Review – Highland Park Valkyrie & The Introduction of The Viking Soul Concept.

This is a new NAS expression of Highland Park which has been recently released as part of the massive rebranding of the entire range in which owners Edrington reflect on the Scandinavian heritage of the island of Orkney, where the distillery has been producing whisky since 1978. It is the most Northern distillery in Scotland and produces 2.5m litres per year.

This is to be the first in a series entitled ‘Viking Legends’ ,which have been designed in collaboration with notable Danish designer Jim Lyngvild.

The next releases are to be called Valknut and Valhalla and the Valkyrie will be a replacement for Dark Origins in the current Highland Park portfolio.

Highland Park Valkyrie, OB, 45.9%abv, Press Sample.

On the nose there is a healthy whiff of peat and smoke alongside some grassy elements as well as bananas, tropical fruits and some mild chocolate notes. Given time, after the smoke lifts, redcurrants and apricots appear alongside some spices. There is a distinct toffee, or perhaps a fudge, note here too alongside some deeply buried nutmeg.

The palate is quite minerally initially, wood smoke, raisins and peach stone mingle just above some very mild ash and distant fruit.

There is a surprise in the form of an orange burst here, alongside some earth tones and a little citrus pepper.

The light peat slowly fades during the finish to leave some tannic elements and the reappearance of some chocolate and lingering spiced oak.

There is no doubt it is well balanced and there is something interesting about experiencing a more peated release. It certainly stands out in the HP portfolio but not in the marketplace itself in general now that the majority of brands now have a peated (or even super peated) expression of some description in their range, regardless of their geographic location.

It is much more peat based than their other expressions as approx. 50% is made up of peated malt, as opposed to Highland Park’s usual ratio of only 20%, and perhaps as a result of this the sweeter heather honey and green apple elements I personally associate with the brand’s DNA aren’t as obvious, although to be fair they weren’t as obvious in the whisky this has replaced in the range (Dark Origins)

Maybe it is an attempt to make it a more ‘Orkney style’ (if there is such a thing) of whisky, or at least make it feel more of a product of the island, using more Orcadian peat. I’m not sure how much of the barley is from Orkney, if anyone knows then please feel free to get in touch.

This is an NAS replacing another NAS in the range so at least its not a replacement for say the 15 or 18 and is at a similar price point to its predecessor. In recent years Highland Park have released several hyped up and collectable NAS expressions but also kept their aged expressions within their range.

From a marketing departments point of view it makes perfect sense to reinvigorate the brand before it gets tired or left behind by others. Time will tell how well the Viking Soul concept plays out with consumers however.

This expression isn’t going to revolutionise or reinvigorate the brand all on its own but I suppose it is the start of a new chapter in the direction of Highland Park.

It makes sense to fill the portfolio gaps, it makes sense to rebrand from time to time and it makes sense to focus on both the biggest markets and the heritage of the brand.

That aside, did I enjoy the whisky?

I didnt dislike it. It is interesting and offers more punch than the rest of the range. Putting aside all the marketing nonsense for a moment it is balanced, punchy but perhaps ever so slightly nondescript.

Read my Highland Park vertical, featuring the 12, 15 and 21 alongside the Dark Origins, here.

There are more Highland Park reviews to be found in the Tasting Notes Archive.