Whisky and Norse Mythology – Highland Park 12

Highland Park is the most northern Scotch whisky distillery in the world. By a bit that is! The island of Orkney holds two distilleries, Highland Park and the much less known Scapa distillery. Highland park lies about 600 meters (2000 feet) north of Scapa.

Highland Park adopted the Norse mythology that pervades Orcadian history and culture, as the islands were taken by the Norse and annexed to Norway in 875, and remained under Norse rule until 1472, just before the rise of Tudor England and the discovery of America. Obviously, this left a deep connection with Norse lore, which is evident both in the Orcadian flag and in Highland Park’s lineup of whiskys.

Flag of Orkney


Indeed, Highland Park has two basic lineups available. The numbered lineup has the rather scarce 10 year old, and the 12-15-18 followed by the more limited 21-25-30-40-50, as well as occasional vintage bottlings. The second lineup is the Norse series named after characters from Norse mythology beginning with the Valhalla Collection (age stated and named for the gods Thor, Loki, the curiously unsherried Freya and the forthcoming Odin) and ending with the NAS travel retail warrior series (featuring Svein, Einar, Harald, Sigurd, Ragnvald and Thorfinn).

The Highland Park 12 is aged, like all Highland Park whisky, in sherry butts, 60% of them second fills. About 20% of the malt is malted in the distillery, and is peated, but it’s mixed with unpeated malt making up 80% of the bulk, and is thus just lightly peated coming off the stills.

Highland Park 12 (40% ABV, NC)

Appearance: Bronze (natural color), thin slow legs.

Nose: Honey, heather, sherry, light peat smoke (non maritime, not medicinal and Islay like, rather sweeter and softer), dried fruit – specifically dried apricot roll and dried pineapple, leather and fresh bread.

Palate: Peat smoke, sherry sweetness and honey in a mouth drying delivery. The peat plays with the sweetness before the dryness comes across the palate in a delightful way.

Linger: Smoke and spice in the back of the throat, sweetness on the tongue and a residual dryness.


This is one of the better entry level whiskys on the market and will serve as a classic introduction to peated whisky. Sweet enough to come after a Speysider with peat soft enough to introduce an untrained palate to peat, this is a great gateway scotch.

But not only. Even at 40% and chill filtered, this expression is a good drink at any stage of your whisky journey.


3 comments on “Whisky and Norse Mythology – Highland Park 12
  1. Sam says:

    I agree with your review. It seems fair. The HP12 is often underrated, I think. It’s got a little of everything – honey, smoke, fruit, spice… and none really dominate.

    I’m not sure the 15-year-old is still available, but the 18-year-old is almost three times the price of this and the flavours taste a bit muddier (in my opinion). This is a steal at under £30.

  2. Bob Clinton says:

    I don’t think the 15 is available anymore either.

    My preference is the 18, it didn’t used to be so expensive.

    They have a new one in their regular line called “Dark Origins” that has no age statement, it’s about twice the cost of the 12. But I didn’t like it as much as either the 12 or the 18.

    These Norse series ones are acceptable, I’ve tasted many of them but in all cases I find the 18 to be better. That Freya is VERY different from any HP I’d ever had.

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