Booze Review

Whisky Review – Highland Park Magnus

Once again, my generous neighbor and drinking task-master darkened my doorstep. In his hands were a number of samples that MUST be reviewed (his words, not mine. Can’t I just drink, savor, and NOT be REQUIRED to take notes every once in a while? Work! Work! Work! That’s all G-LO ever thinks about. Bastard). Oh, the hard life of a booze blogger. Anyway…

One of the whiskies that G-LO dropped off was a healthy sample of the Highland Park Magnus. I was intrigued by this whisky for two reasons:

  1. The sample bottle was a miniature of the 750ml that you see in the promotional photo up above and it was oh so very pretty.
  2. I have enjoyed a number of the special editions that Highland Park has bottled, particularly some from the Valhalla Collection, so I was hopeful that Magnus would be yet another fine expression from this Orcadian distillery.

Highland Park, the northernmost distillery in Scotland (Scapa missed being called Scotland’s northernmost distillery by just .5 miles), is one of the few distilleries that still malts some of their barley. They blend local peat and heather as fuel, malt the barley, and then blend this peated malt with some unpeated malt to make their unique flavors. Old school whisky craftsmanship. What’s not to love about that?

Before we get to our review of Magnus, here are a few words about this whisky from the good people at Highland Park:

A whisky crafted in the old way by a new generation of Vikings, MAGNUS bears the soul of our Viking ancestors and the name of just one – our founder, Magnus Eunson. 

Magnus Eunson was a direct descendant of the Vikings who settled on Orkney hundreds of years ago. He set up his illicit still in a bothy (a small stone hut) at High Park, Kirkwall that’s still the site of our distillery today. And, while we say Highland Park was founded in 1798, in truth that’s just the year that the authorities caught up with Magnus – he was certainly making whisky before

We stay true to our founder’s bold and uncompromising approach to whisky making – very little has changed here in the last 220 years. In MAGNUS, we celebrate this unbroken tradition with a single malt whisky, matured in Sherry seasoned American oak casks, that delivers notes of sweet vanilla, overlaid with our distinctive aromatic smokiness.

And now for our impressions…

  • Appearance: Golden yellow with a slight orange hue.
  • ABV: 40%
  • Aroma
    • Limpd: A bit medicinal with a healthy blast of heather. There are notes of vanilla and caramel and a bit of wood.
    • G-LO: Quite vapory for 40% ABV. Once I work past that, I get green apple, a hint of smoke, vanilla, toasted coconut, and maybe some powdered sugar.
  • Taste
    • Limpd: A bit viscous, with a nice blend of sweetness and spice upfront. A little salt and then more pepper comes through at mid-palate with some sweetness (pears?) ending in a long, somewhat drying finish that is like a warm, pleasant hug.
    • G-LO: Medium bodied with a bit of oiliness. Peppery at the start with some of that green apple coming through. Gets hotter in the middle with a bit more fruitiness. A puff of smoke in the finish with more pepperiness and a bit of cinnamon too. The aftertaste is a little dry with the fruity spice lasting for quite a while.

The Verdict

Limpd: I was surprised by the complexity given the lower ABV. Lots of flavor and good balance. I enjoyed this one. I think it would certainly be approachable for the whisky novice and could be one of those “gateway” whiskies that brings in a somewhat hesitant whisky drinker and opens up their horizons.

G-LO: Not sure how I feel about this one. While there was nothing offensive about it, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with it. I admire the relative intensity given the entry-level ABV, but I think this whisky lacks some depth of flavor. Overall, it was just ok. Then again, given its somewhat reasonable price of “just” $40/bottle, maybe it’s a notch above just ok. How’s that for a vague verdict?


Many thanks to Forte Mare PR for sending us this very generous samples!

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