With a history dating back over 200 years, Orkney-based Highland Park is one of the most respected single malts in the world. The distillery works to the same exacting and with the same methods as it has had since its birth in 1798.
The distillery found its feet fully in the 1870s, when it fell under the ownership of first William Stuart [who owned Miltonduff] and then from 1885 with his business partner James Grant (previously the manager of The Glenlivet) who took full control in 1895. Highland Distillers (who had shares in R&B) took full control in 1937 and Highland Park is now part of the Edrington Group.
Highland Park is one of only a handful of distilleries that still retains a traditional malting floor, working each batch of malt by hand, in what is an extremely labor intensive process. To malt their barley, it is steeped it in the mineral rich water from the Crantit spring, before transferred to the malting floor to slowly germinate. When it is ready, the barley is then placed in kilns where the aromatic peating process begins.
Highland Park’s bourbon barrels are not routinely filled. Traditional oak casks seasoned with dry Oloroso sherry are used; which the distillery claims help contribute to the “distinctive richness” in the resulting spirit.
The whisky then goes through a process called Harmonisation. Distillers often see this practice as an unnecessary expense, yet Highland Park consider it an essential part of their traditional process. Each individual batch of whisky is drawn together from a variety of cask types, contributing an array of flavours. This harmonisation takes up to six months and gives the whisky improved consistency, complexity and balance.
However, ‘unnecessary’ the traditional processes and additional harmonisation may seem, the resulting whisky appears to gain great benefit. Highland Park has been named ‘The Best Spirit in the World’ no less than three times, and has also gained the accolades of: World’s Best Single Malt for its 21 years old and the Ultimate Spirit in 2013 for the 25 year old.