Bottle #5 of our 13-year Anniversary themed event – The Far Flung Regions of Scotland. The Northern Selection:
For this aged group of dedicated ET members (13 years!) I am of solid opinion that every anniversary needs a Unicorn. The Valhalla Collection from Highland Park celebrates the Norse Gods of Freya, Loki, Thor and Odin, one released per year from 2012 to 2015. HP later released 2 additional similarly packaged bottles in 2016, Fire (celebrating Ragnarok) and Ice (celebrating the Ice Realm). We all know HP has carried on with several more bottles celebrating the northern Scottish Island of Orkney, HP’s blustery home, and its roots in Norse mythology.
Alas, the entire Valhalla collection is as yet out of reach. But even a piece of this rare collection, the few bottles of which are left in existence sitting on private collector’s shelves, was a Viking Honour to sample…
September saw us have a guided tasting with the representatives from Beam Suntory.
There was an extensive selection including Scotches, Japanese, Irish and American to try and sample.
Here is the featured list:
Auchentoshan 21 Year Old
Highland Park Valknut
Glen Garioch Founders Reserve
Laphroaig Cairdeas Fino Cask
Kilbeggan 18 Year Old
Bookers Small Batch Bourbon
Highland Park Valkyrie was reviewed by Michael Bridgman:
Valkyrie is the first of the Highland Park viking legend series. A valkyrie is an angel who came down from Valhalla to take a fallen warrior off the field of battle to Odin. Hence the black bottle representing death.
NATURAL CASK-DRIVEN COLOUR
Average colour tint 9.6
Green apples | Sun-ripened lemons | Oriental spices | Vanilla | Preserved ginger | Dark chocolate | Salty liquorice | Warm aromatic smoke
Review by club member Luke Moffatt
Highland Park 12 year Viking Honour.
The name of this whisky does not refer to the area of Scotland known as The Highlands, but rather to the fact that the distillery was founded on an area called ‘High Park’ distinguished from a lower area nearby. Highland Park is one of the few distilleries to malt some part of the barley it uses, blending locally cut peat from Hobbister Moor with heather before being used as fuel. The malt is peated to a level of 20 parts per million phenol and then mixed with unpeated malt produced on the Scottish mainland. Thank you to Wikipedia for providing this information.
I love a good whiskey with a strong background and lets be real for a minute. The Viking culture is arguably one of the richest and more well known cultures from history. What makes a better tale than a horde of warriors sailing for weeks if not months on end with no real idea of where they were going, only to loot and pillage. Warriors that pleased their gods only with the death of their enemies. No amount of prayer or devotion could sway the gods, only death, conquering, and strength. Highland park is very much like this culture. Strong, unique, bold, and brave. You get this right from the moment you open the bottle.
The nose is strong. Strong smoke and sweetness wash over your senses, and what I can only describe an a brine smell. I imagine a Viking longship sailing in stormy weather with a salty mist and a fire going to keep the warriors warm on a cold voyage. A strange sort of calm to mask what was coming. I am intrigued, a little nervous, but I want to know more, so I take a sip and sail into the unknown.
The palate is unique. Just like any conquest, victory is bittersweet and amongst the smoke , I can detect orange, honey, and tropical fruits. I chew for awhile and find that it gets waxy and thick, and for a moment I find myself wondering what side will emerge victorious.
The finish is bold. Bold with the flavours of wood, spice, and black pepper. To the victor go the spoils of war and it is long lasting. A celebration and a marriage of flavours is what truly describes the finish on this whiskey. I am feasting with the victorious Vikings by a fire, celebrating a glorious victory, while an arranged marriage of tribal leaders is debated, so peace can be obtained.
A brave connoisseur is needed to appreciate this. Brave in the sense to appreciate strong, unique, and bold flavours. Pair this whiskey with smoked meats. Cherry, apple, or pear smoke would be excellent. I think slow smoked pork back ribs, beef brisket, or smoked pork chops. Better yet, turn this into a BBQ sauce and baste your meats with it. You may be nervous, but when you emerge victorious, you will not be disappointed.