Highland Park 10 Year Old

Some things are difficult to judge purely on their own merit…

We can have this problem when it comes to sequels to movies and books, listening to a new album by a favourite band, hell it can even happen when we consider a relationship. But let’s stick to a sports analogy – Take Bobby Orr’s 1970 Stanley Cup winning goal, for example. Was it really all that miraculous? It’s consistently ranked among the top hockey goals ever, but I tend to think that it’s been a tad over-hyped because of the circumstances around it, because it was scored by an all-time great player, but especially because most people actually believe it was scored while #4 was soaring through the air, as the iconic image suggests.

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I think that judging the goal for what it really is reveals a decent, but rather pedestrian, give-and-go , ending with a 5-hole goal that Glen Hall probably would have liked to have back.

So what does all of this have to do with a whisky review? Well, I’m having a similarly tough time deciding what I really think of Highland Park’s 10 Year Old single malt because I’m very familiar with – and very fond of – the 12 year old expression.

My father-in-law picked this bottle up for us to try during his most recent visit from Saskatchewan for Easter and to watch some of my son’s spring hockey action. HP-10 can be had for about $41 in my local liquor store, and it’s bottled at 40% abv.

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To the Eye
Looks good but nothing really stands out about this whisky. A golden, honey coloured dram that leaves moderate legs on the inside of my glass.

In the Nose
Anyone who is familiar with Highland Park will immediately recognize this nose. Right away I pick up aromas of vanilla and peat. Letting the glass breathe a little brings forward a toffee-like note and I think I can also sense a bit of sherry. Of course, there are the traditional Highland Park smells: a wisp of smoke (but only ever so slight) and a somewhat vegetal, floral character that I believe is the Scottish plant, heather. What strikes me while nosing the glass is that everything about it seems so familiar… just less impressive than the 12 Year.

On the Tongue
After my first swallow, I immediately notice how smooth this whiskey is, considering it’s relative youthfulness. But I’m not sure that it’s a great thing that this is my initial reaction – I like flavour and there isn’t a whole lot of that jumping out at me. There’s sweetness, but it’s not overtly so, which I like. As I continue sipping, I do taste that very subtle sherry note that was suggested in the aroma. There is also a hint of peat and smokiness but not a whole lot more. The finish is rather short and weak, with a slight astringency/drying of the mouth, which I expect from a young whiskey – definitely not a rough bite, though, as it remains quite smooth.

Final Thoughts
While writing this review, I hesitated to label the Highland Park 10 Year Old Single Malt as “Recommended” but I couldn’t bring myself to say that I’d pass on it. There is nothing wrong with this expression, I just have trouble judging it on it’s own, without comparing it to the HP-12. It really is amazing what only two more years of maturation does to develop the character of this malt and, for only a few dollars more, I would personally choose the 12 every time.

With that said, however, I still like the HP-10 and I would definitely accept a dram of it, if offered. I suspect that this whisky is aimed at fledgling drammers who aren’t yet ready for richer, more robust flavours in their whiskies. Is it great? Not quite, but the HP-10 is certainly a gentle introduction to the Highland Park profile and hints at the excellence that this distillery has to offer.

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