Journey 32 kilometres off Scotland’s northern coast and you’ll find a spellbinding collection of mostly uninhabited islands and islets known as Orkney. Powerful winds have shaped this distinctive landscape over the centuries, also giving rise to the equally distinctive whisky of Highland Park, which has been distilled here since 1798.
With trees unable to withstand Orkney’s strong winds, the archipelago’s moorland peat is free of wood but rich in heather. This dense peat burns slowly and intensely in Highland Park’s kilns, creating whisky with a uniquely balanced smoky-sweet flavour.
The natural influences that define Highland Park’s unrivalled whisky collection served as the inspiration for an outdoor tasting event hosted at Eigensinn Farm – a place where the food is as much a reflection of its source as the whisky embodies its own origins.
Located a scenic two-hour drive north of Toronto, Eigensinn Farm is owned and operated by pioneering chef Michael Stadtländer. After helming the kitchens of notable Toronto restaurants like Scaramouche in the 1980s, Stadtländer and his family founded Eigensinn Farm in 1993 and began hosting exclusive farm-to-table dinners. With almost every ingredient served at these dinners either foraged, grown or raised on site, Stadtländer became an early trailblazer in the locavore dining movement and inspired a generation of chefs.
The event kicked off with a welcome toast of Highland Park 12-Year-Old Viking Honour, a flagship blend in the Highland Park line-up with a delightful heather-honey aroma and smooth finish. Highland Park’s core range of whiskies pays homage to the Vikings, who ruled over Orkney for centuries and left an enduring influence on the archipelago.
Stadtländer led event attendees on a forest walk through his 100-acre property, stopping at a series of en plein air cooking stations to serve light bites infused with Highland Park whisky.
Highland Park’s wild harmony of flavours complemented farm fresh ingredients in dishes like sautéed forest mushrooms, which were flambéed with Highland Park 15-Year-Old Viking Heart and served in hollowed-out apples; and tomato soup with crisp bacon and Highland Park 15-Year-Old Viking Heart maple syrup cream.
An enchanting forest clearing served as the setting for a subsequent sit-down dinner, which saw Stadtländer continuing to draw on Highland Park’s bold, untamed flavour as inspiration for a four-course farm-to-table dinner. Highland Park 12-Year-Old was matched with a savoury duck consomme, which allowed the whisky’s subtle smokiness to shine.
Next, diners were treated to Lake Erie pickerel grilled over pine wood, which offered lovely earthy flavours that enhanced Highland Park 15-Year-Old Viking Heart’s hints of cinnamon. The 15 Year Old’s touch of citrus aftertaste also helped lift up a rich third course of wood-oven roasted suckling pig.
Highland Park 18-Year-Old Viking Heart’s fruity notes were a natural pairing for a sweet course of fall fruit and ice cream made from Eigensinn maple syrup. A light finish of petit fours let the unparalleled Highland Park 21-Year-Old Viking Pride take centre stage with its sweet and spicy palate and lingering peat smoke finish.
Each sip of Highland Park evoked the beautiful, windswept setting where it’s thoughtfully distilled and the equally wild and wonderful farm setting in which it was enjoyed.