The whisky celebrates a landmark 225th anniversary for the Kirkwall-based distillery, which was originally founded by Magnus Eunson and officially established in 1798.
The spirit was originally laid down in 1968, into four refill sherry butts and six refill sherry hogsheads, which were then combined in February 2008, when they were refilled into first-fill European sherry butts, where the whisky continued to mature.
‘Because the whisky was maturing in refill casks for so long, it allowed the new make spirit character to come through a bit more and not be overpowered by the oak,’ explained Gordon Motion, master whisky maker for Highland Park, ‘so it’s lighter in style: more ethereal in character, which you really only find in old whiskies. It has a very delicate level of smoke which is of course typical of Highland Park.’
Just 225 bottles of the whisky have been produced, in collaboration with Michael Rudak, senior designer of renowned glassmaker, Stoelzle Flaconnage, and award-winning craftsperson John Galvin, who designed its case. Galvin previously worked with the brand on a 50-year-old release and this latest design is sculpted to represent the cliffs of Yesnaby in Orkney, with each piece of wood used hand-blasted and every case unique with variations in colour.
The launch of the whisky saw a truly immersive experience take place at Trinity Buoy Wharf over in London Docklands, where attendees were treated to an interactive installation bringing the flora of Orkney to the capital. Via a specially planted ‘local’ herb garden, guests were invited to forage different plants and botanicals which then formed the basis for the core flavours in an opening cocktail: an Old Fashioned, using Highland Park 12 Year Old and different orkney botanical syrups.
The brand then collaborated with chef James Cochran from the restaurant 12:51 who prepared an Orkney-themed menu, comprised of locally-sourced seared scallops and fillet of beef, before master whisky maker Gordon Motion led guests through a line up of different Highland Park expressions: beginning with a 21-year-old, 25-year-old, 30-year-old and finally, the newly launched 54-year-old.
The Highland Park 54 Year Old will be available in the UK from Berry Bros & Rudd and The Whisky Shop with an RRP of £39,000.
ABV: 46.9% 70cl
Appearance: Natural cask colour – dark amber.
Tasting notes: Initially sweet and rich with complex floral and aromatic smoke notes.
Freshly sliced Pink Lady apple combines with vintage oak and delicate peat on the nose. After a little while, warm spices emerge, with coriander seeds, jasmine tea, a distinct sherry-led richness and some lighter tropical fruit notes. The palate is both sweet and spicy at the end, with a return of a lingering, nutty sherry note and soft, heathery peat smoke.