From the Orkney Islands, comes the Highland Park’s 54 Year Old single malt scotch whisky. If you think “54” is a very specific number, there’s a reason for that: Highland Park never expected to produce a whisky that old. As one of Orkney's most esteemed distilleries, Highland Park kept a careful eye on the rare few casks that would flourish during the maturation process.
In 1968, several casks were stored away. And since 2008, Highland Park Master Whisky Maker, Gordon Motion chose 10 refill casks—four butts and six hogsheads—and transferred them to first-fill European sherry butts. Add another 14 more years for the maturation process and the final result is a robust natural hue and rich complexity in palate.
After 54 years in the ageing, the single malt scotch whisky is ready for Highland Park's 225th anniversary. Factoring in the angel's share (the longer the maturation period, the more whisky is lost to evaporation), the 54 Year Old is divvied into 225 bottles; each bottle representing the year that the distillery has been in existence.
“Representing a quarter of Highland Park’s life,” Motion said, “we felt it was a fitting way to mark our 225th anniversary; born and crafted in the heart of Orkney.”
Time and space are the immutable constants in whisky-making. For the 54 Year Old, its maturation is balanced out by the Orkney Islands’ environment. Located 16km north of mainland Scotland, salt-tinged sea winds lashed at the coasts of this isolated archipelago. Reaching speeds of over 100mph, the moorland peat is bereft of any standing foliage but they are heather-rich.
For over 220 years, this 4,000 year-old peat is hand-cut from Hobbister Moor and is used to smoke their barley. The peat's slow-burn imbues a complex floral aroma; a smokey sweetness that's unique to Highland Park. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, the Orkney climate is temperate. This an ideal situation for the island warehouses to mature the whisky.
Highland Park's Senior Brand Ambassador, Martin Markvardsen, was in Singapore to introduce the Highland Park 54 Year Old at a luncheon held at Burnt Ends.
At the end of the dining table, there the 54 Year Old awaits. Taking cues from the plains of Orkney, the vessel for the 54 Year Old bottle is an example of craftsmanship. Michael Rudak, senior designer of Stoelzle Flaconnage fashions the embossed bottle. There's a conical 'push' at the base; an homage to the mash tuns at Highland Park's distillery.
The box, sculpted to represent the Yesnaby cliffs in Orkney, cradles the bottle. Hand-blasted, each piece of Scottish oak will be unique due to its colour variations. Led by John Galvin, who designed the presentation box, the Highland Park 54 Year Old retails for SG$71,500.
It's a princely sum but such is exclusivity. A deep autumnal russet swirls within the belly of the bottle. On the nose, one can pick out lychee, camphor, vintage oak and delicate peat. On the palate: warm spices; crushed cumin, coriander seeds, summer rose and jasmine. A ghost of kiwi and pistachio lingers in the mouth. Sweet and spicy notes linger at the finish.
Out of the 225 bottles, only six are available in Singapore. Limited exclusively to selected private clients and the 54 Year Old is available upon request only.
"Please enjoy Highland Park responsibly."