Highland Park Valkyrie

Highland Park Valkyrie Viking Boat

Blimey, where to begin. I feel as though this article should have a contents page, several chapters, a list of references and at least a couple of appendices. It’s all been happening up at Highland Park (and Copenhagen, more on that later) recently. Perhaps a brief overview is in order before we get stuck into the nitty gritty:

1. Highland Park have rebranded their core range and it looks sexy as hell.
2. Highland Park Valkyrie is due to be released and is the first of three expressions in a new range called the “Viking Legend” Series.
3. Valkyrie replaces Dark Origins in the Highland Park portfolio.
4. Over the next two years, Valknut and Valhalla will join Valkyrie and complete the Viking Legend Series.
5. Highland Park Full Volume is due to be released later this year and will replace the 15yo.
6. In the USA, Highland Park Magnus will be launched later this summer.
7. A follow up to Fire and Ice, as well as a 50yo, will also be launched by the end of the year.

There, got it? Good. Here goes.

Rebranding Highland Park

First thing’s first. I think the new bottle design looks great, I really do. I like the detailed and extensive embossing on the glass showing the eternal struggle between good and evil, with a lion fighting with two serpent-like dragons. The inspiration for this comes from the 12th Century Urnes Stave Church in Norway and is the first of many Viking-themed paraphernalia you’ll encounter in this article, and with Highland Park in the future.

At the moment this new bottle design is being rolled out for the 10yo (export only) and the 12yo, with the 18yo following suit later in the year. Furthermore, each of the core expressions now also has an additional ‘identity’, a nick name if you will. As well as being distinguished from one another by age statement, the 10yo will also be known as ‘Viking Scars’, the 12yo as ‘Viking Honour’ and the 18yo as ‘Viking Pride’. You’ll undoubtedly have noticed by now how many times I’ve said the word ‘Viking’ thus far, which leads me nicely to the Copenhagen name-check earlier.

Highland Park Valkyrie

Over the years, we’ve seen a number of Viking themed released from Highland Park. I’m far too lazy to research all of them, create a list and a timeline, and state what markets they were each available in, but thankfully chief scribbler, and good friend of EWB, Jake Mountain, over at Master of Malt has done just that – I urge you to check out his extensive piece on the new Highland Park range here, it’s a humdinger of an article.

Anyway, back to Valkyrie. If you know your Viking mythology, you’ll know that Valkyries were female spirits, often depicted as winged creatures with black feathers and chainmail. It was also the codename for a failed assassination plot on Hitler in 1944, but let’s not dwell on that… Viking-era Valkyries descended on a battlefield once the fight was over, to identify the bravest of fallen Viking warriors and select them for passage to the afterlife, Valhalla. For the global launch of new Viking-themed packaging and a brand new Viking-themed whisky, where else would one select other than Scandinavia itself? Hence I found myself in Copenhagen, the epicentre of hygge, at the end of April.

It’s fair to say those in attendance were given full-Viking treatment whilst there – we toured the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum, we created replica Viking coins, we visited Jim Lingvild’s Viking Castle, “Raunsborg”, we were welcomed into his hand-built Odin’s Temple, we participated in an epic Viking feast, and finally, we looked on as a traditional Viking funeral pyre went up in flames. Like I say, full-on-all-guns-blazing-Viking-mode.

Tasting Highland Park Valkyrie with Senior Brand Ambassador Martin Markvardsen

In amongst all that, there was just about time to taste the whisky. As mentioned above, this is a new NAS expression which will be available imminently in selected markets for around £55 for a 70cl bottle. It is replacing Dark Origins in the portfolio (hint, buy a bottle of Dark Origins now before the price starts increasing) and is matured in a combination of first fill American oak sherry casks, American oak bourbon casks and European oak sherry casks as well as a selection of refill casks. So pretty much every type of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry cask you can imagine, I guess. Here’s what I made of it…

Highland Park Valkyrie
Viking Legend Series #1
45.9% ABV
£54.95 here (once it’s released)

Nose: Initially quite sweet and chocolately, with sticky raisins and toffee fudge. Then the trademark heathery, aromatic smoke appears along with some orange peel, lemon, honey and a hint of dates.

Palate: The smoke punches to the fore, with liquorice, a sweet earthiness, a touch of ash and some cinnamon. Then more sweet fruitiness comes through – apricot, apple and orange primarily. There’s a little black pepper too.

Finish: The smoke hangs around for quite a while, with wood spice, black tea and some dry oak.

Overall: A punchy whisky, and really well balanced. The smoke is the dominant note and pervades the whisky from the nose to the finish, but it’s complemented with some rich fruits and just enough citrus to keep things spritely. A very good whisky for the price, and something which I’m sure the Dark Origins lovers out there will easily hop over to once stock of Dark Origins dries up.

Future Highland Park Releases

The Viking Legend Series is clearly off to a strong start, so where do Highland Park go from here? Well, we know for certain that the next two releases which complete this range will be called Valknut and Valhalla. ‘Valknut’ is the name for the tattoo adorned by the fiercest and bravest Viking warriors, and which allowed the Valkyries to identify and select these warriors for the afterlife, Valhalla. It therefore follows that the final edition in the Viking Legend range should be called Valhalla. As for the flavour profile, cask types, cask ages, and all other bits of info us whisky geeks usually want to know about a whisky, that’s not available yet, but all should become much clearer in the next year or two.

The discontinuation of the 15yo will see a whisky called Full Volume take its place (*unconfirmed* label image courtesy of Whisky Gospel). It appears as though this expression will be Viking-free, with the idea behind it playing on the similarities between a sound engineer and a master whisky maker (!). In Highland Park’s own words, Full Volume is “a synergy between the craftsmanship of a sound engineer using a music amp to dial up and dial down music levels to create the perfect balance of sound with a similar craftsmanship of a master whisky maker who, in turn, balances flavours of whiskies to create a great whisky. All the flavours are balanced to perfection.” We shall see. We have a bit more info on this one though; it will consist of whisky distilled in 1999 and matured entirely in bourbon casks, it will be bottled at 47.2% ABV and the RRP is ca. £75 for a 70cl bottle. This is a limited release (although HP don’t say how limited) and due out later this year with a new variant following in 2018. Could this be the start of a new music-themed range? That remains to be seen, but I’m looking forward to Full Volume already.

Additionally, for those (un?)lucky enough to live in the USA at the moment, Highland Park Magnus will be released in this market only later this year too (*unconfirmed* label image courtesy of Whisky Gospel). Priced at $40, and bottled at 40% ABV, this whisky is matured in a combination of American oak sherry and bourbon casks but that’s all they’re telling us. And finally, (if you’re still reading this article, give yourself a pat on the back, I appreciate it’s been a bit of a slog to get here!), the follow up to Fire and Ice, as well as a 50yo expression, will be released by the end of the year. Boom!

If there’s anything you take away from this article, it’s that Highland Park have a mighty busy 2017 ahead of them. They’ve taken their Viking brand story and ran with it and you should expect quite a bit of noise coming from the Orkney distillery in the near future. And I, for one, am listening intently.




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