We launched our new In Conversation With… series last month, featuring our Master Whisky Maker, Gordon Motion, and our Senior Brand Ambassadaor, Martin Markvardsen, talking all things whisky in The Ba’ Bar at Edinburgh’s The Dunstane Houses.
While Episode 1 explored the origins of whisky, in Episode 2 the two friends will explore the origins of Highland Park – our name, our distillery and our keystones of production. We thought you might like to put your own knowledge of Highland Park to the test… no prizes, just a well-earned dram if you score full marks!
1. Located in Kirkwall, in the Orkney Islands, Highland Park is the northernmost distillery in the world. But exactly how far is our Distillery from Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on mainland Scotland?
2. Highland Park was founded by Magnus Eunson in 1798 (technically, he was making whisky before this point, but this is when the authorities caught up with him!). When not making whisky, Magnus was a…
b) preacher and churchwarden
3. Highland Park tastes like no other whisky in the world because of our unique keystones of production. How many keystones do we have?
4. One of our keystones focuses on the peat we cut from Hobbister Moor, just seven km from the distillery. What makes Orcadian peat so unique?
a) It’s full of salt from the sea winds
b) It’s full of densely compacted trees
c) It’s full of densely compacted heather
5. Another of our keystones focuses on the type of cask we use to impart flavour. Typically, what are these seasoned with?
6. By law, Scotch whisky has to be matured for a minimum of three years. When was this law introduced?
Highland Park is situated 16km (1b) from the northernmost point of the Scottish Mainland (not John O’Groats but Dunnet Head, a couple of km further north!). Magnus Eunson, our founder, was a butcher (or ‘fletcher’) by day (2a), with a shop in Kirkwall. However, he was also active in the church (2b) although less for god-fearing reasons and more for the opportunity to conceal casks of whisky under the pulpit and even in coffins, away from the prying eyes of the customs and excise men. Although whisky in those days was distilled primarily for medicinal purposes, Magnus certainly wasn’t a doctor!
We have five keystones of production at Highland Park (3a) including the aromatic peat we cut from Hobbister Moor. The wild winds that beset these islands mean that few trees survive here so our peat is unique in being free of woody fibre, but rich in deeply compacted heather (4c) allowing it to burn slowly in our kilns, imparting unique floral aromas to our malted barley. Our other four keystones are hand-turned floor maltings, sherry seasoned oak casks (5a), cool maturation and cask harmonisation. We work in partnership with bodegas in Spain to secure the best sherry seasoned casks on the market as these impart the greatest flavour to maturing whisky – typically up to 60%. However, we also use ex-bourbon casks from the US and we’ve even used casks seasoned with Rioja wine too (for limited edition releases) to add both complexity and balance to our whisky.
The first law on whisky maturation came into being in 1916 and was set as two years; this was changed to three years in 1917 (6b) and was driven by the need to minimise access to alcohol for munitions workers in factories during WW1.