The Earls of Orkney

Posted 28 April 2017 by Matt / In Highland Park
The Dramble reviews Highland Park Thorfinn

Bottle Name: Highland Park Thorfinn

ABV: 45.1%
Distillery: Highland Park
Region: Islands

Highland Park whisky and Viking-influenced brand stories are pretty much one and the same thing nowadays. Whilst the exact details of how the Norse conquered Orkney is still a debatable point, Vikings were doing what Vikings do on the island for over 600 years. Therefore, creating a series of whiskies named after the most powerful figures from the semi-legendary world of Earldom Orkney seems relatively fair game to me. 

At a glance, the Highland Park 'Warriors Series' seems to be an attractive play on this Orcadian legend which neatly encapsulates the brand's overarching 'Viking Soul' positioning. However, the avid malt explorer would be well advised to dig a little deeper than this and look at what's going on 'under the hood' of this collection of six whiskies.

The series is made up of: Svein; Einar; Harald; Sigurd; Ragnvald & Thorfinn. (N.B. Two additional Warriors are sort of available: Ingvar - if you just happen to be at Taiwan airport, and King Christian I - if you just happen to have won the National Lottery or have part-ex'd your internal organs).

The influence of cask maturation is what the Warriors series as a whole is about. Oak here is not the same as oak there, so the wood-type selected to mature a whisky is going to inherently affect the eventual flavour of your dram. The Warriors compare and interplay the use of American oak and Spanish oak so, starting out, we have Svein which focuses on the American, and we move through the range all the way to Thorfinn which switches the attention onto the Spanish. 

< Here's a pretty diagram which quickly explains the wood use and provides a brief flavour profile comparison across the range. There's something for everyone in the Warriors series, and pleasingly all levels of whisky budget are catered for. If I were asked to pick a sweet spot of quality vs. money it would be probably be Sigurd overall for me, but your mileage may vary.

For today's tasting we're going to go right into deep end of this series with Thorfinn aka Thorfinn the Mighty, the 11th Century Earl of Orkney.

Nose: There's no mistaking that old cask nose. Polish, leather, tobacco - standard. In amongst the dusty library we've got some complexity going on with both red and tropical fruits and delicate Christmas-esque nuts and spicing. Simply a great nose. 

Full and rich mouth feel which is initially super smooth on arrival, but develops quickly into a more punchy and spicy number. The wood and polish is ever-present, but is tempered by a fresher fruit note and citrus sharpness. There's wispy peat there as you'd expect with most Highland Parks, but also an interesting menthol or eucalyptus note discernable within the warming oak spiciness.

Finish:  Long and lingering with a drying spiced finish. It hangs around for ages.

This whisky is delightful. It's well constructed, well balanced and rewarding. It is however well worth letting it breathe a little. Despite having no age statement there is obviously a good portion of older whisky at play here. Resting for 20 minutes or so will be worthwhile. Oh and don't look at the price tag on this one. I used to look at price tags, then I took an arrow in the knee.

Score: 90/100

Master of Malt
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