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Thursday, 6 February 2014

Northern Lights: Highland Park Freya 15 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

When I'm king, there will be certain things that I shall outlaw. Of the ever growing list, here are just four:

Separate hot and cold taps.

I can understand the idea of a tap solely for the use of cold water, but whoever wants tap to produce simply scalding water? Not me. Neither do I want to keep adjusting two taps when filling a bath or a basin with water. Nope, I want a mixer tap.

I remember reading once that the wonderfully talented artist Jack White was asked why he didn't choose to live in the UK, after marrying his English wife. His response: "why would I want to live in a country with separate hot and cold taps?".

Yup, good point.

The pretence of two single beds pushed together in a hotel, being sold as a 'double bed'.

No it isn't. It is two single beds pushed together, where you always end up sleeping on the uncomfortable ridge that develops between the two. #MiddleClassWoe

Middle Class Dreadlocks.

If I raise kids and they've got dreadlocks, I will consider myself a failed parent.

Centre Lights.

Hideous things, the centre light is the thug of the lighting world, illuminating a room in an overly aggressive way, creating a harsh and unforgiving atmosphere and using brightness to swear directly into your eyeballs. Not even the humble dimmer switch can save it.

Urgh. Give me 3 well-placed lamps over one bright centre light any day.

Mother Nature's interior design has the sun as her centre light. Being a Scando, I tend to melt in the searing midday heat and much prefer the mood lighting which she throws,  courtesy of the aurora borealis or the 'Northern Lights' as they are more commonly known.

Cast into the night sky as a result of “the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere” (thanks Wiki!), in the days of the Vikings the phenomenon was attributed, as most things were, to one of their gods. Or more accurately, goddesses, Freya.

Whisky is no stranger to flirting with one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful accidents (see The Dalmore ‘Aurora’) and here we find Highland Park linking their new limited edition bottling from their Valhalla series with the ethereal beauty of Freya.

Pioneering in their development of liquid to match personalities, this Highland Park series started with the muscle-man Thor (a big flavour of a whisky), moved on to shape-shifter and trickster Loki (a crazy beast different on the nose, palate and finish) before embracing the female side of Norse folklore, with Freya a whisky matured, unusally for HP, in first fill ex-bourbon American Oak casks.

Highland Park – Freya – 15 Years Old – Limited to 19,000 - 51.2% abv - £140.00 RRP

Nose: A delicate smoke lifts up lemon meringue pie, heather honey, a big whack of vanilla and some candy floss. On the back of the nose, custard cream biscuits and a touch of menthol.

Palate: A delicate smoke creates a bed of flavour that gives more of the lemon meringue pie, some critical, a hint of chamois leather and... a big hit of fresh pine and vanilla. With water, the vanilla develops more body and flavour, giving a sweeter palate all round.

Finish: The peat comes through big time on the finish. One of the more peated Highland Park I’ve ever had. If I was given this blind, I’d have begged it much more as an Islay than an Orkney. Maybe a young Caol Ila. With water, plenty more vanilla and some lemon drizzle cake along with water melon at the death.

Overall: Freya does indeed deliver all that she reflects in her recorded character: it is a light whisky which comes across as young for its age (I would have Freya down as having a little more guile, a little more wisdom, underpinning her beauty) but with a wisp of smoke to remind us that this isn't a Lowland whisky, but from an island. Big on the peat, this is more Islay than Orkney, but that’s a nice turn for Highland Park and shows they can play in a more peaty arena.

Certainly drinkable, Freya wouldn't be our first name on the team sheet when it comes to recent Highland Park Valhalla releases (Thor still stands out as the exceptional one), but it certainly won't disappoint those looking for a lighter HP with a bigger focus on smoke, a counterbalance to the richness of the 18yo+ releases and the higher end GTR releases.