Way up north, I mean way up north, like Santa Claus north, on the remote Orkney Islands Northeast of Scotland lies one of the world's finest whiskey distilleries, a distillery that makes some of the most complex, balanced whiskey there is: Highland Park.
In these days of experimentation and outside the box whiskey, there is something reassuring about Highland Park. Despite all of the trends out there, they have refused to budge. The good folks of Orkney aren't releasing super-peated versions, 4 1/2 year old bottlings, burgundy wood finishes or special bottlings to be drunk on ice or with milk or bananas or whatever. While they did recently revamp their label and bottle, they have been pretty good at sticking with what's inside. They have stuck by the basic lineup which includes 12, 18, 25 and 30 year olds (and a soon to be released 40 year old), with an occasional anniversary edition and a number of limited releases.
In addition, HP seems to be one of the most prevelant whiskies among independent bottlers. This allows the HP fan the ability to taste all manner of single cask and cask strength versions and compare them to the distillery bottlings.
My own favorite HP, and possibly my favorite whiskey of all time, is the Bicentenary Vintage 1977 Reserve. Distilled in 1977 and bottled in 1998 to mark the distillery's bicentennial, the Bicentenary is a masterful whiskey. I have never tasted a whiskey with this type of balance. All of the flavors are in harmony, the peat, the malt, the spice...it's all in there at the right levels. There is a reason Jim Murray refers to this particular bottling as "truly fantastic, to the point of flawless."
The Bicentenniary was a "limited release" but seems to still be around, though I hear it's getting harder and harder to find. Last time I checked, it was running around $140 at your better liquor stores. Now, I am quite careful about dropping that kind of money for any beverage, but this one is worth every penny. So if you see it and you can afford it, buy it.