Review: Highland Park Magnus
Following on the release of Valkyrie, Highland Park continues to shake up its lineup with the release of Magnus, a NAS whisky that now serves as the unofficial entry-level expression of Highland Park. Unlike Valkyrie, Magnus is not replacing anything in the roster (though plenty of stuff, including Highland Park 15, Highland Park 21, and Dark Origins, has already been discontinued).
So what’s Magnus? Some back story:
Founding the northernmost Scotch whisky distillery in the world takes a very distinct sort of spirit. And we captured that spirit to make our own. Highland Park, The Orkney Single Malt with Viking Soul is proud to announce the newest addition to its core range: MAGNUS.
Exclusive to the US and Canada, this expression celebrates the distillery’s founder Magnus Eunson, a butcher and church officer by day, and bootlegger by night. Brave, irreverent and enterprising, Magnus was a direct descendant of the Vikings who settled on Orkney hundreds of years ago. His legacy of attention to detail and passion for whisky making remains today and little has changed in the way Highland Park is crafted in over 220 years.
Jason Craig, Highland Park Brand Director, said, “We are very proud to be launching MAGNUS exclusively in North America and we look forward to receiving reviews of the whisky from consumers who are already fans of our distillery as well as welcoming new drinkers to our tribe with this bold new bottling.”
“Magnus Eunson set up his illicit still at a small cottage at High Park, overlooking Kirkwall and it remains the site of our home today. We say that our distillery was founded in 1798 – but in truth, that’s just the year that the authorities finally caught up with Magnus – he was certainly making whisky before that!”
The label design in striking gun metal foil on the bottle represents M for MAGNUS. It has been created in the decorative Viking art style called Urnes, which complements the recently redesigned 12 and 18 Year Old packaging, just released in North America. The design harks back to Viking storytelling and features the legend of a lion locked in battle with the forces of evil in the form of serpent-like dragons.
The top of the bottle also features the heads of two serpent-like dragons as well as the brand’s signature ‘The Orkney Single Malt with Viking Soul.’ Established 1798 is also featured which references the date when Highland Park single malt Scotch whisky was established.
Gordon Motion, Master Whisky Maker, commented: “I wanted to create a whisky which had the lightly-peated characteristics familiar to the Highland Park family but with a sweeter and more profound vanilla flavor profile. The result is a whisky crafted using a high proportion of Sherry seasoned American oak casks along with refill casks which give MAGNUS its citrus, vanilla and lightly smoky taste.”
Now let’s give it a try.
This is one of the lightest whiskies I’ve ever encountered from Highland Park, and while that isn’t necessarily a slam, those looking for HP’s characteristic brooding depth of flavor will not find it here. The nose finds some of that trademark maltiness, an earthy note that conceals aromas of nutty sherry, dusky spice, musk, and furniture polish. Sounds intense, but the palate is something else: Light on its feet, almost floral at times, with sweeter notes of breakfast cereal, brown butter, graham crackers, and just a touch of smoke. The peat is extremely mild here, but there’s a green, slightly vegetal note on the finish that isn’t entirely what I was after.
As an introduction to the basic style of Highland Park, Magnus isn’t a bad place to start. The price is certainly right. The only issue: Magnus really doesn’t add anything new to the HP story; it just feels… a bit too familiar.