Highland Park Distillery is among the most storied whisky producers in all of Scotland. The malt maker first fired up its copper pots back in 1798 along the northernmost reaches of the country: the remote, windswept isles of Orkney. It’s been humbly laying down liquid here ever since and long ago established a house style—a gorgeous balance of sweet and peat. In all those years, though, nothing that rolled out of the cask carried as much age and weight as its newest announcement: Highland Park 54 Year Old.
It’s not just that it’s Highland Park’s oldest expression. It’s also among its boldest. The juice in question is made of 10 barrels birthed a full year before man landed on the moon. After a patient slumber of some four decades, the remaining stock—which hadn’t been abducted by the angels—was transferred into first-fill European sherry butts where it lived for the next 14 years. This movement imparted upon the liquid a rich vibrancy that’s often absent in half-century-old malt.
Bottled at 46.9 percent ABV, it refracts top notes that aren’t exactly obvious to Scotch: the savory section of the spice rack, including cumin and coriander. There’s just a whisper of tropical fruit to ponder before the distillery’s signature smoke comes out to play in the finish. It’s distinct because Highland Park has long leveraged a locally sourced peat for its maltings—it’s almost as floral as it is smoky. So while it’s a curious and contemplative dram, it’s provenance remains identifiable throughout.
In other words, if you love Highland Park, you’re really gonna love Highland Park 54 Year Old. And you’d better, considering you’ll have to shell out $54,000 for a bottle of it. Or, roughly $3,375 per standard pour.
If you’re on the fence, perhaps the packaging can push you over the edge. It comes housed in a bespoke box (crafted by award-winning designer John Galvin) meant to echo Orkney’s famed cliffs of Yesnaby. Inside, the sturdy crystal is textured to reflect the island’s volcanic origins. Only 225 will be available, globally…just in time for the brand’s 225th anniversary. Get it?
“This exceptionally rare 54 Year Old single malt Scotch whisky has been nurtured through careful maturation and harmonization,” adds Highland Park master whisky maker Gordon Motion (I swear, Scotch distillers have the coolest names). “Representing a quarter of Highland Park’s life, we felt it was a fitting way to mark our 225th anniversary; born and crafted in the heart of Orkney.”
One other selling point: Highland Park—which has always maintained a steadfast commitment to traditional production techniques—never adds any coloring agents to its liquids. This is exceedingly rare in an industry where spirits caramel has become an accepted ingredient to capture consistency from batch to batch. That brilliant hue you observe in the bottle is au naturel. The brand’s marketing material describes it as “autumnal russet,” but we’re seeing much more of a summer mahogany.
The new Highland Park 54 Year Old will be available from specialist retailers globally from mid-February 2023.