Highland Park’s newest single malt Scotch is a beautifully balanced sherried whisky. Fruit and vanilla notes evolve into a gentle dry smokiness on the finish, and the whisky comes in a keepsake-worthy ceramic decanter. The only downside is its fairly steep price.
Classification single malt Scotch whisky
Distillery Highland Park (Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland)
Cask first-fill European and American oak sherry casks
Still Type copper pot
Proof 88 (44% ABV)
Aged at least 15 years
The ceramic bottle is quite stunning and feels substantial in the hand.
Fans of sherried malts will find a lot to love here, given that the whisky is aged in (mostly) European and American first-fill sherry casks.
The price—more than $100—is pretty steep.
Color: Bright gold—the color comes 100% from the cask.
Nose: Lemon, orange, light floral notes, and wisps of smoke from the peat found on Orkney
Palate: Rich and sweet, with big notes of vanilla, pineapple, creme brûlée, and hints of lemon. A very creamy, tongue-coating mouthfeel just this side of syrupy adds to the whisky’s dessert-in-a-glass feel.
Finish: It dries out as it hits the back of the throat, with light smoke and dry oak taking the reins.
Highland Park makes a big deal of its Viking heritage, even though the last Vikings on the Scottish island of Orkney, where its whisky is made, disappeared long before the distillery opened in 1798. Regardless, Viking Heart is the moniker of its new 15-year-old expression, which launched in 2021. Whether or not it reminds you of medieval times and Norse mythology, it’s a delicious, if pricey, whisky.
Viking Heart is a peated malt, but the peat on Orkney comes largely from decomposed heather, so the smoky notes in the whisky are much more delicate those of the briny peat bombs for which Islay is famous. Also, Orkney’s consistently cold and damp climate allows for less interaction between the whisky and wood, slowing down the aging process. The unobtrusive peat and slow maturation combine to really let the sherry influence shine through, and shine it does.
The resulting expression is beautifully balanced, with lots of fruit and vanilla notes evolving into a gentle dry smokiness on the finish. A slightly higher proof (it’s bottled at 44% ABV) might benefit it by giving the sweet notes a bit more backbone, but there’s not much to complain about here. Water or ice are certainly not needed, although the whisky is flavorful enough to stand up to both.
A bonus is the eye-catching ceramic decanter, which does justice to the liquid inside. But the price for the whole package is quite steep and significantly more than what you’ll pay for 15-year-old expressions from Glenlivet or Glenfiddich—not to mention Highland Park’s own 12-year-old expression. If money is no object, you might do well to try Highland Park’s classic 18-year-old bottling or a similarly aged Macallan instead. That said, we’d advise fans of sherried whisky to give this one a try. And hey, you get a lovely ceramic decanter for free.
Viking Heart’s ceramic decanter is a throwback to the kind of earthenware vessel in which whisky would have been kept more than 200 years ago, when Highland Park first started distilling the stuff. Fortunately, unlike many ceramics of the 1800s, this decanter’s glaze is lead-free and 100% food-safe.