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lery, producing a batch of malt there. The distilleries are owned by quite separate com-
panies - HP by the Edrington Group and Scapa by Allied Distillers - but they've got an
agreement to do this and obviously everybody feels they benefit. So at least there will be
some 2003 Scapa.
Highland Park bottles at 12, 15, 18, 25, 35 and 40 years, plus the occasional special (I
choose an 18-year-old at 43 per cent abv). The 12-year-old is already a phenomenal, po-
tent dram, and the stuff just generally gets better and better as it gets older. Sweet, smoky,
smooth and opulent, filled to bursting with spicy fruits and a long, hazily luxuriant and
powerful finish, this is magnificent whisky.
There is a kind of wide-spectrum plushness about the 18-year-old that is as impressive
for the way it's balanced as it is for the sheer amount of flavour packed into it. In the same
way that it's much easier to do cool-looking minimalist interior design compared to cool-
looking intricate, complex interior design, it takes more skill to create a flavour-jammed
whisky that feels rounded and harmonious than it does a relatively bare, stripped-down
expression. The 18-year-old turns this trick with seeming ease; a bravura piece of pol-
ished burr walnut beauty amongst plain sanded pines. I've sampled the 25-year-old ver-
sion and it's better still. Tasted in Orkney, looking out into the clear northerly light, these
jostle for that Best Dram So Far title.
Highland Park may not be the Most Northerly Scotch for much longer but it'll still be
one of the very best.
Work done, we dine at the hotel with Jenny - Ann's eldest sister - and her husband James.
James is a Dewar, and distantly related to the whisky family (and even more distantly to
me, I suppose, as the Dewars were part of the Menzies clan). Jenny and James moved
to Orkney over a decade ago and seem happily settled here. While they were thinking
about moving here the four of us spent a few weeks on the islands, staying in a house in
Finstown shaped like an up-turned boat - complete with seals cavorting in the sea on the
other side of the garden wall - and later touring most of the other islands, staying in ho-
tels and B&Bs. We've stayed with Jenny and James in their house just outside Stromness
many times over the subsequent years, often around the time of the Orkney Folk Festival,
but on this occasion it seemed sensible to keep to Kirkwall, especially as we're only here
for the one night.
It's a good, fun evening but we call it a day fairly early as we've all got stuff to do in
the morning. Sadly, Ann and I will miss the end of Shopping Week in Stromness tomor-
row night (does anywhere else have a Shopping Week? Or only Stromness? Never mind).
The point is they always have good fireworks on the last night of Shopping Week, even
though it does have to be said that fireworks in Orkney in the middle of the summer will
basically have to be set against a still-light sky, almost no matter how late in the evening
you wait before setting them off (on Midsummer's Day at Jenny and James's house about
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