that won’t be welcome ingredients in the core expressions.
The fact that Highland Park sought me out after leaving some disappointing comments on various posts over on Instagram is a positive in being proactive. Unfortunately, nowadays it means I am more than well versed in their current range and the whiskies fall into 2 distinct camps so far. Those that are youthful and not ready, playoff against the reasonable whiskies that are sadly overpriced. As of yet, there hasn’t been a showstopper or a whisky that actually screamed this is what Highland Park is all about. A bitter comment to type let me tell you as I know what this distillery is capable of and the independent bottlings in the single cask format retain that edge and detail. Sadly the core range is somewhat lost on the high seas in a poor rowing boat seeking a nirvana that ultimately is just a legend. Still, sales are up and the influencers easily swayed. I’m leaning over the side of the longship throwing up.
The Wolf is made up of sherry seasoned American oak casks and ex-bourbon casks before being bottled at a lowly 42.3% strength. Oddly I’ve already seen some bottles appear at auction for the completists. These will now be filtering into the airports in an unstoppable fashion so there isn’t a need to tap into the secondary market as any profits on paper seem fairly limited. A quick search of the whisky airport retailers reveals that a bottle of the Wolf will set you back £57 for a litre sized bottle. Not too bad on paper – or screen – for a 14 year old Highland Park in its natural colour.
Highland Park Loyalty of the Wolf – review
Colour: white gold
On the nose: a strong sense of smoked butter followed by almonds, apples and a vanilla sponge. Given more time in the glass, the smokes really shines through with aplomb. Alongside is cinnamon, tinned apricot, a gentle orange peel and a touch of salt on the finish. Water reveals caramel and maple syrup but ultimately isn’t a huge step forward.
In the mouth: now it feels unbalanced and the smoke is a more disruptive influence. Breaking through the smoke we have apples, white chocolate, vanilla and salted peanuts. Adding water should be avoided. It becomes an unpleasant smoky runny liquid with no definition or detail. Potentially 42.3% was as low as they could take this before the longship broke up on the rocks.
Time is a healer on the nose front. Opening this for our Patreon subscribers for a first impression, I wasn’t hugely impressed. Now, there’s more life and vitality. Still, nothing tremendous for a whisky, but a solid set of aromas are on display. The palate is where things take a tumble, especially considering this is 14 years old and a reasonable age. The smoke seems an attempt to hide flaws overall and the lack of detail; it just doesn’t feel or taste right.
A shame really, as it started off on a solid foundation yet shortly afterwards this Wolf soon lost its way and the reaper came calling. Next week we’ll be covering the Highland Park hedgehog, field mouse and squirrel releases. Their homage to the wildlife of the fields where the Vikings once walked.