This year’s Masterclasses at Maltstock was a random selection of whisky brands displaying their wares. I didn’t really know which ones to pick so I started at the other end. Which ones do I not want to go to. It turned out that this part of the list would consist of brands I had seen last year (sorry The Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt and Balvenie) and a brand that I normally don’t care about (sorry The Glenrothes).
That left six to choose from. If I remember correctly those were Highland Park, Whisky Shop Dufftown, Cadenhead’s, Tamdhu, Amrut and Suntory. I was assigned the first three of this wee list.
Highland Park has been a bit more prominently doing tastings and such since Sietse Offringa (the son of Hans Offringa, therefore refered to as Offspringa by some) became brand ambassador. I know the guy a little bit and usually what he does is quite nice, so a nice pick.
The brand released a bunch of travel retail exclusives in the Viking Warrior range, one of the many ranges of bottlings they do nowadays. This seems to be popular since they just finished the Magnus range before following that with the Valhalla series. They vintage travel retail bottlings have already made place with the viking warriors. I’m not sure what to think of all these bottlings, but at least there’s bound to be some tasty whisky, right?
We started the tasting by trying Highland Park’s new make spirit. While interesting, I never like new spirit of any distillery as a drink on its own. It’s the same here. Pretty heavy stuff with leather, over ripe fruit and some sulphury vegetables.
Then came the Ambassador’s Choice I think. I tried to write everything down but the tasting was very chaotic and fast at this point. The hosts were also busy telling us loads of stuff about Orkney and the vikings. Not so much about the whisky. Anyway, there’s wood, pine and some resin on the nose. The palate is gentle, rich and syrupy with a touch of pepper. The finish is rather long, but a bit generic.
The first of the viking series was Svein. There was a long story about him and his kind. The whisky smells like bread and pineapple, some peat, tar but quite closed. A touch of coffee eventually. Regarding the palate and finish I only wrote down ‘not much happening’. A rather uninteresting whisky.
After Svein came Einar. The nose of this dram has more smoke and wood, some vanilla and coffee too. The palate is a bit thin with smoke, pepper, coffee and some bitter herbs. The finish is rather spicy with some wood. More interesting than Svein, but not something I put on my wishlist.
Harald was the third and last viking. Harald was an entirely different kind of viking. More the type that made sure his men and family were safe. Hence the shield on the label. A new release with a lot more sherry casks used in the blend. Rather fruity on the nose, with dried fruits, sherry, plums and dates. The palate was pretty sweet with oak and creamy dates. The finish was long, gentle and fruity. Much nicer, but I believe also by far the most expensive one of the batch so far.
The next whisky was a Cask Strength Highland Park. Without CS bottlings being in a series, you don’t come across these often. I believe this is a bottling for Sweden at 56%. Even more sherry on the nose and a rather typical Highland Park scent (which is a good thing). Lots and lots of dried plums and dates. The palate is punchy and hot with fruit and allspice. The finish had more of a bitter, spicy character.
The last dram is a single cask bottling for The Netherlands at 58%. Not sure if this is still to be released, because I haven’t heard anything about it yet. Brown sugar, fruit and allspice on the nose, with PX sherry, oak and a touch of peat. The palate is dry with sherry, spices and oak. The finish is massive on the sherry.
Usually I’m more of a bourbon cask guy, but in this case the sherried ones were the nicest of the tasting. The tasting itself, to my liking, was a bit too focussed on the warriors and their way of life. Some folklore is nice during a tasting but I would have loved to have a bit more time to actually get information on the whisky. Especially the beginning was chaotic what made me unable to even write down what I actually was tasting. Still, nice enough!