I've been asked a lot over the last few weeks to recommend a whisky for beginners. Along with the Dalwhinnie 15, Old Pulteney 12 and the Balvenie Doublewood, I've also been giving the nod to the Highland Park 12. This single malt from Orkney is a superb, easy drinking whisky with plenty of character and is widely available - and usually for a very good price. It's frequently on sale in UK supermarkets (I picked up this bottle back in December for £23 in Tesco) and when I see it for that ridiculously low price, I usually snap up a bottle and tuck it away for a rainy day. While it's only bottled at 40%, it packs plenty of flavours and - in my opinion - knocks something like the Dalmore 15 into a cocked hat.
Nose: Leave it to settle for 10 minutes and lots of confectionery notes leap from the glass. It's a mixture of fruity hard boiled sweets, red liquorice laces and banana-flavoured toffee - I'm thinking specifically of Toffos, a sadly defunct sweet treat from when I was growing up. There's also a little salt and a well-measured spoonful of cough medicine thrown in for good measure.
Palate: The toffee note returns - minus the banana - while plum jam, fresh ginger and a little pepper tickles the tongue.
Finish: That confectionery note returns on the finish along with some light fruit, a slight smokiness and a dab of liquorice root. It's really quite sweet and there's a hint of vanilla there, too.