On Location: Highland Park

The tour begins with a welcoming dram to accompany the obligatory and often dreaded tour video.

Highland Park 10yo [2017] Ob. 40% WB82[30] WF88

Made predominantly from European oak topped up with US barrels, 40% of which is virgin oak – all sherry seasoned.

HP 10.jpg

  • N: A gentle, well rounded nose with a little peat smoke (the current 12yo is only a mere 3ppm). Nice recipe.
  • T: Soft virgin oak – so a young tempered dram but still with some immaturity.
  • F: Feathery-soft heathery finish, sweet saline. Again, the recipe rings true.
  • C: Another entry level age statement HP destined for international markets. Depending on the price differential however, you may be better off jumping straight to the 12yo. The last HP 12yo i had improved significantly in the bottle over time, so there’s a fair chance this would also.

Scores 80 points


Absolutely waste of time video. To come all this way to watch a generic, content-light, romanticised view of whisky making is befuddling. I can do my YouTube watching at home thanks.

Distillery chimneys

What the glossy/fantasy imagery of yesteryear [at the expenses of actual information] video is adhering to, is that the history of Orkney sways towards Norsk heritage and the Vikings, not Gaelic  – and boy don’t HP play on it. HP credit the priest/butcher/church officer/smuggler/direct descendant of the Vikings [cross off as appropriate] Magnus Eunson as the founder of HP’s humble beginnings back in 1798, but there are other versions. Less glamorously, could the founder of HP have been a farmer called David Robertson? [SW]. Approaching claims about historic roots in the eighteenth century with scepticism, maltmadness.com focus instead on the more concrete year of 1826. That’s the year when Robert Borwick officially obtained a license to distill at HP.

My notes say ‘Typar’ was the original name of the distillery but it would seem that’s another fail for the pesky auto-correct. Scotchwhisky.com suggest it may have been called Rosebank, then Kirkwall before settling on the name Highland Park. The distillery is situated on an area known as ‘High Park’, ‘distinguished from a lower area nearby’ wiki.


According to our guide, ‘traditionally’, grain steeping would have been typical in Orkney. This would entail shocking the grain into germinating by dunking hessian bags full of barley into the rivers. Today HP have no less than five maltings floors on site, so turning the grain is done with machinery as opposed to heavy & time-consuming manual scufflers [depicted in the video].

The peat in Orkney has a very different makeup to Islay peat and of that on mainland Scotland, being mainly composed of de-composed heather and sphagnum moss. HP’s peated malt ‘makes up 20% of the barley used for each mash. The remainder, unpeated, comes from the mainland.’ SW.

Pic [below left]: The burning of peat these days is administered purely for phenolic flavour enhancement. Peat fires burn slowly for a 7-8 hour course whilst coke that follows is given 8-16 hours as necessary. The coke reduces the moisture in barley from 45-55 to a mere 5%.

Pic [below right]: The red line represents the temperature of the peat fire, whilst the blue line represents the coke fire which burns hotter. Note the peat’s gradual temperature increase as opposed to the coke’s rapid heat acceleration before swiftly stabilising.





  • On site, HP have 19 dunnage warehouses and 2 more modern warehouses with casks racked eight high.
  • Quarter cuts – To prevent potential cask leakage and/or moisture penetration, staves have to be cut in such a way that the grain structure [based around the growth rings], is directional.
  • HP’s sherry butt staves require 1.6m cuts whereas barrels require a 1m cut.
  • HP’s angels share is under 1%
  • Like at Macallan [blog], HP’s ‘ready’ whisky is poured into spent casks for a 5-6 week marriage. For the 30 & 40yo expressions, this marriage can take up to six months or more.



Highland Park 12yo [2017] Ob. 40% WB82.29[283] WF84


  • N: More obvious sherry influence here than in the 10yo. Water brings out the oils.
  • T: Malty sherry balance. A good recipe once again. Water brings oils, some brine, some salt.
  • F: Raisiny>grape skin finish with a little salt and some wax.
  • C: The last bottle of 12yo HP I had took a few months to open out, and was transformed. This batch seems receptive enough already. Same score as before [blog].

Scores 84 points



Distillery back.jpg

4 thoughts on “On Location: Highland Park

  1. Pingback: On location: Scapa

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