Monday, May 8, 2017

Review - Highland Park Valkyrie

Valkyrie is the first in a new trilogy of single malts from Highland Park. Named as the Viking Legend series, the packaging has been created by renowned Danish designer Jim Lyngvild. He is a 21st century Viking and lives in a traditional wooden Viking house that he constructed himself near Faaborg in Denmark. He also lives as an ancient Viking for two months of each year and his designs pull on the brand’s Viking routes. Valkyrie was created by Gordon Motion, the Master Blender of Highland Park, and will be followed by two further editions, named Valknut and Valhalla, in 2018 and 2019.

Highland Park is located on the Orkney Islands and is Scotland's most northern whisky distillery. It is located close to the capital Kirkwall. The distillery is one of the oldest producing whisky in Scotland and was established in 1798 by Magnus Eunson, an interesting character who is said to have been known as the 'whisky priest' - this was because he was a priest by day and an illegal whisky distiller by night. Highland Park is currently owned by the Edrington Group and has an annual production capacity of 2.5 million litres.

Lyndvild’s one-off design for the Valkyrie is inspired by two important Nordic sources – a typical Viking pendant from around 300-700AD discovered in Uppland, Sweden and the ancient Hammar Stone of Gotland which details the epic journey of the legendary Valkyries - Viking angels in female form, who comb the battlefields on horse back looking for the bravest of their fallen warriors to take to Valhalla and a peaceful death.

Jim Lyngvild.
“I am fiercely proud of my Viking ancestry and connection to the islands of Orkney. Working with Highland Park on the new Viking Legend series has been an honour and a unique opportunity to depict the ancient Norse myths and legends, so revered in Viking culture to a new, contemporary audience.”

Highland Park Valkyrie is being launched in 15 markets worldwide and is described as “dialing up more of the smoky notes”. It is bottled at 45.9% ABV and is of natural colour. The recommended retail price is £55 per bottle.

Our tasting notes
The colour is deep golden yellow and the nose has a fragrant mix of aromas - there is an initial hit of soft peat smoke, which has a floral and heathery edge to it, plus some caramel and raisin. There are background hints of ginger, green apple, honey, candied lemon, cinnamon and a faint nuttiness.

On the palate, this whisky is immediately sweet and smoky. The balance and flavour is wonderful and the whisky feels soft and viscous, despite the slightly higher ABV.  Notes of caramel and toffee mingle with a distinct yet soft peat smoke.  This smoke has an acrid hint to it as the whisky evolves but has lovely notes of sweet heather and damp earth. Next come notes of dried fruits - think of raisins, sultanas, apple and candied citrus (both orange and lemon) - and some honey and vanilla. Late hints of wood spice (especially cinnamon and all-spice), liquorice, gingerbread and menthol add further depth and complexity.

The finish is long and warming. The smokiness and wood spices linger longest. This makes the finish a bit drier than expected, especially once the sweet caramel and dried fruit characteristic slowly fade. A late hit of gingerbread adds to the warmth.

What's the verdict?
The Valkyrie is smokier than any other Highland Park that we have sampled and it is lovely. The heavy influence of ex-sherry casks helps to balance this increased smokiness and it works very well. We have long been fans of Highland Park - the 12 years old was one of the whiskies that got us interested in whisky nearly a decade ago - and this new expression does not disappoint. Valkyrie is a very classy single malt and will be added to our drinks cabinet without hesitation.


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