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Highland Park 10 Year Old (Viking Scars)

Review: Highland Park 10 Year Old (Viking Scars)    86.5/100
A review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published April 5, 2021

Highland Park Distillery is located in the Highlands of Scotland on the Island of Orkney which is famous for its heather rich meadows, and its unique organic Orcadian peat. The 10 Year Old Highland Park Whisky (Viking Scars) is part of the new core range of the distillery which includes the 12 Year Old (Viking Honour) and the 18 Year old (Viking Pride).

According to the information provided to me, the Single Malt Whisky is aged predominantly in American Oak casks (Oloroso sherry seasoned oak casks). The flavour is of course also driven by the hand cut aromatic peat from the Hobbister Moor which is used (by burning) to dry a portion of the malted barley.

Highland Park 10 Year Old Viking Scars is sold in Canada at 43% abv.

In the Bottle  5/5

The ten-year-old expression of Highland Park comes in the bottle and box shown to the right. The design is full of Viking imagery which ties the brand to its locale on Orkney where in 1798, Magnus Eunson ( a descendant of the vikings who conquered the Island centuries ago) is said to have founded the Highland Park Distillery.  The back of the sleeve contains a variety of advertising/informational highlights which whets the appetite for what is inside.

The bottle itself is adorned with a simple but professional label and has that same viking imagery embossed onto the bottle. A solid high density cork completes the presentation.

In the Glass 8.5/10

Colour:  Gold/Amber

Legs: Thickened slightly

Nose: Fine Oak spice and zesty citrus peel, vanilla, butterscotch and sweet malt, windrows of hay, raisins and prunes, and herbal peat smoke with heather and lavender.

The Viking Scars surprised me with its mild approachable nose. The Orcadian peat is in the breezes, but it sits a little further back allowing notes of butterscotch, vanilla, and citrus fruit (orange peel) more prominence. The oak is spicy rather than woody and hints of almond seem to confirm the prevalence of American oak. Dabs of dry fruit (raisin and prunes) lie underneath.  As the whisky has more time to breathe, I begin to notice more of the peat in the breezes above the glass. There are light heather and lavender smells as well as scents of wetland willow and poplar. A mild ‘swampiness’ adds to that sense of the wetlands in the air.

The aroma tells the story of a complex whisky with influences of oak, sherry and herbal peat.

In the Mouth 51.5/60

The whisky translate very well from the nose to the palate. I notice more swampy peat in the flavour profile than the nose would have indicated; however, as I do not regularly indulge in peated whiskies it would probably be true that I would notice this aspect much more than one who enjoys the bog more frequently.

The first sip brings a nice bite of fine oak spice and orange peel zest tempered by vanilla, butterscotch and somewhat sweet dry fruit (again those raisins and prunes). Underneath there is a welling of herbal peat with flavours of timothy, heather, willow, and bits of swampy bog. I seem to taste hints of iodine and perhaps a touch of ash. The barley grain is not forgotten as the whisky has a  firm lightly sweet malt running throughout.

In the Throat 13/15

The Viking Scars is a medium bodied whisky with a light oiliness which coats the tongue. Fine oak spice settles upon the palate after the swallow giving us hints of baking spice building as we sip. I notice prunes and bits of chocolate in the exit followed by herbal smoke and hints of ash and brine.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I like the 10 Year Old Viking Scars from Highland Park. As a ten year old it is much better than I expected, and had I not seen the age statement I might have guessed a somewhat higher age. Although the whisky has a little bite of spice in the delivery, this is balanced well by the mild butterscotch and lightly sweet flavours of dry fruit and malt. The dram is not as smokey as I was expecting, but the soft peat works well within the overall flavour profile.

My score of 86.5/100 indicates I would be prone to sipping (probably over ice), although I hope you will forgive me if I indulge in a nice cocktail now and then (see recipe below).

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

Highland Blood and Sand

3/4 oz Highland Park 10 Year Old
5/8 oz Sweet Vermouth
5/8 oz Cherry Brandy
3/4 oz Fresh Squeezed (Blood) Orange Juice
Orange Zest or Peel (optional)

Add the first four ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with orange peel (optional)

If  you are interested in more cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more mixed drink recipes!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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