Highland Park: Viking Pride and Master of Malt
Highland Park is one of the few distilleries to malt some part of the barley. it uses, blending locally cut peat from Hobbister Moor with heather before being used as fuel. The malt is peated to a level of 20 parts per million phenol and then mixed with unpeated malt produced on the Scottish mainland.
Highland Park was founded in 1798 by David Robertson on what was once the site of Magnus Eunson's cottage. Magnus Eunson was not only a beadle at the local church but also a notorious smuggler. Highland Park was officially licensed in 1826. The name of this whisky does not refer to the area of Scotland known as The Highlands, but rather to the fact that the distillery was founded on an area called 'High Park' distinguished from a lower area nearby.
In 1984, Highland Park was the only whisky ever to have scored a rating of 100% by the regular tasting team of The Scotsman, a national newspaper of Scotland. Established in 1798 on Orkney, Highland Park is one of the most remote Scotch whisky distilleries in the world. Legend has it that Highland Park was founded by Magnus Eunson, a preacher by day and an illicit distiller by night. Twenty years later, Highland Park was a respectable business, and today it continues to produce outstanding single malt whiskies crafted in the traditional way.
Highland Park is arguably the most respected single malt in the world. The secrets of the master distillers at Highland Park are jealously guarded. While many other distilleries have rushed to modernise in recent years, Highland Park has retained traditional craftsman’s values, steadfastly refusing to cut corners for the sake of profit. The distilling process has remained largely unchanged for 200 years. The distillery has its own floor maltings, producing malted barley in the traditional way. This allows close control of the quality of the malt in the crucial stage before mashing. The malt is dried in kilns, fired with young, root, heathery peat cut from the distillery’s own lands at Hobbister. This smoky blend of rich peat and heather imbues the malt with its unique flavour and exquisite aroma. This painstaking craft and the observance of traditional methods, give Highland Park its unique rounded flavour, filled with heather-honey sweetness and a smooth, peaty smokiness.
The brand believes, "There is honesty in Highland Park. A form of elemental higher truth exists in every glass. It’s not about fashion, trends or bandwagons. There are no immature expressions of Highland Park and no accelerated maturation programmes. It is made today with the same enduring belief and integrity, to the same exacting standards, as it has always been. The established attitude at Highland Park is one of custodianship rather than management, of tradition rather than novelty."
The rich, succulent, complexity of this exceptional single malt inspires passion in single malt enthusiasts everywhere. “It has balance, character and provenance and, in that, epitomises all that is great about single malt Scotch whisky," says Russell Anderson, Distillery Manager, Kirkwall. Apart from the 'standard' 12 years old bottling two older expressions were released in 1997 under the previous ownership; an 18yr old and a 25yr old. The official range was expanded further by the new owners with a 30yr old bottling in 2005 and a 40yr old bottling in 2008. Apart from these regular expressions there are occasional limited releases like the Highland Park 'Ambassador's Casks'. The 18yr old has a delicate sweetness to it, with a hint of vanilla and cinnamon. The vanilla becomes quite honeyed as it develops, giving the dram depth and a creamy note. There is also a well-developed spice on the palate that adds a comforting warmth to the smoky haze.
Also, an outstanding visitor centre, shop and range of entertaining and informative tour packages, have helped cement Highland Park Distillery’s reputation as one of Orkney’s premier attractions.