Ancient kings. Norsk mythology. Tribal symbolism. Dark and mysterious packaging. These are just a few of the things I think about when I think about the Highland Park brand.
Highland Park was not really that known to me until the last year or so.
An old intern of mine used to tell me how much his granddad enjoyed Highland Park whisky, I vaguely remember seeing the old brand years ago but aside from that I had to discover, or rather rediscover the brand in order to fully understand it.
With packaging that creates what we in the design world refer to as ‘great shelf blocking’ – a visual device to grab the attention of shoppers as they pass through aisles and stores through literally blocking shelves with your brand colours, symbols and messages – Highland Park has seen a remarkable revival in recent years.
Like many single malts that were formerly blend fodder, it used to be seen as a ‘whisky my dad drinks’, but what a lot of people don’t know is that Highland Park’s 25 Year Old was the first whisky in the world to score a perfect score of 100 points in the International Spirits Competition.
Nowadays Highland Park has a cult following akin to Ardbeg’s, as well as being popular in the mainstream with some incredible super premium releases that are held in as high regard as their mainline 12 and 18 Year Olds.
There’s a superb tale of a bunch of Scandinavians coming over to Orkney for a visit, a tour, a tasting, the works then buying so much whisky in the distillery shop that their plan literally could not take off. No word of a lie.
The 18 Year Old is one of my most savoured whiskies, and the mysterious, almost dark visual style of the latest pack design is evocative of immense backstories, both mythological and evolutionary. That is what makes this brand so interesrting.
It links so well to the island and its surroundings, the stories that have been passed through generations spanning centuries live through product names, pack designs and branded experiences that are so carefully crafted that you would not believe.
Ever wondered why Highland Park Odin tastes why it does? Or why Freya was different to Odin or why each release adds another strand to the flavour profile of this great brand?
The answer is simple; you are appreciating them in different ways as the stories have been crafted in such a way that they take the expected distillery heritage and layer on stories of the past that nearly everyone can get lost in wonderment at.
Graphically the design system is a lot better than it used to be, as I mentioned above the ‘menacing black’ stands out, especially with silver embossing (or other colours depending on the release) coupled with Viking-esque weapons that makes it all just ‘feel’ right.
Dark Origins? How apt, this island, this brand and this packaging all tells us about varying degrees of dark origins, now go forth and see what you get differently from each release.