HP fans, be afraid. Be very afraid, for the Saga that rocked Orkney nearly 10 centuries ago has returned once again to haunt us... and fortunately enlighten our palates.
October sees the return of the 'Magnus' bottlings. After the success of the original Earl Magnus, the sequel is nearly upon us, in the shape of Saint Magnus. We got a sneak preview of the new bottling in February this year (read our original notes here) but a sample of the final formulation dropped through our letterbox this morning and we're very excited to see how it's evolved since then.
The initial Earl Magnus bottling
For those not in the know, the Magnus bottlings will be a trilogy of releases, starting with the Original Earl Magnus late last year. A 15yo whisky, it was limited to around 6 thousand bottles and sold out very quickly indeed.
Saint Magnus carries on the traditional Orkney legend. It is a vatted bottling at 55% (as opposed to the 52.6% when we originally tried it) and has largely been matured in Spanish oak casks, of which approximately 20% are first fill. Apparently the youngest whisky in the vatting dates from 1998.
There will be a finale to the trilogy, the Haakon bottling, (test sample notes can also be found here) no doubt released next year. But until then, let's dive into the Saint Magnus. Will it be as 'saintly' as the original Earl Magnus bottling, or have Highland Park committed their first sin?
The Brand new Saint Magus bottling
Highland Park - Saint Magnus - 55% - limited to 11,994 bottles - £85
Quick note on the colour- A really wonderful amber/gold- not something we usually remark on, but this definitely caught our eye...
Nose: A battle cry of aromas, if ever such a thing existed. An initial dried fruits note and waxy heather honey, gives way into a coal-like smoke note, some fudge and caramelised apple tart.
With water, a minty aromatic develops, with a slightly dry, oaky/Brazil nut note.
Palate: A sweetness, which subsides into a sooty/smoky richness. Notes of creme caramel, baked apple some orangey citrus and soft caramel and Locket throat lozenges, gently covered by the smoke. In fact, this is one of the most smoky HP's we've tasted- different and definitely a progression from the original sample we tried in February.
Finish: The warming bite of the smoke lingers, as do the citrus notes.
Overall: A really surprising dram indeed. Very different to the Earl Magnus, but by that, we don't mean not as good. This has a life of its own- it isn't as sweet and honeyed as the regular 12yo and also sits to the left of the Hjarta bottling, which was released last year. There, the smoke was much more floral, whereas this is decidedly more oily and sooty, making for a highly interesting and slightly more raw Highland Park. Peat lovers, who have looked for more of the brown stuff in their HP's will be absolutely delighted, while the rest of us can smile and enjoy another dram of something different from a distillery very much in top form.