Whisky Review 3. Highland Park 12-year-old Scotch

distilleryThe Highland Park Distillery was established in 1798 and is located in Kirkwall, the largest town and capital of the Orkney Islands, an archipelago consisting of almost 70 islands that are off the coast of northern mainland Scotland. 20 of the islands are inhabited. Kirkwall has a population of only 9,000. (See map at end of review.)

Highland Park Distillery in Kirkwall

My friend, Jason Albaum, at Acker-Merrall and Condit in NYC, America’s oldest wine shop, had visited Kirkwall with his wife and said it was a lovely place to visit.

Varietal: Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Colour: Golden Amber, no artificial colour added (I’d like to see a statement on the label.)

Viscosity: Medium body

Alcohol Content: 43% ABV or 86 Proof

Aged in Sherry Oak Casks from Spain

Distilled at Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands of Scotland


Smoke of burning pine, barbeque coals, light Orkney peat, red oak, green Juicy Fruits, rose petal perfume, lavender, and dandelion leaves


Great balance with a well round mouth-feel. There’s a light smoke of a fresh Cuban cigar, Manuka Honey, Heather, Grandma’s sweet molasses, cooked steel cut oats, sea salt, vanilla extract, bergamot, clove. On the upper front palate, there’s a hint of lemon. The drink rolls up over the soft palate and floats down the throat.


There’s the taste of red and black artisanal pepper on the tip of the tongue. Also noticeable is a small amount of peat, vanilla, slight smoke and honey, not a long finish but it tapers off gracefully to an appealing dryness, leaving one wanting more.


Despite the name, as most already know, this is not a Highland Scotch. As mentioned, it’s an Orkney Scotch, from one of the two distilleries in Orkney.

The other is Scapa, which is supposedly hard to find, but I’ve noticed it on the shelves at Beacon Wines, on our block, next to the Beacon Theater. NYC, gotta love it!

If you’re looking for an elegant and tastefully balanced Scotch Whisky that has a full-round mouth-feel and represents taste profiles from all the regions of Scotland, this would be it!

Orkney peat is lighter than Islay peat and the taste folds in delightfully with the light smoke and malted-honey. These guys know what they’re doing!

HP-12 is consistently satisfying and affordable. It can compete with others twice its price tag, and is regarded by some as one of the best deals in Scotch whisky. My Highland Park wish is for a cask strength non-chilled filtered version of this baby!

kirkwall map

Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland photo via Vacations To Go

Drink responsibly. Cheers!

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James Finn

Author: James Finn

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