Highland Park Distillery is undoubtedly one of the most successful and famous Scottish Distilleries in the world, winning three times the Best Spirit and Single Malt awards in the world. The beginning of the history can be traced back from 1798. Highland Park is also famous of the Viking concept with its bottlings and names like the Valhalla Series and Warrior Series.
After the Valhalla Series, the new collection of HIghland Park is about "back to the origin": The Creation of The World before the existence of all the Valhalla. According to Norse Mythology, there were two regions before the dawn of time and the world was created, Muspelheim and Niflheim. Musphelheim was the land of fire in the south where it was full of light, heat and flame. There were fire demons and fire giants in the region. On the other hand, Niflheim was the land of ice. It was the darkest and coldest region consisting of ice, frost and darkness. When the fire and ice met in the empty land of Ginnungagap, they formed a jotun (frost giant) called Ymir and he was nourished by a cow giant Audhumla where the whole viking myth began and came later the most important god, Odin, as the story continued. Because Ice and Fire was believed to be the origin, Highland Park creates the latest special edition with Ice, and probably you already get the idea of the 2017 special edition.
Ice is 17 years old whisky with first-fill Bourbon casks which were then rebuilt into Hogshead size, with new wood on both ends of the casks. The bottle was designed with the shape of Iceberg in blue colour encased in a mountain shaped oak wood cradle. There is a nice brochure enclosed with the bottle to explain the whole concept of Ice, with a nice illustration by Scottish artist Andy Bowman of how Niflheim looked in his impression. A limited quantity of 30,000 bottles were produced. There has been various criticism towards the design of the bottle and the quantity but I'd discuss in the later part of the review together with the marketing issue. The launch of the Ice bottle started in February from Germany, then further to the Nordics (Norway, Sweden), Italy and in April will be in South East Asia.
Martin Markvardsen, a nice and warm-hearted Senior Global Brand Ambassador of Edrington Group (mainly for Highland Park and Macallan), was hosting the launch of the Ice Edition in the Nordic Headquarter of Edrington Group in Stockholm for HoReCa and Press. (As there have been various introductions about Martin in the industry, I am not going to further introduce him in this article.) The venue was decorated with the theme colour and concept of the HIghland Park Special Edition- The Nordic Inspriration in blue colour houseware with simplicity and minimalism.
Six whiskies were served in the launch event, namely 12yo, 18yo, Dark Origins, Sigurd, Harald, and of course the Ice. Martin was guiding the participants in the comparison of similar styles of products and also introducing the story of Highland Park and Ice.
Highland Park Ice Edition, 17yo 100% first-fill Bourbon Hogshead, new oak on both end, 53.9%, limited to 30,000 bottles
Appearance: Medium(+) gold colour
Aroma: Sweet and round, first aroma is honey, very spiced apple, lemon zest, hint of dry hay and plenty of sweet spices orange, very oily and waxy. Hint of oak and vanilla comes at the back of the aroma. 15mins later comes more with honey lemon water, a lot of lemonade, coconut and oak.
Palate: Medium(+) body. Very spicy and sweet. Peppery, oily, waxy, ripened apple, apple crumble, cinnamon, plenty of honey, orange blossom. Oak and coconut comes at the back.
After adding a drop of water, some miracles happen. The sweetness turns into mint and salted ham like savoury. More sweetness and fruitiness continue to appear: orange, ripened apple, butterscotch, coconut, hint of ginger, cinnamon, and mint chocolate. Generally a very round whisky with slightly smoky. Nice one!
Aftertaste: Medium(+) length, sweet spices, pepper, apple peel.
Conclusion: Very round, fruity and nice whisky which is full of sweetness. Even it is 53.9% of alcohol, you can barely feel it in the mouth or palate. Intense, rich and complex with many variations as time goes by. This whisky is like a more powerful and masculine version of 18yo and a sweeter with honey version of Freya. I am sure this whisky would need time to open up and be even better after a week or two upon opening. This is my favourite special edition of Highland Park I have tasted. Really satisfied performance as a 17yo whisky. -89points
Additional notes: There have been a lot of discussion on this whisky due to its packaging and number of bottles produced VS price. People have been first criticizing the special shape of the bottle for its weirdness. Frankly speaking, before I attended the launch event and I felt the same as other to my first impression. However, upon the explanation of the concept I could understand why the packaging is in this way. It actually stands out the whole idea and it's pretty reasonable for this special Iceberg shape and colour.
Nevertheless, I believe not many are happy on the number of bottles produced as a special release and so do I. 30,000 bottles is not a small number (though it occupies less than 1% of the distillery capacity) and it can already be the same quantity as the standard editions from some other distilleries. What comes to more criticism is the price point- the global Recommended Retail Price of £190 for a 'limited' 17yo whisky. I can understand as a consumer's point of view as comparison of other brands' price point, that the Ice is too expensive even though it has an outstanding quality. It is a bit difficult to ask a normal consumer to get a bottle if they have not tried it before. And if I combine the price VS quality in this bottle, probably the score would be affected. I would be happier to spend £150 to get this bottle with only half or 2/3 of the current quantity is produced. Probably most negative feedbacks will disappear from the market. Perhaps the Fire Edition will have some unexpected changes in next year? Who knows. :)
To come back to the whisky itself, I have to admit that ICE is a bottle Highland Park fans should own and add to their collections. People will fall in love with the dram once they have tried it.