If you’re a whisky drinker, chances are you’ve tried Highland Park 12—or you’ve seen it. Despite its origins on the remote Orkney Islands, off the northeastern coast of Scotland, the whisky has made its way around the world and back again. It’s also picked up quite a dedicated following along the way. All of this can be attributed several things, but most important on the list happens to be a flavor profile that incorporates a distinct peatiness, specific sherry cask aging and the influence of the very island climate and sea-whipped conditions from which it originates. In 2017, the range got a radical bottle redesign. And since, several new releases have bolstered an already deep portfolio. For a third year, we will shine a light on select whisky brands distilling around Scotland—and Highland Park makes for our first in the 2018 September Scotch series.
It’s safe to say that if a Scotch whisky brand cannot figure out their 12 year, it doesn’t make sense to try anything else they’re offering. What Highland Park did correctly—with their core range—is balance smokiness and spice, with salt and citrus. The 12, now with the secondary name Viking Honour, is a superb single malt. The color here is all natural, and the rich flavor is distinct enough that one cannot really place it against peers. The same can be said for the 18 Year Old, now also known as Viking Proud. As Orcadian peat bogs have more heather, floral notes grace both liquids. The latter, however, clocks in at a higher proof. Rather than overpower the spirit, it underscores the creaminess.
The bottle redesign and the myriad new product names all reference Viking heritage. It’s in the glass and the wood and, perhaps, even in the liquid most of all. Orkney became part of Scotland in 1468, and the Viking population of the island became Scottish. The heritage acts as inspiration. Centuries of humans—and centuries of barrels—have taken in the salty air and been better for it. And even amidst all the changes, the spirit tastes of the passion behind it.
The Highland Park Distillery is open to visitors year ’round.
Images courtesy of Highland Park