From around 800AD until 1468, Orkney was ruled by a succession of Viking Earls, some extremely wise and some, it has to be said, extremely wicked. Their stories are brought vividly to life in the Orkneyinga Saga – The History of the Earls of Orkney written around 1200 and their influence lives on to this day. Highland Park has a rich history of coming from the Viking Lineage, which is probably what gives the Dark such a subtle yet persuasive edge in the whisky category.
The founder, Magnus Eunson, was a direct Viking descendant. A butcher and church officer by day, and a smuggler by night, he set up his illicit still at a little bothy at High Park, overlooking Kirkwall – still the site of Highland Park today. They say that the Highland Park distillery was founded in 1798 – but in truth, that’s just the year that the authorities finally caught up with Magnus – whisky was certainly being produced there before that! With the exception of the smuggling operation, very little has changed in those intervening years.
The first release in a series from Highland Park launched in 2017, The Dark is a 17 year old single malt which has been drawn from European oak Sherry-seasoned casks.
Appearance: The bottle itself is quite impressive visually. The design and the sleek black, remind us of those past viking days. Taken after its name the Dark, the spirit within is hard to see from the outside of the bottle. Being cask strength, you assume the brown liquid within would be of a nice red/golden brown color. But if you make that assumption you would be greatly disappointed.
Nose: The nose is not as pungent as I had expected of something cask strength over 50% abv. It’s somewhat light and sweet with notes of oak, spices, dark berry fruits, and a hint of honey. The dark berries and the honey bring out a certain sweetness on the nose, that is reminiscent of a happy time you would remember from your childhood.
Palate: For such a light liquid, the palate brings forth a heavy dose of spices, cinnamon, nutmeg almost baked spices like. I picked up some sherry soaked cake as well. With a drop of water it opens up very nicely. I got some pepper and clove and an almost buttery spongecake type of profile. A little smoky, but the sherry is evident and overpowers the dram mightily.
Finish: Nice and smooth with dark chocolate, cocoa and bittersweet jam. The finish does not disappoint and ends up leading all the way even 30 seconds after you have consumed the juice.