It was a wet and stormy winter’s night in the calendar season of spring when the note came. The wind swirled menacingly in the half-light. The atmosphere was tangibly foreboding. As I walked towards the front door of the building, the sense of dread built and a sudden, low and particularly long piano note could almost be heard. (The longer the note, the more dread.) I slowly opened the small black envelope that awaited me just inside the door, and the contents took me aback!
Great Odin's Raven!
This doesn't bode well...
What does this thing say? Is it a puzzle? Is this like one of those notes people receive where each letter has been cut out of a magazine? Should I be worried for my life right now??? It honestly put me in mind of something Jim Carrey would send Val Kilmer in Batman Forever.
As I sat down (out of sight of any of the windows) to mull over these developments, I realised that I had (like some kind of subconscious super-sleuth) already worked out what was going on!
The sinister activities of Comic book baddies?
Blasphemous interjections from Norse mythology?
Of course! This must be the work of Loki! (The picture of him on the back of the note did help, too.)
Now, assuming this isn’t some kind of warning or death threat (still not ruled out at this stage), and as I work in the whisky industry, this must mean that the second release in Highland Park’s Valhalla Collection is on its way, I reasoned. Sure enough, samples followed to confirm my suspicions and, perhaps more importantly, allay my fears so I could venture outside again!
Cheeky Origami Serpent
The Valhalla Collection from Highland Park showcases Orkney’s Scandinavian heritage (as opposed to their close links with characters from Avengers movies). Behind the excellent branding and award-winning packaging is an interesting concept: can you make whiskies that have the distinct personalities of individuals?
The first release was Thor, big and bold with a whisky to match. It is now the turn of his adoptive brother Loki, a mischievous soul, possibly even a shape-shifter. Someone whom Odin deemed fit to shackle with a serpent (or chains… or his son’s entrails!) for the good of everyone else. Long story short – the sorting hat would have placed him in Slytherin.
Highland Park Loki – 15 Year Old (The Valhalla Collection) – 48.7% – £119.95
Nose: Salty sea spray jumps out the glass at first before revealing candied orange peel and a more refined version of the balsamic note present in other Highland Parks. Buttery toffee, raisins and oatiness. Or is it actually waxy with hints of ginger? What was that about shape-shifting again? Stewed apples and lemon zest now... and lime... and a little honey...
Palate: A hit of sweet smoke from the peated cask maturation gives way to cinnamon, ginger and increasingly nutmeg with marmalade. Slippery. (No really!)
Finish: Milk chocolate, ginger, a little marzipan before the toasted cloves that Highland Park promise.
Overall: This is a great dram. For the full 'Loki' effect I would actually advise not adding water even at 47.8% abv but doing so will reveal yet more notes (aniseed, more ginger). The enigmatic nature is certainly good fun if not quite as dramatic as made out.
*History nerd warning*...
As my degree was in Ancient History & Archaeology, I couldn’t help but look into some of the mythology and imagery used by Highland Park for this new release. Whilst their depiction of Loki clearly draws influence from Cumbria’s Kirkby Stephen Stone and Denmark’s Snaptun Stone, it is in fact primarily based on a small Scottish carving found at Meigle. A little piece of Scottish heritage.
8th century carving on display at the Meigle Sculptured Stone Museum
The best thing about this by far, however, was that it led me to a site that claimed to reveal “the truth about Atlantis and the fact that it was a real civilization” for just under $14. Got to love that.
Where to from here then? Two more releases in the Valhalla Collection to look forward to over the next couple of years! Whilst we have our suspicions about what they may be, we all know what we really want to see…
Great Odin's Raven
Thor, Odin... Uncle Jonathan's Corn Cob Pipe?