Highland Park Scotch has just released the third of its enormously successful Valhalla Collection, a yearly release of single malt scotch to honor the pantheon of Norse gods from the Orkneys and recognize the Nordic traditions that are such an integral part of the history of the Orkney Islands.
Previous releases were Thor and Loki, that contrasting and uber-masculine pair of avatars. This third release goes in a different direction, honoring Freya, Odin’s female counterpart, the goddess of hearth and home, the symbol of fertility and motherhood, wrapped in her iridescent feathered cloak inspired by the Northern Lights---but remembering that these are the Norse, she’s also the goddess who claims half the dead from the field of battle for her own Viking version of the afterlife.
If you’re considering a scotch named after Freya, you might expect less overall force and power and more complex and subtle expressions of strength. And you’d be right.
There’s strength and power enough, to be sure, in this pale gold whisky. A fifteen year old single malt scotch that carries 51.2% alcohol by volume (that’s 102.4 Proof) is not a puling weakling; yet it doesn’t overtly show the power of proof. The fires are banked on Freya’s hearth, and fruit and flower and earthiness are the hallmarks of this spirit.
The fruit is abundant, lavish with fresh apricots, green apple and an almost-sweet pear, lively on the nose and tongue; there’s a soft, honeyed note as well, and the peat is subtle, underplayed, a lovely background note that is more about flowers and earth than smoke. In mid-palate the spice starts to register, and in keeping with the theme, it’s warm spice, dusty cinnamon and pungent clove, spice of the winter hearth. And only at the finish is there any impression of heat, a final burst of Freya’s fire that reminds you of the power she carries.
Highland Park Freya has a superb balance of all its elements, a unique aromatic and flavor profile that distinguishes itself immediately (a characteristic of Highland Park, this balance, but expressed singularly here). With all the collector bottles and special releases and such that are flooding the whisky market, this is a whisky worthy of acquisition. It’s a remarkable addition to the prestigious Valhalla Collection.