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
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.