"Loki is: Unpredictable, Complex, Cunning, Michievous." So read the invitation. Yes, the same demi-god who thwarts Thor in Norse Mythology and Avengers films is now represented in a single malt whisky. As part of its Valhalla Collection of limited edition whiskies ("Thor" was the first last year), the Orkney Islands-based distillery Highland Park launched Loki at at Queens-based The Foundry on March 12.
Guests arrive (mostly via car service) at the desolate stretch of Long Island City near Silver Cup Studios to enter the former factory mysteriously shrouded in tapestries and fog. On arrival, they are given cards that classified them as "Complex," "Cunning," or "Shape Shifting" and so on. After sipping on drams of Highland Park 12, they are guided in groups to a brick-walled private room by the disembodied voice of Loki. There Gerry Tosh, global marketing manager for Highland Park introduces the small, stylish crowd to the new expression.
"People ask us, 'why the hell are we spending our time on Norse mythology when we make a Scotch whisky?" he begins. "The answer is 545."
Apparently the Scots have only laid claim to the Orkney Islands for 545 years. Prior to that it was held by the Norse and the Vikings. "There are no kilts on Orkney, no tartans," he says. "If you play the bagpipes, you are deported to the mainland. If you ask someone from Orkney what country they're from, they'll say Orkney, not Scotland."
Point being, it's an independent brand from an independent place, and it if it wants to honor long-Marvelized Norse gods with Scotch whisky, it bloody well can. "There are well over 300 gods in Norse mythology," says Tosh. "We are thankfully only honoring four with this collection." A small group hope for Odin and Freyja.
Last year's expression, Thor, was "banging strong in your face, with a sweet finish, because Thor's a good guy," says Tosh. "Loki is not a good guy. And this whisky reflects that."
Brand ambassador Martin Daraz takes over at this point, guiding the guests through a nosing and tasting of the spirit. "You may know Highland Park, but you don't know Loki. What you see with Loki on first impression is not what you get. Take your time."
Indeed, the initial nosing of the spirit is not dissimilar to Highland Park 12-year with light notes of bread, dry gumwood and light apricot. But as it opens up, or a splash of water is added, other notes of fruit, spice and licorice-mint come forward.
On the mouth, one initially expects a sweet, smoky attack. In reality it starts bright and clean, with tropical fruit notes, then moves into a bold spiciness thanks in part to the relatively high proof and approximately 15 years of aging (about 43% ABV).
"Loki challenges us to think differently," says Daraz. At that point he "reappropriates" the devil horns sign from Ronnie James Dio and heavy metal fans, encouraging us to raise the sign in the air while we toast with Highland Park Loki. The general consensus of the spirit is it indeed not what it seems, surprisingly appealing, and most of the guests stay for a second round. Just to make certain.
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FTC Disclaimer: The author sometimes receives product samples for review, which carry no cash value and cannot be re-sold, and sometimes attends press events such as lunches or cocktail parties, designed to promote a given product. The author is not paid by any alcohol manufacturer, retailer or distributor, or provided compensation apart from revenue from an assigning publishing company for editorial publication. Opinions are the author's own. By the way, you should be 21 or older to read this page. Author attended the launch event, but did not ask for car service, which he totally should have, it being a sketchier walk to the party than he expected. Author received no other comps or samples of Highland Park whisky or god-like powers in conjunction with this article.