Friday 27 October 2017

Highland Park Fire and Valkyrie Launch in Hong Kong (Tasted #375)

It's been a big month for Edrington Hong Kong, with the launch of The Macallan Edition No.3 last week, and three new Highland Parks the week before - Valkyrie, Fire, and Viking Honour 12yo (the same 12yo everyone knows and loves, but in a new and admittedly spectacular bottle).

To introduce the new releases, a lunch was held for thirsty Hong Kong media, with the guest of honour none other than Highland Park Global Brand Ambassador Martin Markvardsen. We first met Martin at 2016's Ice launch, and it was great to see him back in Hong Kong.

The event kicked off with a "Viking Blood" cocktail (Highland Park 12-based, refreshing and delicious) while Martin gave a an overview Highland Park, touching on its unique geography and Viking history (explaining that still to this day, one in three Orkney residents can genuinely trace their heritage back to the Vikings).

Martin talked us through the changing Highland Park bottle designs (which are still in progress, and will continue throughout the range), and the new "Viking Legend" range, of which the Valkyrie is the first release.

The "Viking Legend" range is to be a series of three Highland Parks (Valkyrie, to be followed by Valknut and Valhalla Valfeather), with bottles designed by Danish designer Jim Lyngvild. Martin mused that Jim (whilst a great guy and good friend) was "a little bit weird", and that he originally proposed that the Highland Park 12yo re-design involve the bottle being wrapped in fur (we can't imagine why that idea didn't stick...?)

Suffice to say, they settled on an eye-catching and powerful design, and we look forward to seeing what Jim has in store for the Valknut and Valhalla.

Moving onto the whisky itself, the Valkyrie is a NAS release made up of American Oak ex-Bourbon, American Oak ex-Sherry, and European Oak ex-Sherry casks, with 50% more peated malt, bottled at 45.9%. I found hints of cinnamon, honey and sweet smoke on the nose, with a citrusy, slightly smokey palate with wafts of toffee and honey, and a slightly tannic, long, sweet finish. The increased smoke is definitely there, but it's still very much a Highland Park. The pairing with dry-aged striploin beef was a well thought-out one, with the smoke playing off against the fat in the beef quite well.

At 240,000 bottles, Highland Park aren't calling it a "Limited Edition" (wise, if you ask me), but when those 240,000 bottles are sold, there won't be any more.

Next was a whisky I'd been waiting 12 months to try - Fire. I was a fan of last year's "Ice", and as a fan of (good) port-matured whiskies in general, I was particularly keen to try the Fire, especially as it was wholly matured in ex-Port, like one of my all-time favourite whiskies.

Highland Park Fire (45.2% ABV, 15yo, Orkney, Scotland $2,480HKD£158.33 ex-VAT / $775AUD)
Colour: Deep rich gold.

Nose: Raspberry jelly beans, allspice and jelly babies. Sweet with hints of vanilla spice.

Palate: Slight smoke with a tinge of sea-air saltiness, quick developing into rich toffee vanilla and marzipan, with hints of red berries sprinkled with cinnamon.

Finish: Short, with a predominantly spicy notes with hints of vanilla and red currants.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100. An enjoyable whisky, and a fascinating first for Highlan Park, but my pick of the two remains Ice.

It was great to have Martin back in Hong Kong, talking us through the new releases as part of his epic world tour. A big thanks to Martin and Edrington Hong Kong for making it happen.


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