Head-to-Head: Highland Park Fire & Ice
The Highland Park Ice and the Highland Park Fire are both high profile whiskies, and caught quite a bit of flack because of the marketing attached to both releases. But I don’t plan on giving you the marketing story. Use Google if you want to know more about that.
I’ll just give you some facts, and then we’ll be on our way. The Highland Park Ice is 17 Years Old and is a vatting of 1st fill ex-bourbon casks. The Highland Park Fire is 15 Years Old and comes from refill port-seasoned casks. There, that’s all you need to know. Let’s get on with it.
Nose: Lovely gentle and fresh nose. A combination of orchard fruits (apples, peaches, some orange too) and a dewy meadow. Some vanilla, as well as pine needles. Wonderfully balanced.
Taste: Good body, oily mouthfeel. More aggressive than the nose, with a peppery and oak-y arrival. Some cinnamon and walnuts too. Finally overtaken by vanilla sweetness and white frosting.
Finish: The orchard fruits make an encore here, mainly apples and pears. The tiniest hint of smoke now. Fairly long.
Nose: Hmm, a bit peculiar. Not bad, just… different. Moss, compost and slightly metallic at first. There’s some oranges and plums here too, as well as raspberries and blackcurrants. A whiff of smoke.
Taste: Charcoal and warming smoke (really great!), combined with dark fruits. Blackberries and bitter oranges. Some cinnamon too. The flavours are actually a lot darker than the color lets on.
Finish: Cherry jam and lingering smoke. Long.
Subconsciously I was ready to dislike at least one of these whiskies. As the Highland Park Fire & Ice are tailor made for investors and speculators in mind, they are (at least partially) representative of the negative side-effects of the popularity of whisky. But…
Turns out I really like both of these! Well-crafted and nicely balanced. The Ice has a bit too much oak on the palate, but is otherwise a success. And the warming smoke and dark fruits of the Fire are just a lot of fun. They’re are still way too expensive though.
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.