A Dram and a Draft With Highland Park at Miro
Allow me to start this post as I do all my others, with this disclaimer: I am still new to the world of Scotch and Whiskey, therefore my palette for this is still in the early stages of development. As with Scotch and other Whiskeys, where there are usually some tasting notes from the distillery, more often than not, people find their own flavors.
Arriving in Downtown LA for the 7:00 Dram & Draft tasting, I walked into Miro and found myself being guided downstairs to the underground bar. Excited as a kid in a candy store, I enthusiastically headed onwards. Down what felt like a dungeon staircase, into a classy subterranean Whiskey Room. Instantly, I saw a man who I personally like to think of the Santa Claus of Scotch: Mr. Martin Daraz. Allow me to explain, for those of you who’ve yet to enjoy a tasting led by Martin; he’s an exceedingly friendly person, joyous, and jolly! Instead of presents under your tree, he cheerily brings a dram of Highland Park Scotch to your glass and makes you feel instantly welcome. All the signs of an individual who loves their job, and takes pride in being a quality brand ambassador. There is a certain air in which Martin leads his tastings that is par from the norm; this is what makes them such a novel experience. It’s always pleasure for one to be remembered, especially only after one meeting. That is exactly what I experienced when I walked in that night, said hello, and was recognized and remembered. An excellent way to start any event.
In my humble opinion, I believe that a bottle of Highland Park is an excellent choice for one’s cabinet, for when you want something safe and familiar, that is relatively easy to acquire. Highland park is a personal preference of mine, when I go out to whisk(e)y bars because it’s usually fairly priced, and exceptional when ordered neat. Though I daresay even better when paired with the right beer! That’s what Martin does at his tastings. He selects two to three craft beers for his two to three expressions of Highland Park, that will perfectly balance each other out. Generally speaking, I’ve been told the recommended order is: whisky, beer, whisky. That being said, I am not entirely sure if that’s a sip for sip or glass for glass, though I have also been informed that this may be up to personal preference.
For the evening’s tasting we enjoyed Highland Park 12 paired with one of my favorite beers, Saint Archer Blonde. Followed by Highland Park Dark Origins paired with Deschutes Obsidian, and lastly Highland Park 18 year with no complementary Beer pairing. I’ve found that whiskey has a slightly different taste after enjoying the beer, it’s a rather interesting effect. Perhaps the oils in the Scotch react with the beer in some way that causes them to cling to your tongue and create a coating.
12 Year: The first pairing of the night, Highland Park 12 year with Saint Archer Blonde Ale. The 12 year is a solid scotch on its own, but absolutely impeccable when paired with SAB, and decent for the price tag (most bars don’t charge more than $12 or $13 for a dram of 12 year here in LA), it’s a solid Scotch. It’s got a scent that has a healthy but not overpowering hint of spice, and a touch of creaminess. Its taste on the palate is subtle, notes of spice with some traces of peat and smoke. It’s a very smooth expression to drink, and is the entry level expression from Highland Park. I recently ordered it at a bar in Santa Monica, The Daily Pint, it was $10 and served in a Glencairn glass. The 12 year sets itself apart from the rest of the Highland Park line up in how smooth and enjoyable it is, especially for a 12 year. There is just something about it, that sets it apart from the rest of the lineup; and other 12 year scotches for that matter.
Dark Origins: Highland Park Dark Origins is their only no age statement or NAS whiskey, and it actually replaced their 15 year old (which should give you an idea as to its age); it’s probably the heaviest expression that they make, and is unfortunately being discontinued. Likely in favor of releasing a new whisky with an age statement. This expression is a tricky one for me to really get a profile on: I get hints of chocolate on the nose and something else that I can’t actually describe. The taste on the palate is soft and creamy, with hints of coffee but like the nose, is hard to lock down anything precise with this one. It was paired with Deschutes Obsidian which gave it a kind of “soy sauce-y” flavor, not my favorite Scotch or Beer and while I wouldn’t order it in a bar, I would give it another try at another pairing.
18 Year: Our final expression for the evening is left to its natural bliss, meaning there is no beer pairing for this dram. It possesses a nose that, like everything else I’ve had from Highland Park, is creamy but also possesses a certain a sweetness that is hard to precisely touch upon. In addition is a kind of butteriness, which I found peculiar as I don’t normally associate the aroma of a Scotch with butter. The flavor on the palate is simple: slight spice tones overlaying a sweet flavor. I found it hard to get an accurate flavor on this third glass after two drams of richly flavored Scotch and some strong beers, so unfortunately I can’t really speak much to the flavor profile of the 18 year, but I look forward to enjoying it again soon, and will write on it more when I am able to enjoy it fully unadulterated.
At the end of the evening I was personally invited by Miro’s event coordinator to inspect their Whiskey room (which is open to the public anyway, but always nice to be specifically invited and escorted), and I am very pleased to report that they have a strong selection to enjoy in a very relaxing setting, in a separate room, just off the downstairs bar. A wonderful event organized by Miro and Highland Park, I very much look forward to spending some time there in the future, enjoying a dram or two in their whiskey room!