We had the opportunity to join Highland Park last week for the launch of their latest whisky, Loki. This 15-year-old limited edition single malt whisky is part of a wider initiative that draws on the imagination of whisky makers and introduces the product into the lives of consumers and Highland Park has promised its consumers four whiskies inspired by a different Nordic god. A quote from Highland Park’s press release sums up how the flavor reflects the mythical Nordic god, characterized by mischievous qualities:
There are classic traces of sweetness and spice, but it has been matured in both traditional Spanish sherry casks and also some heavily peated casks, giving it a smoky punch, while retaining a light colour. The finish is intriguing and complex. It is a whisky constantly changing, chameleon‐like, from appearance to finish and the few lucky and expert palates who have savoured it describe it as enigmatic.
The event itself was intriguing. It was held at The Foundry, where the venue felt like it was cloaked by a dark, medieval ambiance. The main attraction was a door which everyone had to line up in front of. Upon entering the room, visitors’ feet were engulfed by smoke as they were directed to a spot on the table. Once everyone found their place, representatives from Highland Park delivered a monologue wherein they introduced the audience to the brand concept and held a toast to Loki. A casual mixer ensued until everyone was driven back home.
To further elaborate on the thinking behind this event and initiative at large, we interviewed Steph Ridgway, a Highland Park Brand Manager/Ambassador.
Tell us about the thought process behind the creation of these limited edition liquor brands. How do they feed into the larger strategy of Highland Park?
The beauty behind the creation of our Valhalla series is that it is a direct reflection of our roots. The Orkney Islands once belonged to Norway and there is still a very strong Norse influence there. We selected a few Nordic gods that enable our whisky maker to flex his creative muscles beyond normal capacity to create whiskies whose profiles are a direct reflection of the god they were named after. Uniqueness is core to what defines a good whisky, and the Valhalla series underscores this.
What are the primary obstacles facing the spirits industry?
The biggest obstacles we face is finding ways to not only keep your core consumer engaged, but to recruit new consumers as well. That said, as long as you’re producing a product whose integrity you refuse to compromise and if you know your consumer inside and out, you’ll be able to give them something that they can engage with on an emotional level. It’s all about “keeping it real,” so to speak.
Tell us about some of the big ideas that helped you shape the launch event that unveiled Loki to bloggers and the public.
This event was so much fun to produce. Just like our whisky maker, Max McFarlane, we got to really stretch our muscles and think outside the box. From the beginning, it was really important to me that we incorporated the character traits of LOKI in a way that didn’t come off cheesy or schmaltzy. That said, we put a lot of hard work into every single element of the evening: from the invitation to the big reveal, we wanted our guests to be intrigued and engaged, arriving with a slight sense of apprehension and departing with a big “WOW”…and a new found or renewed love of Highland Park.