Friday 14 November 2014

Highland Park "Freya" and "Dark Origins" Launch in Hong Kong (Tasted #141-142: Highland Park Freya & Highland Park 30yo)

Remember how we said earlier this week that The Edrington Group in HK don't do things by halves?

Imagine hold a launch event to celebrate two new expressions of Highland Park - Freya and Dark Origins, only to find the Freya hasn't actually arrived in time, and is still "on the water".

What do you do? Apologise and serve everyone an extra dram of Dark Origins?

Not if you're Edrington. If you're Edrington, you substitute. Not just with any expression. With something rare, expensive and very, very limited. Something like this:

Yep, in place of the Freya, Edrington served a generous dram of the >$6,000HKD Highland Park 30yo. Impressive! But more on that in a moment...

We were at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong's Pool House as guests of Edrington to celebrate the launch of the aforementioned Freya and Dark Origins in Hong Kong. It was probably the first day since we arrived that the weather could be described as "a bit chilly", so a perfect night to taste a few whiskies.

On arrival we were served a Highland Park 12 neat, with the option to have it smoke-infused if we chose. Why not? Over to the bar then, where the bartenders had custom made Highland Park glass "tubes" with Smoking Guns attached (sidenote: if you like experimenting with food or cocktails, get one of these. We have one and they're brilliant). I'm not sure what type of woodchips were used in the smoking guns, but they added an intense, almost tobacco-like smokiness to the whisky. Intense, but very enjoyable, and a unique way to kick off the night. Update: Ron later e-mailed me to let me know the fuel was actually genuine Highland Park peat! Very cool.

After spotting a few friendly faces and enjoying some brilliant canapés (brilliant canapés are a staple feature of HK whisky events it seems), Ron Taylor (who we first met in September) took to the stage to introduce the Dark Origins, which had been passed around in special Highland Park tasting glasses.

One thing we've noticed about Hong Kong whisky tastings is that a lot of people attending really don't seem to respect the host and listen to the presentation or the guided tasting notes. A pity really, as Ron is a great host and certainly knows his whisky. Nonetheless, Ron presented some history of Highland Park, explained the Norse connection to Orkney, showed a brief video on the Dark Origins, then led us into a tasting.

Highland Park "Dark Origins" (46.8% ABV, NAS, Orkney, Scotland, $948HKD)
Colour: Copper
Nose: Big sherry influence. Dried raisins, cranberries, toffee. 70% dark chocolate.
Palate: Warming and rich. Slightly salty, trademark hints of smoke. Water introduced much more smoke and oak.
Finish: Long, smoky (smokier than the nose or palate), with deep rich red berry notes.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. I'd been excited to try this one for a while (actually in truth we tried it a week earlier at another tasting - which we'll blog about shortly). Definitely an enjoyable whisky for those who love their heavily sherried drams, but want something that's a change from the usual The Macallan that everyone orders in Hong Kong.

After we all had time to contemplate and enjoy the Dark Origins, it was time to move onto the 30 year old:

Highland Park 30 (48.1% ABV, 30yo, Orkney, Scotland, $6,180HKD)
Colour: Dark, rich copper.
Nose: One of the best noses I've noticed on a whisky in a while! So rich, so complex. Cherries, leather, even some varnish. Hints of maple syrup. Lots going on and it's all fantastic.
Palate: Rich and "chewy". This is a dram you can take some time with. Some oak but in perfect balance with everything else. Spice. Perhaps some cloves? Maple syrup too, with some slightly fruity (red berry) notes at the end.
Finish: Spicy, with some hints of honey. Medium length.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. The nose is by far the standout feature, but everything here is fantastic. A really enjoyable, "treat" whisky.

After some more whisky banter, a few more canapés, meeting a few new friendly faces and another dram of the Dark Origins, it was time to call it a night. 

The Hong Kong whisky scene is looking more and more exciting by the day. Can't wait to see what's in store for the future.

A huge thanks to Edrington HK and Lee Wolter PR for the invite to what was a great night.

Steph & Martin.

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