With its base on the northern Mainland Orkney Island – the largest of the 70 which comprise the Orkney archipelago – Highland Park whisky can confidently tap into its long-standing Norse heritage for use within its whisky branding.
Two recent examples have been the Loki (a review of which will be coming soon on Miss Whisky) and the Warrior Series, which has been made exclusively for travel retail (or, duty free, as it is commonly known).
The Warrior Series will be comprised of six no-age statement releases. The first three are called Svein, Einar and Harald, all of which sound distinctly Norse except for the last which makes me think of a large, bald tax accountant living in Milwaukee. In fact, the press release I received says he was actually the King of Norway, famed for his reverently large army. The former two, Svein and Einar, are named respectively after the ‘ultimate Viking chieftain…[whose] appetite to adventure and merriment are legendary’ and the joint Earl of Orkney from 1014 ‘relentless in his rule and clearly identifiable by his might axe’. So, not a tax accountant in sight then.
These first three are available in European airports now while the latter three will hit shelves this summer and eventually be extended as a global offering. Like the flavour profile, each bottle gets incrementally more intense in price as well. The Svein will cost €40 for 1L while the Harald goes up to €75 for 70cl.
The idea behind Highland Park’s new series is to have a range of whiskies which increase in flavour strength profile from one release to the next. The company has said this has been achieved by increasing the quantity of European oak ex-sherry cask aged whisky in each one. Theoretically, if one were to buy all six, she or he would see a distinctive change when tasting them one after the other.
I wasn’t able to attend the launch event but I kindly received samples of the first three recently from Highland Park and have had a chance to sit them down side by side and sample them. Here’s what I thought:
Highland Park Warriors: Svein: 40% ABV: €40 for 1L:
(C): Light golden straw
(N): Very well structured to start with loads going on in the glass. At first, vanilla and pineapples, then a bit of fresh grass, a hint of chalky smoke, some lemon and finally some briney notes.
(P): A bit of chewy, briney smoke to start that surprises, given the fruitier notes on the nose. Chewy and sea-sprayed, I could imagine drinking this on a stormy beach in autumn. A second sip reveals a creamier, lemon note with dashes of earthy seaweed.
(F): Drying and dark.
Highland Park Warriors: Einar: 40% ABV: €53 for 1L:
(C): Golden mustard
(N): Slightly richer and more buttery than the Svein. Dusty smoke and a hint of black licorice sweetness follow after a few moments while a slight wine gum note comes through later.
(P): A bold dram with black pepper notes and a spicy kick. Some chocolate and black licorice lingers too. On second sip, leather library books and pepper coated smoky pork dominate.
Highland Park Warriors: Harald: 40% ABV: €75 for 70cl:
(C): Richer mustard
(N): A rounded, rich fruit note starts the nose off, but is balanced by a peppery tang at the back. Some herbal elements also come through (softer ones like tarragon rather than rosemary) as do butter and ginger.
(P): Ginger, treacle and biscuit notes emerge before a drying, slightly bitter tinge. Softer, fruitier dashes are also there (maybe raspberries) but the cigar smoke notes dominate.
(F): Lemon rinds dipped in ash.
The new Warrior Series comprises a powerful bunch of whiskies – it will suit people who enjoy Highland Park’s style and whiskies will good weightiness. These are drams that linger with you for a while, so be prepared. The Warriors are out fighting!