There are lots of myths, stories and legends passed down from generation to generation in the whisky world but one distillery more than many that thrives on the myths and legends of warriors past, in recent times with the Valhalla series, is Highland Park.
The brand itself is pretty incredible and is / will be the subject of a number of feature on GreatDrams over the next few months.
Highland Park is situated on Orkney, and for those that are not aware, this is an island that houses both the most northerly whisky distillery and the most northerly cathedral in the UK whilst simultaneously being previously owned by Denmark so there is a lot of rich heritage to draw on. Incidentally, Gaelic was never been spoken on Orkney unlike the rest of Scotland.
The tasting itself was held at the Soho Whisky Club in Central London, a kingdom of single malt, tashed chaps and people who generally love the finer things in life. Probably why I love it there so much. And always great to see Karen from Whisky4Everyone, my partner in dramming for the night.
The evening was led by the legend that is Daryl Haldane, the Highland Park brand ambassador who said right at the start:
“This is probably the best Highland Park tasting I have ever done, the whiskies we will be trying side by side tonight all tell a story, and very different stories, about what we do in Orkney and due to their rarity this tasting is highly unlikely to be repeated.”
Quite the intro!
We were tasting the Valhalla Collection from Highland Park, each of the four bottles in the set represents a different Norse god.
The Valhalla Collection was essentially born to tell the heritage of Orkney whisky in a sensorial way.
Dram One – Thor – 16 YO – 52.1% – Limited to 23,000 bottles
A bold start to the collection.
The legend goes that Thor used his hammer to shape the shear faced cliffs in Orkney that are about 100 feet high.
Daryl explains how this and the Highland Park 21 Year Old are his favourite Whiskies from the full range.
The whisky was designed to match the rough profile of Thor; powerful, easily manipulate as he’s not a complex chap but gets the job done.
Comprising 95% American Oak and just 5% Spanish Oak maturation, this was a solid start to the flight.
Nose: citrus, vanilla, creme brûlée, a bit of a stinger
Palate: nutty, puff of smoke but not the classic Highland Park sweet smoke you’d expect
Dram Two – Loki – 15 YO – 47.0% – Limited to 21,000 bottles
Loki was the all rounder in Norse mythology, touched many aspects of life and beliefs. For some reason if anything bad happened it was down to Loki. This is the only Highland Park to have ever used a different peat source; one from the mainland. Interestingly Orkadians treat visiting the mainland as ‘going to Scotland’ – their Nordic heritage still going strong.
Nose & palate: dark chocolate, more peat here, there’s a fizziness maybe, soft spices.
We were told that whisky’s peat consumption in the UK is less than 2% of the entire peat consumption; think compost etc. then we moved on to number three.
Dram Three – Freya – 15 YO – 51.2% – Limited to 19,000 bottles
The goddess of love.
Freya was released around Valentine’s Day 2013.
The legend goes that the shimmer from the sun and moon hit her feathered cloak and created the Northern Lights. A lovely story eh?
100% first fill bourbon casks create an unusually light whisky.
Nose: tropical fruits, caramel, eucalyptus and vanilla with floral notes emerging
Palate: citrus, lemon grass, changeable with each sip, juniper emerged and a little smoke
Dram Four – Odin – 16 YO – 56.8% – Limited to 17,000 bottles
The top dog. The all father. Thor’s father. He oversaw all battles and war, essentially the go to guy for Vikings.
Odin was marred in a refill hogsheads for twelve years then first fill sherry for four years.
Nose: sultanas, epic bursts of fruit,
Palate: heavy and spirited, a chewing whisky, hot, warming and a hint of smoke
Highland Park Odin is definitely the closest to the signature Highland Park style.
With that the Valhalla Collection tasting was over and we mooched around for a bit chatting amongst ourselves and meeting new people including some GreatDrams readers, which is always nice!
Thanks to Highland Park for inviting me along, thanks to Daryl for an incredible tasting and his typically brilliant guidance and thanks to Soho Whisky Club for hosting, a great night.