[dropcap size=small]A[/dropcap] decade ago, then whisky manager at The Quaich at The Craigellachie Speyside hotel, Martin Markvardsen, hosted what he thought was a regular pairing dinner. As was his practice, he expounded on his love for the Highland Park 25 year to his guests. What he didn’t know, however, was among them were the whisky’s brand managers, who called him two days later to offer him a job as brand ambassador.
During the call, Markvardsen – who has a chest tattoo of brand’s former logo – wanted confirmation of one single detail: whether he’d be able to work with the Highland Park 18 Year.
“(The manager) said ‘sure’, and I said, ‘I’m in’,” said Marksvardsen. “That’s it, I didn’t care about the salary or benefits or where I’d work.”
The Danish Markvardsen is one of the few non-Scottish brand ambassadors under Edrington’s single malt wing. But perhaps the perfect candidate for a label that flows with Nordic blood is a Dane who imbibed Highland Park 25 Years on the cliffs of Yesnaby, where wind travels up to 110 miles/hour for 80 days a year.
“The cliffs of Yesnaby is closest to the edge of the world – there’s nothing but water from there to Canada; it’s where the wind really hits. When we take visitors up there, we see them losing their hats, trying to fight against the wind; but when you take a sip of the 25-year, you really don’t care about any of that,” he said sprightly. “It really just warms you up, and you can relax and enjoy the nature.”
Though an aficionado for all things whisky, Markvardsen’s obsession for the Orkney Island drink is its heritage. The label not only tells a narrative different most other Scottish single malts, but is also known for a uniquely smoky flavour, courtesy of the distinctive specie of peat found in the highlands. Those with an appetite for Nordic mythology will find that longing quenched by recent Highland Park collections.
In the past two years, Highland Park has reinterpreted the likeness of four gods of Asgard (Thor, Loki, Freya and Odin) in its acclaimed Valhalla collection. To top that, its successor had to allude to something more grandiose: creation itself. Its latest limited-edition 17-year-old Ice Edition thus pays tribute to the first ice giant in Norse history, Ymir, who was born at the beginning of time. As Ymir slept, he gave birth to a race of powerful ice giants, or the gods of creation. Thus the iceberg-shaped bottle to honour the legend. The whisky was matured in a bourbon cast sandwiched between new, non-charred American oak staves, imparting to it exotic flavours of green apple and pineapples foreign to Highland Park.
Boasting a smoky finish, the tipple is intertwined with vanilla flavours and overtones of molten orris root – an ideal complement to desserts like crème brûlée, home-made vanilla ice cream, custards and meringues, though Markvardsen said he has witnessed bartenders in Europe top it with savoury ingredients like cheddar cheese and egg whites for a absolutely “mind-blowing experience”.
“It was very hard to find something to follow the Valhalla collection, so we wanted to tell an important part of Orkeny, of the mythologies that we have,” said Markvardsen. “Every one of these whiskies are a long-term experiment; we can buy 20 casks from Spain from the same batch, fill it with the same Sherry, air dry it the same way, and you’ll still never really know what you’ll get in the end and can only hope for the best.”
Early 2017 will see a special edition that pays tribute to destruction, the Fire Edition, and, later, a long-anticipated addition to its core range, the Valkyrie.
A version of this article first appeared on Luxury Insider.