Saturday, February 18, 2012

New release - Highland Park Thor

As we recently reported in Inbox, the Highland Park distillery from the Orkney islands have announced a new range of single malt whiskies. The award-winning brand will release four limited edition whiskies in The Valhalla Collection, all of which will be named after and inspired by Norse legends and gods.  The Orkney islands have a rich Norse heritage dating back to ancient times and Highland Park consistently use this as a thread through their limited edition whisky ranges.

Highland Park is the most northern whisky distillery in Scotland. It is found close to the Orkneys' capital Kirkwall and is one of only two distilleries on the main island (Scapa being the other). Highland Park has one of the best selling and most highly awarded single malt whisky ranges in the world. It is currently owned by the Edrington Group and has an annual production capacity of 2.5 million litres. Highland Park is one of the oldest whisky distilleries in Scotland and was established in 1798 by Magnus Eunson, who was known as the 'whisky priest' because he was allegedly a priest by day and an illegal whisky distiller by night.

The first release in The Valhalla Collection is the Highland Park Thor, named after the most famous of the Norse gods.  His hammer is depicted on the bottle and the release is a limited edition (if you can call 20,000 bottles limited ...). It has been bottled at 16 years of age and at the natural cask strength of 52.1% ABV. It is presented in an extraordinary wooden box, which represents the head piece on a Nordic long boat. The retail price is around the £120 mark.

For further information on the Thor release and The Valhalla Collection - visit the special website

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is highly scented with numerous pleasant aromas. There is an intense heady mix of notes - toffee, malty cereals, lemon zest and a blast of ashy, sooty smoke are particularly prominent with others taking time to come through.  These include notes of crumbly brown sugar, stewed apples, vanilla, yeast and a pinch of ginger and salt.  It feels very bracing and very promising.

On the palate, this is again intense with an initial kick of sooty and slightly earthy peat smoke.  This softens quickly and combines wonderfully with other elements. These are driven by a feeling of juicy green fruit (think of pears and apples) which is fresher than the fruitiness on the nose.  Other characteristics appear through the intensity and create a great depth and complexity.  There are big notes of honey, cereals, butter biscuits and lemon zest.  More subtle hints of ginger powder, vanilla, cinnamon, oak, salt and fresh dough contribute too. As the whisky mixes with your saliva it becomes less tangy and bracing, feeling creamier and quite buttery.

The finish is decently long, starting initially sweet before this gives way to the slightly acrid smoke and subtle wood spices.  The salty note seems much increased now and this saltiness cleanses the palate and refreshes your mouth.  The smokiness is extremely pleasant as it fades and loses some of its feisty nature.

What's the verdict?
Highland Park have done very well with this new release.  While the extraordinary wooden packaging may border on ostentation, the liquid in the bottles is exceptional.  The whisky demonstrates what Highland Park is all about and shows a mix of intensity, depth, complexity, flavour and a decent level of peat smoke without going too far.

Some have commented that Thor seems slightly overpriced, but it just about gets away with it due to the high quality of the whisky. Fans of the distillery should love this, as should lovers of good whisky.  It leaves us waiting in anticipation for the next releases in The Valhalla Collection - they have made a stunning start.

1 comment:

Jason Debly said...

On the topic of Highland Park price points getting a little rich, apparently high demand in India has resulted in price increases for Highland Park 18yrs.

Where I live (Canada) the retailer's cost has jumped by nearly 25%! And you know that cost is passed on to the consumer.

I suspect this trend will continue as emerging economies increase their demand for scotch whisky over their domestic spirits.