By Richard Thomas
For the last few years, I have thought Highland Park is the natural pairing choice for settling in for a new episode of Vikings. No, the Vikings never drank whisky, but the Orkney-based distillery loves to tie in on the Viking heritage of their island home in the extreme north of Scotland with Norse-themed releases.
Highland Park Fire is one such example, pointing to Surtr, the fire giant from Muspelheim (as opposed to the frost giants of Jotunheim, which is what Highland Park Ice was all about) who plays a key role in bringing about the end of the world in Ragnarok.
The color in the bottle is certainly fiery, something that comes from it’s unusual origins. Highland Park Fire is a 15 year old that is 100% drawn from refill Port wine cask stock, and bottled at 45.2% ABV. The production run on this single malt is 28,000 bottles, fairly large for a limited edition release.
In a contrast to how the whisky is depicted in the bottle, the liquid is far lighter in the glass. There it isn’t a Port-ish red, but instead looks like dulled gold.
The nose is positively lush with musty wine grapes and strawberries, a scent akin stepping into a moldy shed where a farmer is making berry-mixed wine. This core aroma is supplemented by notes of spicy, red hot cinnamon and a tinge of cocoa earthiness.
On the palate, the flavor packs in vanilla bean and a fistful of dried red fruits. This initial flavor is followed by rising notes of a spicy tingle first, and then a whiff of smoke. The finish starts as a sweet thing before sliding into a slight spiciness and, mirroring the taste, finally into a slight smokiness.
I found what the long Port cask aging did for Highland Park Fire enchanting. This single malt is supremely tasty, and endowed with a multi-facted sophistication.
Highland Park Fire fetches £190 a bottle.