Highland Park

From ‘High Park’

From ‘High Park’

The Orkney Isles lie off the north coast of Scotland, and their history is as violent as the seas that lash the rocky and barren shores. A strong Nordic identity is the result of several hundred years of Norwegian rule (beginning with the first Viking raids during the late 8th century), and this is reflected in the local place names and culture. During the two world wars Scapa Flow was used as a base by the Royal Navy, and tragedy occurred in 1939 when a Nazi U-Boat penetrated the harbour defences and sunk the Battleship HMS Royal Oak with the loss of 833 lives.

Highland Park Distillery was founded in 1798 by Magnus Eunson, a Viking descendant. A highly colourful character, Magnus was a verger by day and smuggler by night, and began illicit distilling in a small stone bothy. Legend has it that he stored his illegal wares under the floor of the church pulpit. Alfred Barnard in ‘Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom’ (1887) describes a moment of true, enlightened genius. When Magnus heard that the excise men were going to search the church, he removed the ‘kegs’ (most likely quarter-casks) to his bothy on High Park, covered them with a coffin lid and a white cloth, and proceed with a group of accomplices to kneel down with a bible and ‘wail for the dead’! Two excise men called John Robertson and Robert Pringle finally caught up with him, putting a stop to his colourful career and subsequently purchasing the distillery in 1813. High Park become known as Highland Park and is now owned by the Edrington Group. A portion of the malting process is done on site, with peat cut locally from Hobbister Moor. Very unusually, this peat is blended with dried heather before being used to smoke the barley.