More multifaceted than Chris Hemswo h’s unkempt lock in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Highland Park Valkyrie is just as hard hi ing
The hard hitting Highland Park Valkyrie is the first of a trio of Viking Legend editions, in collaboration with Danish designer Jim Lyngvild
INDIAN CUISINE REIMAGINED and presented in the style of haute cuisine, whereby food is served bite sized and on an 11-course degustation menu. The “cooling” rasam, a South Indian soup known for its tartness that will jolt your senses, is brought to the table in two halves. A bowl containing sliced cherry tomatoes is laid out in front of me, before a deluge of orange-tint, tomato-based broth rains down on the salad like monsoon rains sweeping aside objects in their path, flooding the bowl with an aromatic wholesomeness. Within arm’s reach is a curvaceous crystal glass housing an amber liquid originating from the northern-most whisky distillery in Scotland.
Nouveau Indian cuisine paired with Scotch in an unlikely food/whisky pairing requires a dose of gumption. Yet both share a common value born of wanderlust despite being thousands of miles apart. On the one hand, Nadodi’s tasting menu ushers diners on a journey retracing the footsteps of ancient nomadic tribes traversed the lands of the southern region of the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka. On the other hand, Highland Park whisky was founded on the largest of Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Great Britain. In the 8th and 9th centuries, Orkney saw a huge influx of Vikings settling on the islands. In response, the archipelago was annexed as part of the larger Scandinavian kingdom by a Norwegian king. Only until 1468 was Orkney transferred to the Scots as part of a dowry involving the marriage of the daughter of Christian I of Denmark to James III of Scotland.
Today, Orkney islanders are found to be a quarter Norse. In fact, the founder of Highland Park was a direct descendant of these early Viking settlers. Like many legendary whisky pioneers who dabbled in the illegal business, Magnus Eunson worked many jobs. He was a butcher and a church officer by day and a bootlegger and a smuggler by night. His whisky operation was set up in a tiny stone hut in High Park, overlooking Kirkwall, back in the late 18th century.
Highland Park lies at the heart of the
Islands whisky region, striking a balance between the peatiness of Islay whisky and the fruitiness of Speyside whisky. The main contributing factor to its unique taste profile is geography. Kirkwall is located around the same latitude as St Petersburg and Helsinki. However, due to its proximity to the oceans, the climate is remarkably mild where temperatures fluctuate between 2°C and 16°C, be it winters or summers. Coupled that with gale-force winds that regularly sweep the island, peat is noticeably less woody but also richer in densely compacted, fragrant heather.
For malting, Highland Park is one of the few distilleries that still perform the process manually̶by hand̶as it allows the distiller to monitor and maintain the desired
moisture level when the barley absorbs the aromatic peat smoke. The majority of casks used by Highland Park are first fills. They are handmade in Spain from European and American oaks, filled with Oloroso Sherry and left to mature for a couple of years, before they are emptied and shipped to Orkney. Hence a number of Highland Park whiskies are bottled as it is, without colour calibration using caramel.
Highland Park Valkyrie
The Valkyrie alludes to the distiller’s origins, inspired by the female helping spirit of the Norse god Odin. The single malt whisky itself is the first of a trio of Viking Legend editions, in collaboration with Danish designer Jim Lyngvild. The Valknut and the Valhalla will follow suit at a later date. On the nose, it is smokier and peatier than the easy-going Highland Park 12 Years Old. In fact, the Valkyrie is uncharacteristically Highland Park due to its high peat content. Although I didn’t like it at first, first impressions aren’t everything. It has an endearing, expressive character that seems to grow and evolve, getting silkier and creamier with every sip. Chocolate amplifies and becomes more prominent. Vanilla lingers longer on the palate with a delicate hint of dried fruits and spices, matched with a finish that is equally sustained. It boasts a richness and complexity that is absent in all other no-age-statement and 12-year-old whiskies. Indeed as I would discover later that the Valkyrie is blended from American oak and Bourbon casks much older than 10 years old.
Highland Park The Dark 17 Year Old
Truly a collector’s whisky, but the set won’t be complete without acquiring The Light, which has just been progressively shipped to various parts of the world. The Dark, however, was released months earlier. Worldwide, production of The Dark is limited to 28,000 bottles. Only 30 bottles have made their way to our shores ̶specifically to Single & Available̶including the two bottles consumed during the dinner held at Nadodi. By the time you read this, the quantity would have dwindled.
The Dark is rated 52.9% ABV, but it is conclusively easier to drink neat than comparable high ABV whiskies. Despite being a year younger than the 18 Years Old, it is no less complex and intense. The Dark is exclusively matured in European oak, Sherry seasoned casks, ensuing a distinctively deep flavour laced with dried fruits, nuts and spices, with just a hint of smoky peat. Equally attractive is its bespoke jet black glass with an embossed serpent dragon. The words “The Dark” are written across the bottom of the oak cradle in runic alphabets as a homage to Highland Park’s ancestry as well as its Viking soul, inviting you to discover what sinister elements are suppressed within. AM