... it’s totally in harmony, there are no rough edges and everything is melded together brilliantly. F. Paul Pacult, Spirit Journal
HEROES – Current expressions, special releases and limited editions.
LEGENDS – History in a bottle, but sadly sold out.
Highland Park is made today, just as it was in 1798, using five keystones of production. No other distillery uses all five keystones; so no other whisky tastes like Highland Park.
The importance of peat to whisky cannot be overstated. Ours is cut by hand from Hobbister Moor, only seven miles from the distillery. Over 9,000 years old and nearly four metres deep in places, it’s composed of layer upon layer of densely compacted vegetation – the DNA of Orkney. Under constant onslaught by ferocious winds, no trees survive on the island’s exposed and barren moor, so our peat is woodless, but rich in heather.
Our peat is cut in April, dried naturally over summer and then burned in our ancient kilns, where its heathery aromatic smoke infuses the malting barley.
We’re one of only a handful of distilleries to still turn our malt by hand. Labour intensive certainly, but it’s only this sheer hard work - the effort we put into every grain - that delivers the aromatic smokiness which makes Highland Park so distinctive.
Because malting barley produces a substantial amount of heat, we painstakingly turn it by hand, every eight hours, seven days a week, to maintain a constant airflow and exactly the right amount of moisture (5%) to fully absorb the intense aromatic smoke -‘the reek’- produced by the Hobbister Moor peat smouldering in our ancient kilns.
We’re unashamedly obsessed with casks. It starts with trees - European and American oak - carefully selected and cut into staves at precisely 45° to make it hard for any spirit to escape. Exactly how our Viking ancestors made their longships watertight!
We ship the staves to Jerez in southern Spain where they’re made into casks, filled with Oloroso Sherry and left to mature for around two years before being emptied and shipped back to Orkney to be refilled with our whisky. Expensive yes, but with casks contributing up to 80% of our whisky’s final flavour, and all of its natural colour, it’s worth every penny.
For whisky makers, location matters. It’s about the impact of local climate on casks - and the impact of casks on maturation.
Orkney is a remote cluster of some 70 islands, scattered in stormy waters off the extreme north coast of Scotland where the North Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, so our distillery lies almost in the Arctic Circle, on roughly the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska. Yet our climate is surprisingly temperate, reaching highs of only 16°C in summer and lows of around 2°C in winter, perfect for a long, cool and evenly paced maturation in our island warehouses.
Creating a balanced whisky takes time and skill, but creating the intense balance that makes Highland Park stand apart also takes harmonisation. We think it’s fundamental but many distilleries deem it an extravagance.
For every batch of Highland Park released, Gordon Motion, our Master Whisky Maker, selects and combines up to 150 casks, leaving the newly married spirit to rest for at least a month before being bottled. During that critical resting period, flavours from the different casks combine and harmonise, achieving an intense balance that’s delivered through our whisky’s fully rounded flavour and long, satisfying finish.
Whiffs of sulphur and old socks?
Our no-nonsense film guide to nosing and tasting is coming soon!