It’s official, the Viking Legend rebranding of Highland Park have hit our shores! (Well, not exactly Indonesian shores, but Singapore is close enough and where we go to buy our whiskies anyway) We flew to Singapore to attend the launch and boy it was a blast. To start off, let us fill you in on the background of the latest rebranding of Highland Park.
Highland Park hails from Orkney, where at one period of time, around 800 AD, were ruled by the Vikings. The first recorded distiller at Highland Park was Magnus Eunson, who migrated from Sweden to Orkney and is a colourful character: A butcher, illicit whisky distiller and smuggler, and a priest. Yes a priest; now he didn’t work in the church because he believed in God or anything like that, he’s just a clever man looking for safe place to hide his whisky – This why we have an expression called Dark Origins.
Dark Origins have long been a favourite among our Society members, matched by its unbeatable price to performance ratio, we dare say it’s in our top ten best NAS whisky list. Sadly, due to thinning stocks and the increasing competition to acquire first fill sherry casks, Highland Park decided it was no longer viable to keep Dark Origins in the lineup; to replace that, and to coincide with the Viking Legends rebranding, they replace Dark Origins with Valkyrie – similar style, similar price point, sustainable to produce.
Valkyries in Norse mythology are the equivalent winged of female angels, who descend upon battlefields to choose fallen warriors worthy of entering Valhalla (the viking equivalent of Heaven, but presumably with much more drinking and partying, which makes it our kind of Heaven)
Now for this release, Highland Park have teamed with Jim Lyngvild the Golden Viking, a famous designer and expert in Norse and Viking mythology. Jim was to take his Nordic-inspired design philosophy and interpret the ancient Norse legend of The Valkyries, that’s why we have two striking monochrome illustrations that we are proud to feature on this special edition whisky.
The inspiration for illustrations comes from two important sources – the ancient Hammer Stone of Gortland and an iconic Viking pendant from around 300-700AD, discovered in Uppland, Sweden. In his design, he represents the Valkyries as shield-maidens of Odin, offering their god mead from a curved horn. The larger illustration features a winged Valkyrie with coiled hair and a necklace that pays homage to the goddess Freya’s magical Brisingamen tore.
Now we have covered a lot of background on Highland Park and its Viking significance, how Singapore’s reception of the new rebrand was like? One word. Enthusiastic.
Party in a warehouse by the docks, gigantic usher, viking feasts – a party fitting of the Highland Park brand. Hundreds of people gathered in a warehouse converted into a party hall, rustic chandeliers dangled from the steel beam ceiling, lively music being pumped out by the DJ, purple and blue neon lights scans the floor.
Immediately we were handed a glass of Valkyrie, just in time for the toast by Highland Park’s senior brand ambassador, Martin Markvardsen.
It was all food, drinks and friendly chats with whisky lovers from Singapore after that. It is worth noting that most of the guest were relatively young and hip, whisky is definitely the in thing nowadays, gone are the image of old gentlemen sitting in country clubs, sipping their Scotch neat and talking about horses …or whatever old gentlemen in country clubs talk about.
Now on to the tasting notes itself – this might not be the best setting to fairly judge a whisky, it’s a sensory overload but we tried our best:
Highland Park Valkyrie (700ml, 45.9% abv) notes by Andrew
Nose: Sweet, creamy, lots of tropical fruits, honey, i had to look harder since is is supposed to be the successor of much smokier and spicier Dark Origins, then I found the signature Highland Park aromatic peat smoke, but rather faint.
Palate: Ho-Ho! there you are, on first sip, the pepper strongly hugs your palate, this is the Highland Park I know and love; tingling spiciness, a hint of toffee to balance things out, dark chocolate, aromatic pipe tobacco comes to mind. I imagine this is how it feels if Martin Markvardsen suddenly gives you a big hug.
Finish: long lingering spiciness and aromatic smoke, peppery, dry finish
Overall: On its own it’s definitely a satisfying dram, very balanced, notes do not overpower each other, nice dry peppery finish, I know i can knock a lot of these back and not feel cloyed – how does it stack up to Dark Origins? For those who can still get their hands on Dark Origins, stock them up before they are gone forever, drink them and once they are all gone, lock yourself up in your room and cry for a day, then go out and get Valkyrie for the same price – in a short time, you’ll find it’s a decent, if not a better replacement, given Valkyrie’s price point. Just like your last break-up then.