Break Out Your Inner Viking!

Taste Review #44 – Highland Park 12 Viking Honour

Highland Park Distillery Pagoda

Sometimes good things come from situations that you may not expect much from, and the surprise makes the good thing seem that much better. One of those things for me was a holiday in 2004. Myself and a couple of friends took advantage of a Northlink Ferry offer for 4 nights B&B and a car between Aberdeen and Kirkwall, the main town of the Orkney Isles.

To be brutally honest, I wasn’t really expecting much from the break, as it was mid April, and that isn’t a time of year that promises great weather that far north. If anything I was just going for something to do, and I was hoping my luck would be in with one of the ladies I was travelling with. Needless to say nothing that I expected or hoped for came to pass.

The holiday was fantastic. The weather came to hold for the time we were there. Orkney has so much to see. I won’t say too much, but if archeology, Vikings, World War 2 history and looking at some fairly desolate landscapes are your thing, you need to go. It is a really great place to go.

Orkney is home to 2 distilleries, Scapa and Highland Park. Both are close to Kirkwall, but Highland Park is the most northerly of the two. The distillery was founded in 1798, but wasn’t fully licensed until 1826. It still retains an olde worlde appearance with its traditional stone buildings and the fact it is one of only a handful of Scottish distilleries still using a malting floor.

Highland Park Malting Floor

I remember thinking when I saw the malting floor as to whether or not the distillery had a cat. As leaving a food source on the ground often attracts mice, distilleries often had cats as pest control. The last three distillery cats unfortunately met their end on the road that passes beside the distillery and I reckon Health and Safety would probably frown on cats in distillery now, so that’s not going to happen. Perhaps they would still be there had they been fully paid up members of the Tufty Club.

Highland Park 12 y.o – Viking Honour

And onto the dram.




12 years


40% a.b.v


Light honey gold


Honey, Heather, slight smoke, citrus, milk chocolate, dusty wood.


Quite sweet, honeyed, which then opens up to a creamy, silky wood and heather taste. Floral notes. Light smoke there that has come with the use of peat, but by no means peaty.


Smokey wood, syrupy. Quite a solid, but medium finish. Lightly smoked wood.

The Dram


It’s been quite some time since I’ve had any Highland Park and I am kicking myself. I shouldn’t have left it so long. It’s actually a pleasant dram, with plenty of sweetness and heathery honey notes. Although the official line from the distillery is that it has been matured in Sherry casks, sources tell me that some of the casks are ex bourbon. It’s a shame that producers can’t be a bit more up front. It doesn’t make a difference – it’s still a great drink.

As Highland Park is owned by Edrington, the owners of Macallan, this is part of a luxury brand of whisky, and Highland Park can command good prices at auction. I’d be wary of non-age statement HP in the same way I am with Macallan whisky, as premium prices don’t always give you a truly premium whisky, but this 12 year old is great and I could thoroughly recommend it.

My sample cost me £5.65 from The Whisky Shop Dufftown, and a full bottle should be around the £30 mark, but can be cheaper on offer.

Definitely recommended.

Slainte Mhath!


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Photo credits

Colin Smith / Highland Park Distillery Pagoda / CC BY-SA 2.0

Lakeworther / Malting floor at Highland Park Distillery CC BY-SA 3.0

All other photos – Authors own.