About this SPIRIT
Highland Park Distillery, Orkney
Highland Park, one of only 2 distilleries in the Orkney Isles, is the world's most northerly distillery. It was founded in 1798 by Magnus Euson. Until it was licensed in 1825 it's production was illicit and Euson was assisted in evading the excisemen by a kinsman who was a Kirk elder and hid the contraband under the pulpit. By the 1880s Highland Park had an established reputation and at one time both the King of Denmark and the Emperor of Russia declared it to be the finest whisky they had ever tasted.
Highland Park has been described as the greatest all-rounder in the world of malt whisky. Its product retains much that is traditional, even original. It has its own floor maltings and peat beds and two traditional peat-fired kilns. Many believe the unique character of Highland Park comes from the local peat beds which have absorbed the salt spray of centuries and which impart a rooty, heathery quality to the whisky. Only a carefully measured amount is used to fire the kiln for each malting. Oak casks are then used for the maturation process. As a single malt, Highland Park matures superbly. In blends, it is said to be a catalyst, bringing to great flavours of the other contributing malts.
Only part of Scotland for the last 500 or so years, Orkney feels like its a long way from anywhere else. The windswept collection of 70 small islands lies off the notherern coast of Scotland and is home to the most northerly outpost of whisky making in the world. Two distilleries vie for the honour of the furthest north; Highland Park and Scapa, the winner by about 300mtrs is Highland Park
Many whisky enthusiasts consider Highland Park to be the best all-rounder there is. It manages to combine a richness and elegance, which appeals to lovers of Speysides; with just enough peat to keep the lovers of Islays interested.
Scapa was opened in 1885, it was silent for two years from 1934 and was owned for a time by the owners of Glen Scotia distillery in Campbeltown. Scapa was rebuilt in 1959 and internal improvements were made in 1978.
The water used is naturally very peaty, as a result the malt is left unpeated. The distillery has a single pair of stills, which date from 1978 and one of them is of the Lomond type, a rare feature. It has a short, stubby top instead of the elongated conical heads customary in Scottish distilleries.
Warm, notably flowery. Heather-honey, fresh oak, sap, peat, smoky fragrance. Very aromatic and appetising.
Remarkably smooth, firm, rounded. Lightly salty. Leafy (vine leaves?), pine nuts. Lots of flavour development: nuts, honey, cinnamon, dryish ginger.
Spicy, very dry, oaky, smoky, hot.
If I smoked I would have a cigar with this one.
Michael Jackson - Whisky Magazine Issue 5 Nose
An empty honey jar which once held peaty embers. An enormous nose which seems to improve with each bottle I sample, though the characteristic salted butter is always present. Fabulous.
Beautifully sweet: even sweeter than the 12 Years Old with peat on the back of the palate. Beautifully chewy, oily and substantial.
Still peaty and now a little oaky. Cocoa and toffee cream compexity.
This has to be my favourite Highland Park of them all, and each new bottle I taste (this was my sixth sample) seems to underline the overall class and consistency of this distillery. Brilliant.
Jim Murray - Whisky Magazine Issue 5