So, it’s just a dressed up 12 year old, right? Different bottle, different label, same whisky, right?
On a recent trip to Orkney, WU got the chance to get up close and personal with one of Highland Park’s latest limited releases.
Why the special release?
The Orkneyinga Saga is the only written medieval source that centres on Orkney. It captures the arrival of the Norse to Orkney and Shetland and their subsequent conquest of these island chains. The lives of the first Earls to rule Orkney are charted in bloodthirsty detail, such as the Christmas Day murder of 1135, following a night of feasting and drinking. Game of Thrones, eat your heart out!
Part of the physical archaeology of this time is located at Orphir on Orkney where the Orkneyinga Saga Centre explores the Saga and the archipelago’s history. In dire need of renovation, Highland Park put this special bottling together at 46% ABV as a way to raise funds and give its loyal customer base something a bit different. Roughly £5 of each £55 bottle will go to the Centre, meaning around £25,000 will help breathe new life into one of Orkney’s most important locations.
Deep amber in colour, the Orkneyinga delivers a pleasingly complex nose. Orange pops out at you along with butterscotch. What we really like here is the touch of vanilla amidst the woody, oak embers–that light smokiness is the cue that we have a Highland Park on our hands!
Citrus and sweetness are just a lovely combination here, mainly with orange peel, fruitcake, spiced apples and marzipan. The orange flavour is quite powerful and actually turns more into Cointreau. In fact, it’s very citrusy. Grapefruit starts to come out as you settle down with the Orkneyinga. It’s almost…hoppy? Like a powerful American West Coast IPA! In that way, it’s quite chewy, the body is full and viscose. Despite the variety of tastes and several powerful notes, the Orkneyinga is fantastically balanced. Water simply enhances this liquid.
Given the taste and balance, we might have expected an equally deep, long finish. That’s not the case but then this is is still a 12 year old of sorts. It’s a clean, quality finish, with the customary faint smokiness of Highland Park whiskies. There’s lingering salt caramel around the tongue. Finally, the sherry comes through to remind you this is still a Highland Park 12 at heart!
An excellent whisky. It would be unfair to simply say it’s £25 or so better than the 12 year old. The Orkneyinga really stands out on its own with different citrus flavours and balance than we are used to from the Highland Park range (the 12 year old is more pear and apple in our opinion). Simply put, it’s a unique whisky: if you’ve got one of the 5,000 bottles, savour it!