The Orkney Islands off Scotland’s north coast are well known for their Norse connections. Indeed Orkney was ruled by Norway for several hundred years with the Vikings first arriving around the 7th Century. The bloody history of Scots/Norse conflict has long since passed into history however as Visit Orkney recalls ‘the majority of islanders have, ever since, looked back on the centuries of Norse rule as a Golden Age in the islands’ long history’. Highland Park distillery sits just outside Kirkwall, the largest town on the mainland and home to the Norse St.Magnus Cathedral, it is that Viking genealogy that the new ‘Warrior Series’, a range of non age statement malts, celebrates.
Created to mirror the hospitable and generous nature of many of the Viking leaders, including its namesake….
Svein had a sweet pure spirit nose with light smoke and black pepper. It opened up to yield grass, heather, honey and perhaps most surprisingly, pineapple. The palate was filled with malt and the vanilla flavour of first fill oak and peat with white pepper and orange peel on the finish. 40% ABV
Crafted as a tribute to one of the most feared and ruthless Vikings of his time, a hard and successful Viking, often venturing on treacherous long voyages…..
Einar has a nose full of raisins, toasted grapefruit, wood, herbs and chocolate opening up into orange peel and a briny sea breeze. The palate was grassy fresh with fragrant cafe creme cigar smoke, apricots, aniseed and toffee. The finish was filled with chocolate and a tobacco note. 40% ABV
Harald for me was the least interesting whisky of the night, a little bland after the first two. The nose filled with ginger, honey, vanilla and the wood of kitchen drawers becoming a little briny as it opened up. The palate sweet and malty with citrussy fresh ginger before finishing with hazelnuts, sweet smoke and orange peel. It was a little tame. 40% ABV
Considered amongst the strongest & most courageous warriors and ultimately one of the most feared Viking Earls….
Sigurd had a nose rich with sherry sweetness but fresh with pine and heather which further developed with smoke, malt, black cherries and cloves. A real awakening for the senses. Bottled at 43% ABV the palate was filled with dark fruit and liquorice and a subtle smoky note that just kept growing. The pine forest flavour also came through before becoming a creamy dark chocolate and muscovado sugar finish with peat and marzipan notes. A beautiful whisky with the smoke described by Daryl Haldane thus….
The smoke is like a Johnny cash baseline…consistent and unmistakeable
Most at home aboard his longship undertaking his many great expeditions throughout the Middle East & Asia…..
Retailing at €400 a bottle and at 44.6% ABV you’d imagine this is a dram to be savoured. And it is. A nose which is so floral and herby with violets, heather and sloes. Then a pipe tobacco note comes through conjuring memories of childhood comfort and safety before revealing old library shelf wood, damsons, cocoa and a little characteristic Orcadian brine.
The palate is equally as enchanting with full bodies drying tannins upfront which soften into almonds, black fruit, tobacco, leather and wood. The finish is long and slow with herbs, ginger and lots of wood and sweet smoke. Just a perfect after dinner malt for a long slow night. As Steve Rush said….
This whisky needs to be accompanied with a leather wing tipped armchair, a smoking jacket & a good cigar
Thorfinn was a man of much power and influence, who at one stage controlled the whole of the Orkney Islands, a great chief, the tallest and strongest of men whose remains are buried in St Magnus Cathedral on Orkney
The final malt of the night. The €1000 a bottle Thorfinn. A mighty whisky from a different age of distilling, almost a reflection of the golden era of Norse rule, this is a warrior in the twilight of his years. A very classy nose which is reminiscent of Cognac with its old oak and complexity. A sweetness of Christmas cake comes through alongside vanilla creaminess, melons and cedar boxes.
The palate has so much elegant cedar wood that is all at once drying yet warming and comforting. Pipe tobacco sweetness again develops with dried autumn fruits, smoke and sweetness. A sophisticated malt from a civilised age and a perfect curtain call to the tasting. Bottled at 45.1% ABV.
All the whiskies were tasted as part of an online Twitter tasting hosted by Steve Rush (@thewhiskywire) of thewhiskywire.com and with Daryl Haldane (@darylhaldane) of Highland Park as a guest. Thank you to both.