I took part in my first ever tweet tasting on 11th November 2013 with a tasting of the entire Warrior Series from Highland Park. So you may be asking, “So what exactly is a tweet tasting”? Simply put, a tweet tasting is where a selected number of tasters (with twitter accounts naturally) are sent sample portions of whisky. They are then tasted together online via twitter on a pre-determined date and time, with the participants tweeting their thoughts and comments, together with a hashtag (in this case #HPWarriorTT) to make the following of the tasting easier.
This twitter tasting was put together and hosted by Steve Rush from The Whisky Wire (@TheWhiskyWire and their main tweet tasting account @TweetTastings). We were also joined by Daryl Haldane (@DarylHaldane) Highland Park’s Global Brand Advocate.
The Warrior Series
The Warrior Series is a range of six single malts whiskies showcasing the very best of Highland Park. Offering a spectrum of flavours but grounded in Highland Park’s gently smoky but surprisingly sweet character. Highland Park has strong Viking roots and this is celebrated throughout the collection.
The Warrior Series is exclusively produced for the Travel Retail market, also known as duty-free to some. As you move up the series there is an increase in the quantity of European oak sherry seasoned casks used. Throughout the tasting Daryl sent out images to make it easier to see the percentage of European oak sherry versus American casks used to mature each expression. Below is the summary graphic showing these various levels on wood used.
And now onto my thoughts and notes from the tweet tasting.
Highland Park Warrior Series – ‘Svein’, NAS with 40% ABV and cost €40.00 (R600)
Svein has been created to mirror the hospitable and generous nature of many of the Viking leaders, including its namesake. Svein can best be described as the ultimate Viking chieftain and his spirit lives on through this release. Possessing a steely and ruthless determination alongside a fiery temper, Svein’s exploits lie at the very heart of the Orkneyinga Saga, his appetite for adventure and merriment are legendary. As well as being a hardened, battle-scarred warrior, Svein’s reputation for hospitality showed no bounds.
Svein was produced using a high percentage of American oak but also European oak casks. 30% was first fill American Sherry casks and 10% European oak first fill. The remainder was refill casks.
Colour: Yellow gold with thick legs.
Nose: Very fresh, clean and crisp (refreshing). Citrus fruits, chocolate, pineapple and slight winter spices is what I picked up at first. With some time I also got raisin, slight red fruit, honey and slight herbal. Lovely gentle yet peaty smoke. Has a woodiness, almost green character, about it.
Palate: Smoky, but a sweet and spicy smokiness, followed by sawdust floor and a honey sweetness. There is also some intense zesty orange infused very dark chocolate on the palate. Smoky but with a spicy kick (especially on the tip of ones tongue) with an intriguing mix of pepper and sweet spiciness. Has a sweet, rich and smooth mouth feel.
Finish: The finish is a spicy affair with white pepper and it then lingers with that gentle smoke. Spicy and warm, lingering, white pepper upfront but it is the sweet/spicy, yet gentle smoke that lingers most.
Highland Park Warrior Series – ‘Einar’, NAS with 40% ABV and cost €53 (R790)
Einar has been crafted as a tribute to one of the most feared and ruthless Vikings of his time. Einar was a hard and successful Viking, often venturing on treacherous long voyages. Relentless and strong, Einar was easily identified by his axe, which was sharp and brutal, reflecting his fierce character, an example of which can be seen on the packaging of this expression.
This bottling exudes many of Einar’s character traits: unrelenting in its flavour it delivers a surprisingly direct smokiness which is coupled with a darker inner layer of spice, driven by a proportion of whisky matured in European oak casks. It is produced using both American and European oak casks, increasing the percentage of European oak used, with the largest percentage still being American oak.
Colour: Yellow to old gold with very thick legs
Nose: Dried fruits drenched in sweet golden syrup. Warmer spices, again with upfront citrus fruits and woodiness and that gentle peat smoke drifting across in the background. Caramel fudge, darker autumn fruits, slight liquorice and dark chocolate notes. Gets sweeter with time.
Palate: Upfront smoke but the sweet and hot spiciness follows it very quickly. Citrus notes with warm spices and dark chocolate again. Chocolate coated raisins, white pepper, cigar smoke, ‘hot’ spice on while tongue, leather, apricots, nutmeg and hints of vanilla.
Finish: Sweet apricot on finish, but it is the smokiness that lingers the longest with some sweet spiciness at the very end. Some dry woodiness in there as well.
Highland Park Warrior Series – ‘Harald’, NAS with 40% ABV and cost €75 (R1100)
Celebrated through this release, King Harald was famed for his army, which was revered across the world at that time. The most feared of his troops were known as ‘berserkers’. Described as intrepid heroes, they carried bloody shields used for hacking through their enemies. Such was the importance of the shield in growing King Harald’s global influence that it adorns the packaging.
Considered, intelligent and undoubtedly regal, this whisky shows not only an inner balance but also an assertive oaky side, combining a generous proportion of both American and highly prized European oak casks. The oak usage here is close to a 50-50 split of not only first fill and refill casks, but also almost a 50-50 split between European and American oak.
Colour: Old gold with very thick legs.
Nose: Get the sweetness before the smoke, with the sweetness being a ginger toffee sweet. Vanilla, warm spices (ginger), sweet dried fruit with peat smoke in the background. Ginger biscuits dipped in syrup, dark Toblerone chocolate, burnt fudge, wood, and spiced apple/berry tart with a faint herbal/green character. A richer and more intense nose that takes some time to develop.
Palate: Soft initially with warming and sweet spices. It is much gentler than expected from the nose. Nuts, nougat sweetness and a backbone of gentle smoke throughout the palate. Nutmeg, oak, winter spices, savoury nuttiness, ginger citrus, dark chocolate, creamy, cinnamon and some lovely pepper notes round out the palate.
Finish: Medium in length with citrus spiciness and some dark chocolate nuances. Has a lovely ginger snap at the very end.
Highland Park Warrior Series – ‘Sigurd’, NAS with 43% ABV and cost €150 (R2200)
Sigurd is considered amongst the strongest and most courageous warriors, and ultimately one of the most feared Viking earls featured in the Orkneyinga Saga.
As we are moving up the expression there is a higher percentage of European oak in relation to American oak. Also there is a high percentage of first fill sherry casks used.
Colour: Old to deep gold with thick legs.
Nose: Xmas cake fruit mix soaked in some brandy. Mixed fruit chocolate bar, dark chocolate, winter spices, cherries and some zesty pine notes. Also warm desserts, raisins, vanilla, dark fruits, nutmeg and heather smoke. Has a rich thickness and creaminess to it.
Palate: Syrupy and sweet feel in the mouth with a very warming spiciness that tingles ones tongue. Also get a lovely full creaminess that covers your tongue. Still has that lovely gentle, subtle smoke in the background. Vanilla, dark chocolate, grain with hint of citrus (lemon), oily, brown sugar and dark chocolate with cherry filling. Balanced and well-rounded.
Finish: Smoky maple syrup finish with sweet and tingling spices (cinnamon).
Highland Park Warrior Series – ‘Ragnvald’, NAS with 44.6% ABV and cost €400 (R5900)
Ragnvald, arguably the most famous and pioneering of all Vikings to enter unchartered waters, was most at home aboard his longship undertaking his many great expeditions throughout the Middle East and even Asia. Earl Rognvald was the founder of St Magnus Cathedral.
From the earlier graphic we can deduce that there is around 75% European oak used in this expression, with American oak carrying the remainder.
Colour: Deep gold to burnished with thick slow legs.
Nose: Sweet with subtle ginger and cinnamon spices. Has a herbaceousness about it. Sweet baked desserts (like brandy pudding). Pear drops with some Christmas cake and brandy tart. Just opened cigar box. Dark chocolate, deep wood, dark berries and smoke. Rich and lovely.
Palate: Complex. Warm spices (ginger and nutmeg) together with very dark chocolate and dried fruits. Quite drying with thick syrup mouth feel that coats ones mouth. A very intense palate – spicy on the tip and sides of ones tongue. Smoky, dark fruits, smooth, maple syrup, Christmas like and cooking brown sugar round out the palate.
Finish: Lovely sweet and spicy smokiness that just goes on and on and on.
Highland Park Warrior Series – ‘Thorfinn’, NAS with 45.1% ABV and cost €1000 (R14800)
Thorfinn was a man of much power and influence, who at one stage controlled the whole of the Orkney Islands. The Orkneyinga Saga described him as a great chief, the tallest and strongest of men whose remains are buried in St Magnus Cathedral on Orkney.
Once again there is an increasing percentage of first fill sherry casks (around 60%) and an even higher proportion of European oak to American oak.
Colour: Burnished gold to russetmuscat with lovely thick and slow legs.
Nose: Herbal, fruity and an interesting mix of chocolate and syrup. Also has a sweet and floral spiciness to it. More herbal/green upfront while being clean and fresh. Crème brûlée, slight citrus fruits with that gentle smoke as always in the background. Thick vanilla creaminess, marzipan, wood (cedar and eucalyptus) and pineapple. The nose develops over time and is ever-changing. It is intense, complex and interesting.
Palate: Intense and beautiful, while being very complex and well-balanced. Herbal with an almost mint like freshness. “Old” character with winter styled spices and citrus notes. Spicy, eucalyptus, honey sweet, raisins, autumn fruits, Christmas spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger), dark cherries, dried fruits and chocolate. Very smooth and drinks easily, yet has wonderful depth to it.
Finish: Very, very long and spicy (sweet and warm) with some dryness and that lovely gentle fragrant smoke.
A really cracking range from Highland Park in my opinion. I enjoyed seeing how the various percentages of wood types used created such different (yet with some similar characteristics) expressions. I felt that it would allow one to find one of the warrior’s that you really enjoyed. For me my favourite from the series was Einar. It was closely followed by Thorfinn.
I really also enjoyed the marketing of the Warrior series, delving into the Viking history and using famous warriors from the Orkneyinga Saga not only for the naming of the various expressions, but also to that which was strongly associated with the whiskies’ namesake beings used to adorn the packaging.
It was a great first tweet tasting experience. A very big thank you to Steve Rush from The Whisky Wire for hosting us, Daryl Haldane Highland Park’s Global Brand Advocate for being patient enough to answer all of our questions and to Highland park for the wonderful warrior whiskies. A final note of thanks also to my fellow Tweet Tasters for making it an informative and entertaining tasting:
@WhiskyDiscovery @scotslarder @WhiskyRepublic @WindsorBeerFest @LRWhisky @kristianehenney @TheWhiskyKiwi @abbeywhisky @TonyWTC @idle_bull @FrazerJ @kizzsmyth @steveprentice @galg @TheSmokyDram @caskfinishcom @whiskywardrobe @timstasting @LaCaveDeCobalt @ansgarspeller