In 1960, the world reacted to the U-2 spy plane debacle, Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller Psycho, and the election of John Kennedy as President of the United States. In that year, the new make spirit that would become Highland Park 50 was laid down in five refill oak casks, to mature at Scotland’s northernmost distillery for the next half century.
Every single malt Scotch reflects the region of its birth, nurturing, and maturation, and nowhere is this reflection more perfect than in Highland Park 50 year old. The seas, the land, the weather of the island are part and parcel of this once-in-a-lifetime whisky.
Everything about Highland Park 50 is superlative, from the extraordinary brilliant mahogany colour, through the aromatic morphing of aged tobacco into fruity spiciness, to the culmination of a flavour reminiscent of mild molasses and nutmeg. Adding a tiny amount of water releases the taste of orange peel, camphor and cloves. The finish is long, spicy, and slightly smoky.
Complementing the incomparable liquid is another jewel in the crown of Highland Park 50 – its packaging. The elemental forces that are the essence of Orkney served as inspiration for Scottish jewelry designer Maeve Gillies. Her intricate design of sterling silver, evoking images of seaweed, appears to “squeeze” and protect the bottle and its precious contents. The bottle rests inside a hand-carved Scottish oak box, which boldly features a small sterling silver “porthole”, through which to view the bottle. Maeve explains her design concept: “This bottle design is my tribute to the incredible natural beauty of Orkney and Highland Park. The design and crafting was made to look and feel in tune with ancient artifacts that define Orkney, and with every bottle being uniquely hand finished, each is very personal and dear to my heart. I hope people enjoy it for a lifetime, and beyond.”
As Highland Park is superlative among single malt Scotch whiskies, its home on Mainland, Orkney’s largest island, is also revered for its role in history. The Orkney Islands, an archipelago of about 70 islands separated from Scotland’s mainland by the Pentland Firth, are world-renowned for their Neolithic structures. The ancient village of Skara Brae, believed to be inhabited around 3100 BC is Europe’s best-preserved settlement from that period. Other fascinating ancient formations, most very accessible by car and short walks, include the Standing Stones of Stennes, the Stonehenge-like Ring of Brodgar, and the ancient burial chambers at Maeshowe.
An awe-inspiring testament to the human spirit is present at the Italian Chapel. Italian prisoners during World War II created a cathedral-like feeling inside a Quonset hut with tromp-l’oeil “marble” columns and floors, along with chandeliers and sconces fashioned from food ration tin cans. The prisoners were the main workforce that created the Churchill Barrier. These causeways prevented German U-boats from entering Scapa Flow, as one did in the early months of the war to sink the Royal Navy battleship HMS Royal Oak.
Today, Scapa Flow is best described as a destination point for recreational divers exploring rusting hulks of sunken ships from both World Wars and a myriad of colourful fish, while the Orkney Islands are a destination for delving into history and to experience some of the finest single malt Scotch in the world being made.
Learn more at www.highlandpark.co.uk
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