Park lies on a hill in the Orkney Capital of Kirkwall. A
rather peculiar site since the water has to be pumped up
to the distillery. Some people may also wonder why the
distillery is named Highland Park since Kirkwall lies in
Orkney. The name originates from the hill where the
distillery stands. At the time which the distillery was
founded the hill was called the ‘High Park’ by the
inhabitants of Kirkwall.
The founder of Highland Park was a man named Magnus
Eunson who started producing whisky already in 1798. At
first, the production was illegal which might explain
the uncommon location of a distillery at the top of a
hill –it made it easier to spot the Excisemen. There
were of course other reasons for why Eunson chose that
particular spot. For example, a there was good water
supply nearby, and the site also lay close to a good
supply of peat.
There are several stories about Magnus Eunson. Some
claim he was a church minister and used to hide his
illegal whisky behind the pulpit or even under coffins.
Closer investigation however suggests that Eunson more
likely was a front man for a cartel of businessmen
called the ‘Orkney Mafia’.
When the distillery received its licence in 1826,
Highland Park was already an established name. At
roughly the same time as the production became legal,
the distillery was acquired by Robert Borwick. He ran
the distillery until 1895 when he sold it to James Grant
who installed an additional two stills in 1898. The
distillery passed to the Highland Distilleries Co. Ltd
in 1935. Today it is owned by the Edrington Group.
Highland Park has won several prestigious awards for
their whisky during the last few years.
Park’s water source is called Cattie Maggie’s Spring and
lies just below the distillery. They buy 80 percent of
their malt from Tamdhu and malt the remaining 20 percent
themselves. The whisky has a ppm of approximately 20.
The wash still is made from stainless steel. The twelve
washbacks are made from Oregon wood and hold 29 200
litres each. During WW2, soldiers stationed at Orkney
used to take baths in the washbacks!
Highland Park has two wash stills and two spirit stills
which all hold 15 000 litres. All whisky is stored in
bourbon and sherry casks. The site has 25 warehouses,
both new and old. The annual production is 1-2 million
litres. Whisky from Highland Park is used in several
blended brands. The bottling is done in Drumchapel
outside of Glasgow.
St Ola, Kirkwall,
Orkney KW15 1SU
Visitors: April-October: Monday-Friday 10am-5pm.
July-August: -Friday 10am-5pm and Saturday-Sunday
November-March: Guided tours only, which start at 2pm.
During high season guided tours begin every half hour.
The admission is £5 and the last tour starts at 4pm.
Highland Park’s visitor centre won an award in 2002 for
its excellent service and facilities. Well worth a
visit! Group visits are encouraged to book in advance
for better service.
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