The Orkney climate is influenced by the atlantic gulf stream, resulting in milder temperatures than other locations on the same latitude. It also helps to make the islands one of the windiest places in the UK and strong gales are frequent. Over 50 hours of extreme gales are officially recorded each year, meaning the distillery pagoda roof is rarely safe!
Highland Park Distillery
tel - +44(0)1856 874619
web - www.highlandpark.co.uk
Tours through the Highland Park Distillery - available Monday to Friday and Saturday during summer. Tours start on the hour every hour. Two tours daily during winter. Admission is charged
Highland Park's story
Highland Park is Scotland's most northernly distillery. It is located on the main road between the Orkney island's capital of Kirkwall and the small town of Holm. The distillery's location gives the whisky produced there some unique characteristics. The first factor is that the water used in production is from a local spring and is extremely hard. Most distilleries are based close to soft water sources, which is said to be the best style of water for distilling. The second is that the peat on the Orkneys is different to that found in the rest of Scotland. There are very few trees on the islands, so the peat does not contain any tree roots but is instead made up of mostly decomposed and compacted heather plants. This means that when the Orkney peat is used to fire the kilns and stop the germination of the malted barley, it burns for less time and with a more floral fragrance than elsewhere.
Highland Park's history
The first version of the Highland Park distillery was built and started operating in 1798. Taking its name from the High Park spring, which is still its water source. It was run by an interesting character called Magnus Eunson. He was a priest who dabbled in some serious illegal distillation on the side and even used to hide his whisky from the authorities in the vaults of his church! Eunson deliberately positioned his illicit distillery on the main smuggling road on the island, in order to help distribute his wares. This was helped by the fact that Orkney's capital of Kirkwall was one of the smuggling capitals in the north of Scotland at that time. Due to its remote location, Orkney was very difficult for the authorities and excise men to get to. They did finally catch up with him in 1813 but he escaped prosecution in a way that added to the suspicious nature of the distillery's early history. His prosecuting officer, John Robertson, agreed to let Eunson go free as long as Eunson sold him the distillery and all the surrounding farmland! Following the parliamentary excise act of 1823, the distillery got a license to distil and was immediately expanded. By the 1850s Highland Park had built a credible reputation and was releasing a limited range of single malts and supplying some of the biggest whisky houses in Scotland with whisky for their popular blends. These included Ballantines, Chivas and Dewars. In 1895, James Grant from Glenlivet distillery bought Highland Park and expanded the distillery and doubled its capacity. The current capacity is 2.5 million and current owners, the Edrington group, are pushing Highland Park single malt sales towards the world top 10 with the hope of establishing and keeping it there. They also use Highland Park in their two popular blends, the Famous Grouse (one of the best selling blends in the UK) and Cutty Sark (one of the best selling export blended whiskies). Highland Park also boasts one of the most visited and best distillery visitor centres in Scotland and has been awarded the prestigious five star visitor attraction award by Visit Scotland for five years running.