RIDE OF THE VALKYRIE. Highland Park celebrated its Nordic heritage with the launch of its limited edition Valkyrie whisky. Joezer Mandagi Reports from Singapore
Highland Park’s Valkyrie Limited Edition whisky
Vikings are perhaps one of the last things that come to mind when you’re talking about single malt Scotch whisky. Highland Park distillery, however, embraces both the traditions of Scottish whisky-making and the spirit of the ancient Nordic warriors. According to senior brand ambassador Martin Markvardsen, a powerfully-built Dane who easily looks like a Viking warrior himself, the people of Orkney, where Highland Park is based, are more Nordic than Scottish, anyway. Now, this is a whisky with a story.
The Viking “People in Orkney can trace their bloodlines straight to the Vikings,” Markvardsen says as he launches into an explanation of the island’s long history. I met Markvardsen in October, shortly before the Valkyrie’s launch, and he was more than eager to share his stories and love for the brand. He has spent 27 years working with whisky and it was this deep-seated passion that caught the attention of Highland Park. The admiration was mutual and he even has the brand’s logo tattooed on his chest.
a Valkyrie carrying a bottle of Valkyrie
So, what was it that makes Highland Park different from all the other whiskies out there? “I would say there are three things,” Markvardsen began. “First is location. We are very remote from everything else; we are northern-most Scottish distillery. Our whisky matures differently and production is different because of the climate up there.” Then he went on to mention the people of Orkney and the whisky itself, as well as how the mild climate and heavy winds of Orkney create a unique maturing environment for the latter. “But what really makes us different in production is the peat they’re using,” Markvardsen continued. “If you go to Orkney, because of the wind there are no trees—there have never been any trees there. So, our peat is very, very different. They’ll burn differently and gives more kind of a honey, floral peat, because we only have flowers in our peat.” He then explained how this translated into the whisky: “When we talk about tasting notes there are three things you’ll always find: Sweetness, sherry notes and this beautiful honey peat in it that comes out as well. And that’s the DNA of Highland Park that is very, very different from the others.”
That very DNA was, of course, also present in the Valkyrie.
Brand ambassador Martin Markvarsen and a Valkyrie carrying a bottle of Valkyrie
The Valkyrie’s Debut
The launch of Highland Park’s limited edition Valkyrie was held at Cargo39, Singapore, in what could only be described as an industrial park. The entrance to the venue was not exactly hidden, but it wasn’t easy to find either. And it also involved a ride in a dusty cargo elevator. Things, however, quickly changed once attendees—VIP guests, members of the media and various influencers— arrived at the party proper.
Inside, guests were greeted by a replica of the Highland Park distillery’s façade in Kirkwall, Orkney. Inside, an open bar greeted those eager to whet their whistles while those more inquisitive about the brand’s roots could try their hand in activities like metalworking—which was, of course, an important part of Viking culture.
It didn’t take long, however, for the room’s collective attention to shift their collective attention to the main stage, where Markvardsen—quite appropriately wearing a kilt—introduced the crowd to the star of the evening: The Valkyrie limited edition. He was later joined on stage by a model in full Valkyrie regalia carrying a bottle of the new spirits. More importantly, however, the open bar soon started offering guests shots of Valkyrie on the rocks and the party started in earnest.
Highland Park’s Valkyrie Limited Edition whisky on the bar
To be fair, I had a bit of a head start over most of the other guests, having had a chance to sample the Valkyrie during my earlier meeting with Markvardsen. Still, the second time around—and third, fourth and so on—was just as memorable as the first. While the flavor profile of the whisky offered complexity and depth, there was the unique honey sweetness that was characteristic of Highland Park’s whiskies. And then, there was a strong spicy punch that, i was told, was the Valkyrie’s signature and came from the use of American sherry-seasoned casks and bourbon casks during the whisky’s maturation. In retrospect, this “sweet but comes with a strong punch” profile certainly resonated with the image of the mythical Valkyries.
In closing, whisky enthusiasts and connoisseurs certainly have a new libation with which to welcome in the new year and start their 2018 adventures.
Metalworking demonstration at the launch event
Metalworking demonstration at the launch event
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