The Orkney Islands are off the northeastern coast of Scotland. A place once inhabited by Vikings and their long ships. We didn’t encounter any Vikings while we were there because duh, it is 2018. But, we understood and respected that the Viking soul was very much present, even to this day.
Going to Highland Park wasn’t just a stop in our itinerary, it was the one stop we were most excited about when we planned our Scotland trip. The day of our tour, the distillery wasn’t open for general tours. We were lucky enough to have a reservation that Frank Weber of the Onmi Parker Boston made possible. It was he, who set up the Orcadian Vintages Experience Tour. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, Thank You Frank!!!!
The Orcadian Vintages Experience is a behind the scenes tour generally not open to the public. It included a tasting straight from the cask and a tutored tasting of the Highland Park Vintages. Our tour group consisted of four people.
Our tour guide for the day was Brands Heritage Manager, Patricia Retson. She certainly knew how to get the tour started, as the first order of business was to start things off with a dram.
After a dram and a short video of the distillery our tour began.
One of the best things about the tour was that it felt like we had the whole distillery to ourselves. There was no rush to see everything. Patricia took her time with the experience and because there were only four of us, all our questions were answered. We were given the time to soak everything in, while truly enjoying the inner workings of the distillery. Her knowledge about the distillery and whisky in general is impeccable. Plus, you can tell in the way that she spoke that she loved the brand and was truly passionate about it.
After the tour was over we headed to Patricia’s office where we got the chance to taste some very rare Highland Park whiskies.
We started with the one on the far left, the 1968 vintage (not available anywhere), that was followed by 1970, 1971, 1976 and we finished with their cask strength 18 year, only available at the distillery.
What made this tasting experience special was that we were able to truly enjoy each dram. As we progressed through each one, we got a chance to chat and learn more about the distillery from Patricia. One of the things she taught us during the tasting was to chew our whisky instead of just drinking it, to fully experience all the notes and appreciate the whisky. So, if you want to chew your whisky, take a sip and literally chew the whisky in your mouth for about 10 seconds, then drink it. You will notice the difference in the taste of the whisky as oppose to if just drank it.
Our tasting experience last about an hour or so. On our way out, we were given the chance to purchase a bottle of their 18-Year Cask Strength Distillery Exclusive.
Nose: light peat, wood, spice and nuts
Palate: creamy and rich, light peat, spiced nutmeg and pineapple
Finish: lingering notes of sweet and spice
At a cask strength this whisky is not for the faint of heart. It’s strong, bold and delicious. Due to its strength, I can only handle a little bit at a time. It’s the perfect whisky to warm you up in the winter.
This Highland Park tour is a one of a kind tour! This is why this tour topped all the distilleries we visited while in Scotland. It’s cheesy to say, but it is magical to be up there. If anyone ever has the opportunity to go to Highland Park, they should. The distillery and Orkney are both filled with rich history. The island is beautiful, there are many things to see and we found the people to be amazingly friendly. If there was one place we were happy to have made it to, it was here, and we look forward to visiting again sometime soon.
Sadly, Highland Park was the last distillery we visited during our trip. It will however, not be the last time we visit as we plan to visit again. We are already planning a return visit, not only to see new places in Scotland but to re-visit the places we fell in love with. If you love to travel, love whisky and love to visit beautiful places rich with history, Scotland is a must visit.
Note: The contents on my blog are solely my opinion. To me every palate is different! Although I may or may not like a product, I always recommend for people to try it and make up their own minds.