Highland Park, that magnificent single malt whisky from the Orcadian Isles at the far northern tip of Scotland, has always been an avatar of balance and harmony, a perfect blend of just the right combination of triple-distilled barley malt whiskey; a fine thread of warm peat smoke; a presence of sweet, rich sherry oak barrels; and pure, clean water.
Considering the harsh conditions of the Orkneys and the rugged people that live there, weathering the hard northern storms and icy high winds and salt spumes blowing across the islands, the superb classic whisky they produce is a testament to the delicate balance of the blender’s art. It’s a “just so” single malt, because every part, every sense, every sip is “just so”.
But there is a dark side to each of us, something deep and brooding and contradictory that adds to the complexity of what we are. So it is with scotch whisky, and so it is now with Highland Park.
“Something wicked this way comes.”
Something wicked---but wicked good. Something that has been touched by the dark side and pays homage to the dark origins of this great whisky.
Highland Park Dark Origins Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a new, bolder, more extreme version of the classic whisky, where the balance is shifted, made more dramatic, enhanced and emphasized. It is Highland Park pushed just slightly toward the dark side.
Why “Dark Origins”? A play on words, yes; dually so. Highland Park’s founder, Magnus “Mansie” Eunson of High Park was a complex man, upright and sober and a respected man of the islands, both butcher and devoted churchman and family man. By day he worked in his church and aided the people; by night he reveled in his role of helping the people in another way---by relieving them of the burden of high taxes for the whisky they drank.
Eunson, at night, was a ‘dark distiller’, creating and selling illicit whiskey to avoid the onerous burden of the hated Excise Man. His activities were illegal in daylight, but at night more honored in the breach than the observance in this place that honored good whisky and despised the tax man. It was said that Mansie would, when necessary, hide his bootleg whisky barrels under the pews of the church. A favorite legend story has it that Mansie got word of a raid by the pesty tax men when he had a stack of new whisky sitting in the main room of his house...so when the officials arrived, they found a form covered with a white sheet and mourners all around giving a rousing semblance of a good Gaelic wake. The name “Dark Origins” pays homage to Mansie Eunson.
It also describes the nature and character of this new bolder, more richly flavored style of Highland Park. Essentially, Dark Origins is a potent, dark blend made from double the normal casks of “first fill” sherry barrels than the classic Highland Park, so it soaks up a maximum of the rich, mellow character of old oloroso sherries from Spain. Not only is the whisky darker---and naturally so, for it has no caramel coloring added whatsoever---it is full to overflowing with sherry spice, a twist of dark chocolate, and that sweet core of warm, pungent smoke that fans have come to know and love.
Dark Origins is stunning, complex, full-flavored single malt whisky. It is non-chill filtered to retain all its natural aromatics and taste. Packaged in a striking silky-textured black bottle with contrasting silver label, Dark Origins makes a big statement. The entry is deceptively soft and charming, with caramel-heather honey, sweet milk chocolate and dried fruit, but then in mid-palate it kicks in, asserting a bold, spicy character of black pepper and allspice and bitter chocolate that doesn’t fade, but builds and resonates. The finish lingers, leaving the fading memories of spice and chocolate. It’s a full-force 46.8 abv/93.6 proof, so there’s nothing shy about it; yet the alcohol remains in balance, and comes out more as deep, expansive warmth than fiery burn…as a good single malt should.
Highland Park Dark Origins isn’t a limited release; it’s a bold new permanent addition to the line. It began rolling out in July and will be in full distribution around the country by autumn.
So get in touch with your dark side. You know you want to. And when you tap into your first bottle of Dark Origins, tip your glass in remembrance of Mansie Eunson, the bootlegging churchman that began what was to become one of the finest whisky distilleries in the world.