Whisky Magazine Issue 12
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Dave Broom visits Orkney, the home of Highland Park, and discovers that there is more to this timeless island than exceptional whisky
Orkney is mystical and beautiful. Made up of distinctive flat discs of green, the islands sit in a watery silver light to form a northern floating world - a magical place where the past almost encroaches on the present.
It is simultaneously familiar and strange: you can stand at a Neolithic burial mound and read Viking graffiti, wander round a cathedral and feel it is closer in spirit to a stone circle. You are no longer in Britain but on a group of islands which are closer to Oslo than they are to London. Orkney has its own rules and its greatest whisky, Highland Park, fits into that scenario perfectly.
For years, Highland Park has been sold as the world's most northerly malt whisky distillery. It's also the distillery which is
closest to the Norse countries and, were it not for a king with a cashflow problem, could well be Scandinavia's most westerly. If you wish to get into the Orcadian psyche you have to believe that they are still Norse.
Orkney has been populated since 8000 BC and became part of the Norse Western Empire in the latter part of the 8th century. Over the next 700 years the Vikings began to create the first great European seafaring empire. By the 10th century they had conquered Normandy, colonised Iceland and Greenland, and landed in North America. Orkney was the perfect base for them to launch forays across the north and west coasts of Scotland and down England's east coast. It was strategically important as a stopping-off point and later as a power ...