Based in Kirkwall, on Orkney’s mainland, Highland Park is a distillery with a rich origin story and richer whisky.
As one in three Orkney islanders share Viking DNA, talented men and women comprise a modern generation of Vikings continuing to produce magnificently crafted whisky through age-old traditions. The new Highland Park 15 Year Old Viking Heart is a culmination of this identity, now available globally.
A light golden colour, this clear single malt Scotch whisky features the flavours of sun-kissed lemon zest, rich honey, pineapple, charred cinnamon shards, and vanilla sponge cake. Its finish is complex and rich, with a lingering and gentle aroma of peat smoke from Orkey’s unique heather peat.
It presents in a heavily embossed ceramic bottle created in partnership with esteemed specialists, UK-based Wade Ceramics. The inspiration for the motif originates from ancient earthenware vessels in which the whisky would have been stored more than a century ago at the distillery.
The Highland Park 15 Year Old Viking Heart comes from hand-picked casks under the keen eye of Highland Park’s Master Whisky Maker, Gordon Motion. The 15 Year Old contains a high percentage of first-fill American oak sherry seasoned casks, enhancing the flavour with notes of vanilla and crème brûlée. A small proportion of refill casks deliver the whole character of Highland Park whisky through its gentle heather peat and lightly fruity character.
“Our insistence on specially constructed sherry casks delivers a richness of flavour. Vanilla and citrus notes lead and combine with the unique fragrant peat and creamy mouthfeel synonymous with Highland Park. The hand selection of quality first-fill and refill casks for Highland Park 15 Year Old delivers a rich colour which is 100% natural,” explains Motion.
Bottled at 44% alcohol by volume, the 15 Year Old Viking Heart retains more compounds that give the distilled spirit extra body and an enhanced mouthfeel. The trademark flavour profile of intensely balanced smoky sweetness derives from five traditional keystones of production that Highland Park preserves. No other distillery employs all five principles, and so no other whisky tastes like Highland Park’s 15 Year Old Viking Heart.
The first cornerstone is the distillery’s use of slow-burning, aromatic peat. Few trees can endure the strong winds on Orkney, so the distillery uses woodless peat of densely compacted, fragrant heather – a low spreading flowering bush. The peat burns slowly with a floral aroma that infuses the malted barley in the distillery’s kilns.
Hand turned floor maltings define the second cornerstone, with few distilleries still winding their malt by hand. The methodology is costly and laborious but allows the whisky-maker to maintain the ideal amount of moisture in the barley to absorb the aromatic peat smoke awaiting in the kiln.
Motion emphasises the importance of sherry seasoned oak casks, the third cornerstone. Many of Highland Park’s casks are handmade in Spain from European and American oak. These casks are filled with Oloroso Sherry and left to age for two years before being emptied and returned to Orkney to be filled with a new spirit. Worth the time and expense, this crucial step enhances up to 80% of the whisky’s final flavour and rich hue.
As with all whisky, maturation is a factor that influences the depth of character. Highland Park matures its whiskies for at least a decade while the cool and temperate island climate allows an even-paced maturation process. The absence of extreme temperatures ultimately protects the flavour of the whisky.
Finally, for every batch of Highland Park released, the distillery selects and combines up to 150 casks and leave the remaining “newly married” spirit to rest for a month or more. The step allows flavours from different casks to meld and harmonise, delivering an intense balance that is Highland Park’s trademark.