High­land Park’s Martin Mark­vard­sen opens up about his whisky love af­fair

Martin Mark­vard­sen, Se­nior Brand Am­bas­sador of High­land Park, lives and breathes whiskies and ev­ery­thing else that comes along with it – his­tory, pro­duc­tion, fla­vor pro­files, and more. We go be­neath the sur­face and find out how he en­joys High­land Park’s V

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Talk to us about your ear­li­est mem­ory of whisky. How did the love af­fair start?

My first sip was def­i­nitely not a love af­fair! I was 17 and like any other young per­son in Europe, I was on a hol­i­day with friends and at some point you prob­a­bly can’t con­trol the amount you drink. I got re­ally drunk and thought I would never touch it again. But when I was 19, I vis­ited a dis­tillery and saw and felt the pas­sion of the peo­ple work­ing there. That for me was kind of a turn­ing point and I was taught how to prop­erly taste whisky. I also fell in love with its pro­duc­tion, as well as the pas­sion of the peo­ple around it. Af­ter that, I started tast­ing the dif­fer­ent kinds of whiskies and mem­o­rized the dif­fer­ences be­tween the dis­til­leries, up to the point where I could rec­og­nize them at a blind tast­ing. And so my pas­sion just grew with the his­tory, the pro­duc­tion, and all the sto­ries that sur­round the prod­uct.

And what about your first en­counter with High­land Park?

This goes back about 20 years ago and at that time, it was some­thing that was so unique com­pared to the other whiskies I’ve tried. It’s like an im­por­tant time in a per­son’s life and I can tell you ex­actly where I was when I first tried it, down to the minute. Even when I drink it to­day, those mem­o­ries still come back to me and it’s some­thing I will never for­get. That said, work­ing for High­land Park is a dream come true and you could liken it with some­one get­ting a con­tract at a foot­ball club.

What was it about the brand that made you de­cide to have its logo tat­tooed on your chest?

It was an ob­vi­ous choice for me be­cause peo­ple get a tat­too of some­thing they love. Some get tat­toos of their dogs, their cars, or their mother. It wasn’t some­thing I thought about for years, but some­thing that came to mind very quickly. I re­ally wanted to do this be­cause it’s such a big part of my life and I love the brand. First of all, my love for High­land Park is not just about the whisky, but also the love of the peo­ple and Orkney, the is­land where it’s based. When I had the tat­too done, it was mostly to tell my­self that it was some­thing that means so much and is close to my heart. I didn’t get this tat­too to show peo­ple that I have a com­mit­ment with High­land Park. In­stead, I got that tat­too be­cause High­land Park means ev­ery­thing to me.

Se­nior brand am­bas­sador for High­land Park sounds like a dream job. For those who are cu­ri­ous, what is the role all about?

No two days are the same and I do ev­ery­thing from train­ing, talk­ing to bar­tenders about what High­land Park is all about, how to sell it, and even how to drink it. I do whisky clubs and I do events with whisky con­nois­seurs, so my job is dif­fer­ent from day to day, es­pe­cially when I travel around. And even back in Orkney, go­ing through the pro­duc­tion pro­cesses, there are so many things to learn. So my job as an am­bas­sador is a never-end­ing learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, which I ap­pre­ci­ate.

To­day we’re here to wel­come the new­est ad­di­tion to the brand – the Valkyrie. Take us on a fla­vor jour­ney.

The whisky it­self is ma­tured in an Amer­i­can cherry oak cask and Euro­pean cherry oak cask, which gives a very good com­plex­ity. But then we also use whisky that we pro­duce a few weeks ev­ery year which is heav­ily peated, so there’s more smoke and we use that to spice up the fla­vor and to give it a dif­fer­ent kind of fla­vor from our core range. If you start by nos­ing it, the first thing that hits you is some sweet­ness and spici­ness. And once we taste it, sweet­ness that comes over to spici­ness, which turns into a creamy vanilla, and then you get some dry, fruity fla­vors, and then the last things that hits you at the back of your tongue is this heath­ery honey peat. And that is beau­ti­ful for Valkyrie – very good com­plex­ity, fan­tas­tic bal­ance with a lit­tle bit of peat.

How do you per­son­ally en­joy the Valkyrie?

Nor­mally, I would en­joy whiskies neat, but there are re­ally no rules so that’s very im­por­tant to re­mem­ber. Whisky, first of all, is to be en­joyed. I can’t say that enough. If I’m sit­ting at home watch­ing a good foot­ball game or a box­ing match, I would prob­a­bly en­joy it straight. But when I’m out hav­ing a meal with friends and it’s warm, I pre­fer to have my whisky with an ice cube, which turns it into a re­fresh­ing drink. So it re­ally de­pends on what I’m do­ing and what’s go­ing on.

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