Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A dram to please all drammers... Highland Park and Hakushu 12 Year Old

Well, it was going to happen eventually. A review of a Highland Park. For me Highland Park is a masterclass in whisky making. They hit the all the right places virtually all the time. The Highland Park 12 year old is an incredibly accessible dram, it gives you a bit of everything but not so much as to spoil other whiskies for you. It has been described as the 'all-rounder' whisky and with good reason. It isn't too smoky, too fruity, too sweet, too strong, too weak - it is simply delicious. If I wanted to recommend a whisky that wouldn't blinker the subject's future whisky taste it would be the Highland Park, it defines good whisky but doesn't boast.

So with all that in mind, there must be other whiskies that do that. The MacAllan 18 year old is often tooted as a great, although for me it states the minimum a whisky should be rather than the maximum. I think the Dalwhinnie 15 year old is a fantastic introductory whisky for those with a more cautious palate. Or there is my Dad's approach to whisky, "This is Laphroaig, drink it 'til you like it." I think this explains my eternal struggle with Speyside and ease with the peat smoke. So, there is one whisky that for me hits all the right notes albeit differently from the Highland Park 12 and that is from the other side of the world. This whisky, and I believe this is my first Japanese review, is the Hakushu 12 year old. Despite tasting very different to the Highland Park this co-12 year old demonstrates exactly how whisky should taste. It may not be an eye-opener but it tastes like whisky should, great and with structure. Now here's the comparison:

Highland Park 12 Year Old
Nose: Honey and pear waltz in together through a trial of light smoke, onto a grassy dance floor edged with heather.
Palate: A silky mix of stewed pears, smoke and ripe fruits with a pleasing sweetness.
Finish: Banana, and that recurring smoke and Autumnal breeze with a hint of spice.
Overall: As I have already said, everything but none too much, an accessible whisky you don't have to be ashamed of. Recommend at will!

Hakushu 12 Year Old
Nose: Initially floral with sawdust from a pine workshop arriving next, followed by sticky toffee and citrus undertones.
Palate: Smooth and dominated by toffee, with other confectionary adding bulk to this full-flavoured whisky.
Finish: Marmalade at first but becoming creamier towards the finish, also fairly punchy.
Overall: A 12 year old whisky standing triumphant; strong with full mouth-filling flavours. An execution in whisky making and perfect structure.

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