Highland Park Completes Its Viking Legend ‘Trilogy’
If you’re a single malt aficionado, you surely know the name Highland Park. Hailing from the windswept Scottish islands of Orkney, the legendary distillery of Kirkwall is famous as the northernmost in the world, standing at a latitude of some 59 degrees north. Not only does this location give the whisky a distinctive character, the Orkney Islands archipelago itself stands unique in this regard, too. Indeed, if you look at a map, you can clearly see that Orkney is in fact closer to Oslo, Norway, than to the UK capital city, London (and even closer to the Nordic coastline). This proximity has ensured that a significant influence in Orcadian history was down to the seafaring Norse Vikings, rather than the nobility of Scotland and England, lying far to the south. Even today, widespread evidence of the Viking presence and influence in Orkney is common, with the vast majority of place names and even entire settlements reflecting that heritage.
On a group of islands pounded by the North Sea and relentless gale-force winds, only two distilleries exist here, a far-flung world that’s home to just 22,000 hardy souls. The most famous of the two, by far, is the phenomenally well-regarded Highland Park, founded in 1798. With an arsenal of awards to its credit, Highland Park is considered by many connoisseurs as one of the finest single malts in the world.
Appropriately inspired by Orkney’s Norse heritage, Highland Park teamed up with Danish designer Jim Lyngvild, a descendant of the first Earl of Orkney, to create the packaging for the renowned distillery’s impressive Viking Legend series, a trio of single malt whiskies crafted to reflect the history and character of the whisky’s home island. More specifically, the whiskies were named and inspired by the fabled journey of Odin to Ragnarök – that’s right, it’s not just a Marvel movie, but in actual fact the Norse legend of the battle at the end of the world.
According to the saga, the bravest of the fallen Viking warriors are marked with the symbol of the Valknut, and then spirited away by the Valkyries to join the Valfather, Odin, in the climactic battle of Ragnarök. From this legend, the trio of whiskies in the Viking Legend series took their names.
Like most good trilogies, the three whiskies were released successively over the last three years. The first, launched in 2017, was Valkyrie. This whisky, bottled at 45.9% ABV, is a real stunner, so much so that you’ll be hard-pressed to find it on retail shelves just two years on following its release, given its popularity. In fact, Highland Park Valkyrie was awarded the Chairman’s Trophy in the 2017 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, with an impressive 99 out of 100 points. Rich fruits and vanilla-tinged custard on the nose, balanced with just a bit of smoke. Impressive mouthfeel, and a full palate of warm spiciness with notes of ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
The second in the series, the Valknut, was released last year, offering a harmonious blend of smoky and sweet flavours at 46.8% ABV. This expression, however, serves up a greater emphasis on woodiness and a peppery spiciness that stands in contrast to the baking spices showcased in the Valkyrie. As for the packaging, the Valknut symbol that’s used is seen repeatedly on artifacts from the Viking Age, a representation of three stylised, interlinked triangles.
Finally, the last whisky in the trilogy was just recently released, introduced to the Malaysian market in a magnificently realised launch held in the Cameron Highlands, which – as fate would have it – were cloaked in a cool, misty fog on the event date, evoking the inevitable comparisons to the whisky’s Scottish homeland – if certainly still a few degrees warmer! It was our privilege to be a part of the launch of the Valfather in Malaysia, the final chapter in a truly excellent whisky trilogy. Graciously hosted by Highland Park brand owner Edrington and led by Manager of Prestige and Education Brian Lau, the launch encompassed all three whiskies in the Viking Legend series and a memorable whisky pairing dinner at The Smokehouse, one of the most charming hotels in the Cameron Highlands.
The final expression in the series draws its inspiration from the mightiest of Norse gods – no, not Thor, but his father, Odin. Like the god of legend, Valfather offers rich layers of complexity and character. Perhaps unlike Odin, the whisky also delivers a nice range of flavours, too! Bottled at 47% ABV, Valfather is a bright golden colour, offering apple, pear, and some honeycomb on the nose, with a creamy custard flavour profile with toast and baking spices noted on the palate. At once fruity and smoky, this nicely balanced single malt is Highland Park’s most heavily peated expression to date.
It was a uniquely special experience to be able to compare and contrast each of these whiskies in one sitting. Though we found both the Valknut and Valfather to be worthy additions to the celebrated Viking Legend series, our vote for the top spot in the trio goes to the Valkyrie. What can we say? All too often the first chapter in the trilogy endures as the best.
Despite this vaunted expression’s relative lack of availability these days – yes, it’s that good – it’s now packaged as part of a lovely set comprising all of the Viking Legend series whiskies. The full trilogy set is now on sale at Single and Available, a line of specialty whisky stores with the flagship outlet in Bangsar Shopping Centre. You may visit them in person, or contact them at 03.2287 2151 or via email at [email protected].