You either love Scotch or it’s simply not for you – there are no in-betweens. For those of us who fall into the “love” category, smoky, rich Highland Park is hard to ignore. This year alone, the brand earned accolades from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, International Spirits Challenge, and World Whisky Awards, to name a few.
Highland Park has quite an interesting and, dare we say, rebellious backstory. You know those tales of whiskey moonshiners during American prohibition? Well, you can think of Highland Park as the Scottish version of boozy insurgence. Here are nine things you should know about a single malt Scotch with rebellious origins.
Highland Park Was Founded by a Viking. Sort of.
Founder Magnus Eunson was a direct descendant of the Vikings who once abided in the northern Scottish islands. In 1798 he was caught illegally distilling Scotch whisky on the site. In 1826, nearly 30 years and many drams later, Highland Park received an official license to distill whisky.
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… He Was Also a Fake Preacher.
Eunson was allegedly a church preacher as well as an illicit distiller and smuggler. He worked (*wink*) at the church every Sunday in order to have a hiding place for his whisky. At night he was covertly distilling and smuggling the spirit around Orkney and the northern region of Scotland.
Want to Taste Rebellion in a Bottle? You’ve Come to the Right Place.
Highland Park dedicated a single malt aptly named Magnus in honor of its law-breaking, home-distilling founder.
The Distillery Is Really, Really Up There.
Highland Park is the northernmost distillery in the world, located on the Orkney Islands off the northeastern coast of Scotland, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the North Sea. The Orkneys consist of 70 islands, 20 of which are populated, and have been inhabited for about 8,500 years. Residents, called Orcadians, have been under Scottish rule for 600 years, but they still have their own flag.
The Landscape Is Unforgiving, but The Heather Is Perfect.
Because of the harsh climate this far north, the Orkneys’ windswept landscapes are treeless. Distillers say this terrain plays into Highland Park’s distinctively smoky, floral flavors, rich with the scent of local heather flower.
If You Can’t Bring Mohammed to the Mountain, You Bring 8,000 Square Feet of Scottish Moss to Manhattan.
In June 2018, the company did its best to turn a NYC train station into the Orkney Islands. Landscape designer Lily Kwong and her team installed three large hills meant to evoke the northern Scottish landscape in Grand Central Terminal, using over 8,000 square feet of moss and 220 pots of heather to commemorate the company’s 220th anniversary.
Highland Park Was Local Before People Talked About Things Being ‘Local.’
The whisky is made with aromatic peat that’s hand-cut at Hobbister Moor, a mere seven miles from the distillery. It’s one of only seven distilleries that still turn malt by hand. And the water used in Highland Park is drawn from Cattie Maggie’s Spring, which is located near the distillery in Orkney.
Its Master Whisky Maker Has an Incredible Name.
Master whisky maker Gordon Motion (real name) ages his single-malt whisky in European and American sherry oak casks.
Tradition is Everything.
The Highland Park tradition runs deep… like centuries deep. The company’s youngest kiln is more than 100 years old, and the peat core dates back over 4,000 years.