[Review] Highland Park - Dragon Legend 43.1%

New presentation, black bottle, dragon scales embossed on the box and a bit of viking reference with the name, this recently released Dragon Legend did get all of my attention as soon as it hit the shelves. And this bottle is not the only new one to have come out of the Orkney distillery in the last year or so (think Walkyrie, Magnus, Full Volume, Voyage of the Raven, the Keystone series, the Dark, the Light etc. not to mention all the single cask releases that everyone seems to be going mad for!) but definitely one which is readily available in the UK. With a price tag of £40 (or £30 when on offer) it is quite reasonable even if there is no age statement on the bottle.

So what is the deal with this Dragon Legend? Surely a pretty hot and spicy dram...! According to the packaging "this bold single malt accentuates the intense aromatic smokiness from [the] local Hobbister Moor peat melded with hints of warm spicy fruit cake which come from a long maturation in sherry seasoned oak casks." Put like that, it sounds rather appealing but then again, we don't know how old the whisky is, whether it has been coloured or chillfiltered and all that for a cost nearly 20% superior to that of their 12 year-old benchmark. So is it worth it? Let's give it a try...

Dragon Legend is bottled at 43.1% and as mentioned above there is no reference to non-chillfiltration or colouring which makes me assume the whisky has been chillfiltered and coloured. The colour is a deep amber. 

Nose: In my opinion, it is unmistakably Highland Park, like a sweet and fruity version of the 12 years old. There is a little heather and earthiness at first, which evolves to more fruity notes, citrus, orange blossom and some salt too. On the nose if I agree with "the richer side of Highland Park" I must say I am not convinced by "the smokier side" as the smoke is not really there. Quite a good start though.

Palate: Quite rich and dark first, and quite a thick mouthfeel too. I get a decent amount of sweetness which evolves with spicier notes and ends with some bitterness. There is some liquorice, heather again and oak. It is also quite sharp toward the end (showing its youth maybe?) Once again I do not get that much smoke...

Finish: The smoke seems to be a little more present on the finish. However it shifts pretty quickly towards sweet, bitter and spicy notes, with some bitter orange, liquorice and oak. Quite drying.

With Water: The nose becomes sweeter with more citrus notes The smoke and earthiness have more or less disappeared. The palate loses complexity and gains in citric notes and more artificial sweetness too. The finish is left with a vague mix of sweetness and bitterness. I think the addition of water is not enhancing the whisky experience with this one!

So overall, not a bad one at all. It definitely has Highland Park's DNA all over it, with an extra layer of richness despite lacking the promised extra layer of smokiness in my opinion. Quite a tamed Orkney dragon then, here to warm you up, not to reduce you to a pile of ash!
I know it might not be available everywhere but if you come across it, it is worth the purchase!


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