Can You Blend Whisky Like a Symphony? Highland Park Wants to Find Out

Highland park full volume bottle shot 38a63039 8a1c 45f7 94f2 23d9c70b5c16
Courtesy of Highland Park

Highland Park wants to prove that blending whisky is a lot like arranging a symphony, and it has built that campaign on the back of its newest single malt: Full Volume.

The new bottle, according to the Orkney-based distillery, is all about “balance between flavors and textures of whisky all living in harmony.” If that sounds like marketing copy, well, it is. But it’s a good argument: blending is integral to the whisky experience with virtually every bottle, save those labeled “single barrel” or “single cask.”

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To champion the art behind blending, the company reached out to song writer and music producer Saul Davies to create a piece of music just for the blend.

So what notes and instruments did we detect in this symphony in a glass? There’s vanilla, mango and a bit of cedar spice on the nose, and similar flavors once we tasted it. But despite the American oak and bourbon influence, this whisky still trends in the heathery, herbal direction that is Highland Park’s signature. It’s a backbone for the flavor, which also shows citrus notes and a hint of smoke. The finish is like smoked vanilla, with a dry touch of oak spice.

Most of these notes are typical of scotch aged in ex-bourbon casks (Highland Park is better known for its sherry influence). Whereas other, more expensive wood may carry darker flavors, the relatively inexpensive bourbon casks keep things bright and light. That’s not always what’s best for whisky, but it’s definitely pleasant with this 18-year-old version of Highland Park, which benefits from more age than most bottles. Aside from that, 18-year-old whisky for $100 bucks is uncommon these days. A Benjamin won’t necessarily get you an age statement on a bottle at all in 2017—let alone one in its teens.

Because of the specific distillation dates, we know this whisky isn’t a regular product line extension, so stock up. We’d say we’re being optimistic that it’ll become a staple for a constantly changing lineup, but who can be sure? Highland Park has done away with and rejiggered its portfolio for a few years now. We lost Highland Park 15 and Highland Park Dark Origins—both tasty bottles.

Full Volume isn’t a replacement for them, but it’s a good bottle on its own. Let’s hope this one gets an encore.

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