The Viking Scotch
Highland Park Magnus
Granted, the branding seems a little off at first. But why not? The Highland Park distillery is way up there in the Orkneys – those windswept islands off the northernmost tip of Scotland that were part of the dowry of King Christian I of Norway and Denmark’s daughter Margaret to King James III of Scotland in 1468. Most of those tall, ginger Scots are more Viking than Celt, and they were never actually thrown out.
This Highland Park expression is named after one Magnus Eunson – an illicit distiller who set up the still at the current Highland Park location. So naturally, the distillery has gone full Viking - evidently the marketing department at Highland Park has cast off the kilt and claymore for a general seafaring unruliness. They’ve also designed a beautiful bottle which is often a red flag that the more money is being spent on signaling that distilling. In the case of Highland Park Magnus, this doesn’t appear to be the case. And at around $40 a bottle, it’s priced right.
The Orkneys are not technically included in the main scotch producing regions – Lowland, Highland, Speyside and Islay – but are is often lumped in with the Islay. That’s fair. Make no mistake, Magnus does have a little smoke to it, but it’s not overwhelming. It’s the almost Islay; a solid scotch for those a little shy of the big peat smoke of a Lagavulin or a Laphroaig, or when you don’t have a dog, a roaring fire, or a castle handy.
More than the smoke, it’s peppery and still has that great iodine tint of the North Sea where the British Navy scuttled the German Fleet at Scapa Flow – and you can hardly get more “seafaring bastard” than that.