Nose: Heather, honey, stewed apples, soft whiffs of heathery peat, sultanas, vanilla, toffee, bowl of candy goodies.
Taste: Vanilla, allspice, Christmas cake, especially the red and chewy candied bits, honey.
Finish: Long, and warm.
The Caribbean; Polynesia; the Seychelles – meeting points of warm waters, inviting temperatures and glorious sceneries above and below the waves. Island getaways for many to go relax, unwind, and catch up with a good scroll or book. Compare that with the archipelago of islands off the north of Scotland in the cold North Sea: barren, windswept, inhospitable, with not a tree or swim up bar in sight. For you and I, this doesn’t sound like a good holiday for the Vikings, planning their invasion of England in 780, the Orkney Islands sound ideal for a Norse spring break. Now, let’s fast forward to right now, said archipelago, is still not front and centre for sunbathing worshippers. In fact, only 20 of the 70 islands are inhabited. However, for whisky lovers, it’s Valhalla, without the whole “dying gloriously in battle” thing.
There’s something mythical, magical and natural that makes the Orkneys a great place to set up a distillery: Scapa, Deerness are there as well as one of the big names in Scottish whisky lore: Highland Park. Highland Park – founded by, Magnus Eunson, a direct descendant of said Vikings mentions above. Highland Park makes Skuldelev Ships worth of different expressions: from their core range of 10 to 50 years old, travel and special releases, including the whisky in this review’s spotlight – Trillium.
First off, Trillium was created specifically for you and me: the Ontario Whisky Lover. Part of their Single Cask Series, this is a 12 year old expression, finished in refill sherry butts with the flavours being delivered by a 61.4% ABV. This also features Highland Park’s signature introduction of peated heather, followed by light and dark sweetness of vanilla and toffee as well as the sherry influenced sultana notes. With Trillium being cask strength, you’d think that this whisky would akin to the Vikings storming the beachhead of your tongue. And yes, while it is noticeable, it isn’t harsh or angry but direct and to the point. Spiciness shows up with the vanilla as well as Christmas cake and honey. However, like the fabled Norsemen, the finish here does occupy the back of your throat with a long finish – but in a warm, good way.
Trillium was created exclusively for the Ontario market with a limited release of 556 bottles. It also comes in at a price tag of $249.95, which can be a Thor point for some, especially since you can get into other Highland Park expressions starting at $54.95. The debate one can often have with one’s inner whisky arbiter is scarcity over price. Of course, an alternative to finding a bottle of Trillium, is finding a friend with a bottle of Trillium. Cheers.