Sunday, 5 April 2015

Highland Park Einar

A lot of the reviews I’ve seen online bang on about the origin of the name that Highland Park have bestowed upon this “exclusive to international travel” expression and its brethren. Frankly, in my opinion, that’s all tantamount to bollocks, so I’m not going to tell you anything about that at all. Nothing bores me more than regurgitating factual information that already exists elsewhere on the internet, though sadly I have to do that sometimes just to keep on the right side of informative.

When I do a search for the product I’m writing about – as I always do to get some basic information and opinion about it – I find that a staggering amount of the detail is lifted directly from the manufacturer’s marketing information, so not only does it seem pointless adding my voice to the existing clamour but neither am I in the business of marketing products. A bit of background is ok, but does something like the origin of the name really matter? Do pharmaceutical companies tell you where the name for their latest pile cream came from?

Good, now that we’ve got that out of the way, what do I want to tell you? Well, as you would know if you’d read some of my previous posts, I’d been a-hankerin’ after this one for a while. I just really like Highland Park ok? And the fact that you have to travel between two countries to be able to get it just made me want it so much.

And here it is. I have to say, the couple of minutes leading up to purchasing it were pretty exciting but then, as ever, the excitement subsided and it sat quietly in my cupboard awaiting the day I would open it.

Einar then is bottled at a disappointing 40% ABV and comes by the litre at around 50 euros. When I purchased mine it equated to somewhere around 42 quid. I consider that decent value (quality appraisal pending), but when you consider how frequently you can get 70cl of the excellent 12 year old HP for £25… perhaps it isn’t so much – but then, very little you can purchase in the UK can compare to that. I’m not even  expecting this to be better than the HP12, but I hope it is.

Upon feeling low one Friday night I decided it was time for the grand opening… and a cigar, in the garden. Not necessarily ideal circumstances for a deep appraisal, but there’s a whole litre of the Einar here, so plenty of time. I sat out there with the bottle available for refills, as I so seldom end up doing and got started.

I’ve read that pineapple is evident on the nose, and while I was disappointed to note that no smell emerged from the bottle on opening, I can confirm I was actually getting pineapple once it was in the glass (though this may have been the power of suggestion, since it failed to attend any other time), and later tobacco (you might be thinking that was down to the cigar and, reading this back now, I can’t remember anything that would refute that. I’m thinking though, that such an assumption would be so obvious that I must have actually written it for a reason). On other occasions there was that familiar Highland Park peat on opening, though understandably less powerfully than in the HP18.

I didn’t involve the Einar in a direct comparison with any of my malts straight away, knowing that it would need time to breathe before such a stringent test was conducted. Taken on its own merits then, I have to say I came to enjoy it very much on that first occasion. Each sip was more enjoyable than the last. It is a little thin and rough on entry but, like the 12 year old, when I shifted it around the the back of my tongue it had that playful tartness that gets the taste buds jiving – a feature I have come to associate with Highland Park more than any other. It came to remind me at the time – and this is a weird one – of the Bolognese sauce that I make with Worcestershire sauce and red wine vinegar.

I was never going to say it’s better than the 12 year old, in fact it definitely isn’t, but the 12 year old is so good that if it could be even nearly as good (but suitably different), that would be commendable. It is slightly more expensive in general on a £ per cl basis but on the same basis it works out cheaper than the Glenfiddich 15 Solera Vat that I paid £30 for. In fact it is currently only 13th overall on the price per cl matrix
Yes, it would be nice if it were better, but I didn’t immediately feel disappointed with Highland Park for putting this out.

Moment of Maximum Appreciation

The night I feel I got the best from the Einar, I’d been out for a curry with work and had a couple of small beers. On arriving home a bit grumpy (because I’d had to stay out longer than I wanted to), I thought I might just finish off the night with something from the cupboard. In all honesty I was pretty thirsty and normally I’d have a glass of cola first but, knowing that would have some effect on the enjoyment of whatever I chose to drink next (unless I was prepared to wait half an hour, which I wasn’t), I thought I’d skip it this time.

So I went for the Einar. On this occasion, circumstances combined to produce a very satisfying glass. The Einar was soft and sweet and, for once, the overly rough edges didn’t linger. Instead the impression was far more in line from what I’d expect from a Highland Park.

It still wasn’t as good as the 12, nor as sweet and buttery as the 18 but pleasingly intense and mouth-wateringly playful. It’s moments like these, I thought, that you spend that bit extra on liquor for. Any 40% spirit can get you hammered or just chill you out, you’ve no need to spend £40 to £50 for that. And you may not get it every time, but if you can, occasionally reach something like the satisfaction I got from that glass, then you can occasionally feel that it was money well spent.

An ignoble denouement

Apologies for the big words. Who do I think I am, Russell Fucking Brand? But yeah, there’s no happy ending to this tale and the upshot of it is: you’d be better off spending your money elsewhere. The reason: it just failed to deliver on a consistent basis. In fact, the MOMA described in the last section was the only time I can say I enjoyed the Einar to any superlative degree. In general it was rough, fuzzy, sour… honestly, I hope you’ve bothered reading this far because otherwise you’re going to get the wrong impression.

No, I didn’t immediately feel disappointed, but ultimately I did. I seldom chose to invite it out of the cupboard, wondering why when I had. In the end I just poured a few (what I’m going to call) throwaway glasses on consecutive occasions just so that I could call it finished and move on to something else – which will actually be the (significantly more expensive) Highland Park Leif Eriksson, so keep coming back if you want to find out about that…

No, it just had me sat there wondering whether I really enjoy drinking whisky far too often. I do enjoy whisky, just not this one. Sad really.


  1. You're spot on with your review.... I found it watery, weak and young. It's whisky like this that lets me think I should avoid all NAS's!

  2. Thanks AussiePhil. Reading my review back now, it looks like I've held every possible opinion, but ultimately at least ended up with the right one.