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Scotch

Highland Park Magnus

$39.99

OVERALL
RATING

6

Whisky Review: Highland Park Magnus

Tasting Notes:

About:
750 ml; 40% ABV / 80 proof; $39.99 suggested retail price; North American (only) release
Appearance:
Color is pale gold. The whisky has fairly thin, watery legs that preclude the type of beading that comes with age. Let’s try this whisky together, shall we?
Nose:
We’re off to a promising start. Mmm. Orcadian peat rises up through a wedding bed of date and prune. A delicate floral presence wafts in the background, reminding us of jasmine and orange blossom. Other, less prominent, scents include oak tannin, marine air, and honeycomb.
Palate:
with delicate hints of heather honey and vanilla. Tasting Notes: Highland Park Magnus Vital Stats: 750 ml; 40% ABV / 80 proof; $39.99 suggested retail price; North American (only) release Appearance: Color is pale gold. The whisky has fairly thin, watery legs that preclude the type of beading that comes with age. Let’s try this whisky together, shall we? Nose: We’re off to a promising start. Mmm. Orcadian peat rises up through a wedding bed of date and prune. A delicate floral presence wafts in the background, reminding us of jasmine and orange blossom. Other, less prominent, scents include oak tannin, marine air, and honeycomb. Palate: The mouth feel is less than generous. A bit watery, as expected, due to the somewhat miserly 80 proof strength. Dried fruits and spices constitute the bulk of our first impression. As always, that yummy Highland Park malt presence is a welcome one. We’re getting more date and prune, together with golden raisin. Allspice and black pepper adds a welcome focus to the palate. Sweet, salty, and bitter combine into a slightly unbalanced overall taste, at least as compared with Svein, which I recently reviewed. There’s ginger, honey, Irish breakfast tea, brine, dandelion green, and a lovely hint of heathery peat. The finish is fairly short in length with a bitter final downturn at the death. We would have guessed some virgin oak casks were used in this batch, if we hadn’t been told it was made with Sherry seasoned American oak casks, along with refill casks.
Finish:
Comments:
Magnus should not be confused with Highland Park’s “Earl Magnus,” a 15 Year Old whisky from 2009. While I would give an eye tooth for a bottle of the older (extremely rare) broth, today’s upstart of the same name (minus the title of “earl”) is worth treating for what he is: a very respectable, quality-crafted NAS release, albeit with a less than overwhelming proof.rnrnThis bottle might be worth snagging if you happen to see it at your favorite store–especially if you like Vikings in general, or Highland Park whiskies in particular. Now, would I go out of my way to hunt one down? Well, that’s another story.rnrnThankfully, I didn’t need to fight my way through snowdrifts, and a pack of white walkers, to taste Magnus. Like all of Highland Park special releases of late, it is presented in a very handsome bottle. I just love the Viking-style graphic of two interlocking dragon heads set against a shiny black background. It’s quite Gothic, to be sure.rnrnYes, that’s right: the Goths originally hailed from Gotaland, in the south of Sweden—not England’s 1980’s so-called “Goth” invasion, courtesy of real-life barbarians at The Tavistock Institute.rnrn’Tis the season for black bottles, pissed-off dragons, and fire water. “Givers, hail!” Magnus would make a cracking Halloween gift, indeed. Skal.

Magnus Eunson, a descendent of Norsemen, first fired up his whisky still in 1798. The man had been a butcher by trade before he turned to smuggling, and finally the creation of fire water. He built an illegal still in a small stone hut at High Park, Kirkwall. This site is the current location of Highland Park distillery today. And, while Highland Park claims that it was founded in 1798, the year that the authorities caught up with Magnus, the connection is perhaps a bit tenuous.

But no matter. I love a good tall tale, and I love a good whisky even more! As a man with Viking blood running through his veins, Highland Park whisky has a special place in my heart. The broth evokes images of fire and ice, a roaring still perched along some desolate stretch of coastline with icicles lapping at the window panes.

Highland Park is one of the northernmost distilleries in Scotland, located on the Orkney Islands. Orcadian peat is composed entirely of sphagnum moss and heather. Burning this peat to dry barley produces a unique aromatic spectrum. The smoke is light, and yet it’s also more fragrant than typical peat used in whisky making. I would go so far as to call the end result “heathery.”

For Highland Park’s Magnus single malt whisky, Orcadian peat was burned in the distillery’s own kiln. The resulting smokey malt constitutes about 20% of the barley used for each mash. All of the remaining unpeated mash was created on the mainland of Scotland. This mild mannered groom traveled up to Highland Park, where he was married successfully with his peaty Orcadian bride. The proud couple were then aged together in holy wedlock for an unspecified amount of time.

Magnus is a non-age statement offering that uses a high proportion of Sherry seasoned American oak casks along with refill casks. The result of this union is a 40% ABV expression that is just a touch on the smoky side, yet with a fairly sweet constitution that perks up one’s nose and palate with delicate hints of heather honey and vanilla.

Tasting Notes: Highland Park Magnus

Vital Stats: 750 ml; 40% ABV / 80 proof; $39.99 suggested retail price; North American (only) release

Appearance: Color is pale gold. The whisky has fairly thin, watery legs that preclude the type of beading that comes with age. Let’s try this whisky together, shall we?

Nose: We’re off to a promising start. Mmm. Orcadian peat rises up through a wedding bed of date and prune. A delicate floral presence wafts in the background, reminding us of jasmine and orange blossom. Other, less prominent, scents include oak tannin, marine air, and honeycomb.

Palate: The mouth feel is less than generous. A bit watery, as expected, due to the somewhat miserly 80 proof strength. Dried fruits and spices constitute the bulk of our first impression. As always, that yummy Highland Park malt presence is a welcome one. We’re getting more date and prune, together with golden raisin. Allspice and black pepper adds a welcome focus to the palate. Sweet, salty, and bitter combine into a slightly unbalanced overall taste, at least as compared with Svein, which I recently reviewed. There’s ginger, honey, Irish breakfast tea, brine, dandelion green, and a lovely hint of heathery peat.

The finish is fairly short in length with a bitter final downturn at the death. We would have guessed some virgin oak casks were used in this batch, if we hadn’t been told it was made with Sherry seasoned American oak casks, along with refill casks.

Whisky Kirk

Kirk discovered the brilliance of Scottish whisky in 1987 while vacationing in Edinburgh. Over the course of three and a half decades that followed, he's built upon a knowledge of distilleries and the industry, as well as world whisky.

Kirk prides himself on speaking honestly while avoiding the usual flattery and fluffing that is all too common in whisky reviews these days. Occasionally, such directness has ruffled feathers in high places. So much the better. Because whenever feathers fly, the customer never loses.

Ye olde tradition of investigative journalism is rare these days, but not in Whisky Kirk's reviews. If he turns over a rock, or a cask, and there's something of interest to be found there, well then . . . the reader will hear of it. Every single time.

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