Highland Park – Dark Origins

Eunson Inspired New Expression

Highland Park Step into the Dark
Highland Park Step into the Dark

Having recently enjoyed a really exciting cocktail and Highland Park tweet tasting, we were delighted when we received a sample of the hotly anticipated new core expression, their first NAS (hot topic we know) core expression to date.

Will it be so different to the gentle Orcadian sweet yet smoky flavours that run throughout the Highland Park range?  There was only one way to find out…

So sit down, grab a dram and have a read of our thoughts.

What Highland Park say:

Highland Park Dark Origins Bottle
Highland Park Dark Origins Bottle

This new core expression has been inspired by the cunning spirit and courageous personality of its founder, Magnus Eunson.

Establishing a secret bunker in the hills of High Park in Orkney, Magnus “Mansie” Eunson became a famed dark distiller back in the late 1700s, creating whisky for the people of Orkney to offer relief from the villainy of the tax collector.  By day he worked tirelessly in his church providing spiritual guidance to the people of Orkney, but in the dead of night, he hand crafted what was ultimately to become the best spirit in the world, warming hearts and unity all who tasted it.

Dark Origins, a stunning, non-chill filtered single malt with an ABV of 46.8%, this has been released exclusively to Harrods on 1st July 2014, and then to the distillery shop, online shop, and other independent whisky retailers late July/early August.

It uses twice as many first fill sherry casks than in the classic Highland Park 12yo resulting in a naturally darker, richer flavour with sherried spice, a chocolate twist and the signature sweet smoke fans of the Orcadian elixir have come to know and love.

As Highland Park do not use caramel Dark Origins takes its natural colour form the interaction between spirit and cask which Highland Park believes consistently rate amongst the best casks in whisky.


Sherried spice and ripe bananas combine with toasted hazelnuts and baked apple.


Well-balanced, dry peat at first mellowing out to maraschino cherries, warm dark chocolate entices the palate.


Enduring sweet smoke.

What we say

Highland Park consistently produces, sweet, yet smoky, gentle malts, which make you question the direction the dram is going.  One minute it’s sweet and floral and the next meaty, salty and savoury.

As a NAS whisky and with so much sherry influence it’s going to be interesting to see just where this sits within the Highland park profile, and what, if any difference the lack of age statement makes to the whisky.



A gingerbread house in the middle of the forest, more Brothers Grimm then cheerful fairy tale though with the sherry influence bringing in a darker, more sinister style.  There are sweet notes of strawberry, juicy plums, tangy nectarines, raisins, sultana’s and just a touch of banana leaves crushed with mint.  The savoury notes come through, thick rump steak, dry rubbed with pepper, salt, and chilli.  Bacon and BBQ beans, giving a sweet yet gentle smoke which is wrapped up in warm tyres, hot tarmac on a summer day and topped with black, sticky treacle.


Smoke is first on the palate, hidden somewhat in the nose, it comes through strong and powerful, bringing with it thyme, and rosemary, a hot yet quick chilli tingle, before the fruits come through.  Beautiful plum chutney and a touch of hoisin sauce, pumpernickel bread, drying yet sweet.  Spices begin to dance on the tongue, gentle nutmeg, all spice, and hot fiery ginger, fresh and dried, almost powdery on the palate.  Savoury notes coming through with a really meaty feel.  Steaks well done and charred, giving the bitter smoke edge which consistently coat the tongue.


Long and lingering, rich tannins continue to add a “chewy” quality to this dram.  Sweet at the end but always that touch of the drying smoke.

Overall Thoughts

This may be NAS but I would be surprised if it were much younger than 10yo.  It benefits from the slightly higher ABV and I think if it were lower it may struggle somewhat.  This is a great addition to the Highland Park core range, with a perfect battle between sweet and smoky.



Creamy soap powder, very astringent, milk chocolate buttons, lemon meringue pie, with the sherry influence although it comes and goes.


Lemon fizzy sweets, milk chocolate buttons with blood orange mixed with rubber with slight hints of mint leaves.


Quick drying on the tongues, almost evaporating before you swallow.

Overall Thoughts

A powerful yet gentle dram worthy of the Highland Park name.  The strength is hardly noticeable as it slips down your throat making you want to have another dram.

A big thank you for our official sample and the request to review this dram.

One thought on “Highland Park – Dark Origins”

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