Whiskey Review: Highland Park 15 Year Old - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Highland Park 15 Year Old

Highland Park 15 Year OldWhen an entire Scotch region is right there in your name, you’d better be up to the task of meeting whisky-loving drinkers’ expectations. Luckily, Highland Park continues to rise to the challenge.

Located in Kirkwall in Scotland’s Orkney Islands, Highland Park Distillery maintains an impressively large presence in the spirit market by offering a combination of standard releases (known as Core Expressions) and special bottlings. This review focuses on the latest version of Highland Park’s 15-year-old single malt Scotch whisky.

Highland Park first introduced their 15-year-old single malt in 2003 for the UK’s travel retail market. Originally bottled at 40% ABV (80 proof), current bottlings weigh in at 43% ABV (86 proof). While considered an uncommon release in some regions, I personally find bottles easy to locate in nearby stores.

Highland Park’s unusual 15-year age statement combined with a semi-premium price point places this dram in a sort of commercial no-man’s-land between the 12- and 18-year-old Core Expressions. It raises the question of whether or not the whisky has an identity strong enough to justify its own existence within the marketplace. Long rumored to be slated for discontinuation, Highland Park’s own website makes no mention of the release at the time of this review. That being said, confirmation one way or the other is impossible to find from any official sources.

The difficulty in placing this whisky comes from the significant uptick in price over the younger version. Most drinkers simply want to know if the bottle is worth the increase. Age alone is no indicator of quality, and how a whisky spends the additional years is at least equally important as the years themselves. In this case, Highland Park matures their whisky in ex-Oloroso sherry barrels crafted from American oak as opposed to the Spanish oak casks of the 12- and 18-year releases. The barrels are toasted instead of charred, yielding a unique flavor experience, especially when compared to the more common charred ex-bourbon barrel releases of competing distilleries.

Tasting Notes

Vital Stats: 43% ABV (86 proof), 15 years old, 100% malted barley dried with peat, around $90 per 750 ml bottle.

Appearance: Bright gold with amber tones, medium legs.

Nose: Citrus, more lime than lemon or orange, light oak tones, sherry, light peat smoke.

Palate: Sweet vanilla, dry sherry, and citrus give way to peat smoke just before the finish. Medium-oily mouthfeel.

Finish: Rather quick finish with some saltiness on the very end. Lingering sherry aftertaste.


As a Scotch lover, I tend to hold innovation and attention to detail in high regard. I found this version of Highland Park to be especially enjoyable specifically because of the deviation from the pattern set by both its younger and older siblings. The brightness of the sherry and boldness of the peat combined with the fullness of the mouth feel makes for a fun drink.

Whether or not that departure is enough to set it apart from said label mates is a question best left to the folks crunching the numbers at Highland Park. As for my individual experience, I genuinely enjoy this truly fine Scotch. I rate Highland Park 15-year single malt Scotch whisky an appreciative.


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