Liq­uid as­sets

More mul­ti­fac­eted than Chris Hemswo h’s un­kempt lock in the Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse, the High­land Park Valkyrie is just as hard hi ing

AugustMan (Malaysia) - - Con­tents - WORDS BY JUSTIN NG PHO­TOS BY HIGH­LAND PARK & SØREN SOLKAER

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

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