There’s something about Nordic heroes. I mean there’s a reason Thor is popular. Beyond Chris Hemsworth’s biceps and golden locks, our favourite viking god of Norse mythology was a bad boy turned good, becoming worthy of Mjölnir. Highland Park whisky embodies this spirit of boldness, founded in 1798, Highland Park’s location on windswept Orkney makes it the northernmost distillery in Scotland. But like a bad boy distillery, it wasn’t until 1826 that a license was granted for lawful operations and ever since, Highland Park has been the whisky with a viking soul.
Even today, this Island distillery underscores its north-of-the-law heritage with vaguely Nordic branding and reminders of its illicit past. Shaped not only by the remote location and wild climate, but also by the Vikings who settled on Orkney over 1,000 years ago, the Highlander DNA runs strong in what we can honestly declare as “Whisky crafted in the old way by a new generation of Vikings.”
Whisky for Modern Vikings
Featuring flavours of scorched pineapple, cinnamon shards and vanilla sponge cake, the Orkney based distillery has launched a new, permanent 15 Year Old single malt Scotch Whisky. Presented in a heavily embossed ceramic bottle, created in partnership with renowned specialists UK based Wade Ceramics; Why a ceramic decanter? Rewind a century or two and Viking whisky would have been stored in earthenware vessels.
Unsurprisingly, the Norse gods were portrayed as drinkers and Thor had a raucous reputation as a drinker, and the reality was that the Vikings, great travellers that they were traded in alcohol also because the dearth of clean drinking water made liquors and beer, the most viable source of hydration and these were stored in earthen vessels back in the day.
Inspired by examples found at the Highland Park, Wade Ceramics worked to create a modern version. The result is a lead-free porcelain decanter is 100% food safe, embossed with the lion and serpent design that appears on many of the brand’s signature glass bottles, within hides the waters of life, a liquid gold that the Gaellic referred to as Aqua Vitae.
‘Bottled at 44% ABV, this retains more of the compounds which deliver a whisky with extra body and enhanced mouthfeel.’ – Gordon Motion, Highland Park, Master Whisky Maker
In fact Highland Park is so old legitimately old-school that it is one of the few distilleries to carry on the tradition of floor malting, a labour-intensive process where barley is spread across a floor and regularly hand-turned for even germination before being kilned with Orkney peat, a famously heathery peat saturated by eons of salt spray.
To create this 15 Year Old Viking Heart, a wonderfully rich and complex single malt, Gordon Motion, the brand’s Master Whisky Maker, selected a higher ratio of sherry seasoned European oak casks to deliver warm, spicy notes and complemented it with sherry seasoned American oak casks to provide a balance of sweet vanilla and crème brûlée.
By ingeniously adding a small proportion of refill casks, Gordon allowed the DNA of Highland Park whisky to shine through, softening and smoothing the flavours of the 15 Year Old with its gentle heather peat and lightly fruity character while allowing he whisky’s vibrant fruitiness and distinctive heathery peat smoke to shine through.
Opening with rich and spicy aromas of crème brulee, heather honey and crumbled cinnamon, intensely fruity notes follow – fresh pineapple dressed with a scattering of sun-kissed lemon zest, the 15 Year Old whisky will be available to purchase from specialist whisky retailers, and from the Highland Park online shop.