Highland 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.
Production at Highland Park
Highland 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.
Contact Highland Park
St Ola, Kirkwall,
Orkney KW15 1SU
Phone: +44 (0) 1856 874619
Visitors: April-October: Monday-Friday 10am-5pm.
July-August: -Friday 10am-5pm and Saturday-Sunday 12am-5pm.
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.
Owner: The Edrington Group.