FINDS x Highland Park: a whisky tasting to remember

by: George Major
02 Jun 2017

Given just how hip Nordic cuisine is, it’s a little surprising that Hong Kong is home to just one authentically Nordic restaurant. FINDS (that’s short for Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, by the way) has just launched a new whisky pairing dinner in collaboration with Highland Park scotch whisky. 

Now, Scotland may not be a country within that FINDS acronym, but Highland Park - the most northerly distillery in Scotland - has a truly Viking heritage. The distillery was founded by a preacher and part-time bootlegger named Magnus Eunson (and never did a man have a more Nordic name) on the sparsely populated treeless archipelago of Orkney. Formerly a territory of Norway, Orkney only became part of Scotland in 1468 when it was given to King James III as part of a dowry, and today the culture of the islands is reputed to be as much Viking as Scottish.  

Whisky pairing menus are a relatively new phenomenon and in this case, it works pretty well, the distinctive peaty smoky aromas of the whisky complementing the extensive use of smoking in the cuisine. Speaking of the cuisine, based on the evidence of this menu, those Orkney Vikings were rather dainty fellows, fed on prettily presented little portions of delicately smoked morsels. You thought the Vikings were hirsute mead-soaked barbarians? The amount of care going into the preparation of the Smoked Artic Shrimps & Vendace Roe says otherwise. Chef Jaakko personally sallied forth up a remote Arctic fjord to track down an enigmatic husband and wife team of shrimpers, who can be found on their boat from 3 am until nightfall every day and persuaded them to allow him some of their catch. He then navigated the byzantine labyrinth of Hong Kong import licences before smoking those shrimps to precisely match the smoky sweetness of Highland Park’s 12-year-old single malt.

As the evening wears on, the Whiskies get older and the flavours smokier. The veal striploin is lightly smoked then cooked sous vide at 63°c and paired with Highland Park’s appropriately named Dark Origins whisky. It’s worth catching this one while you can - Highland Park isn't making any more Dark Origins. The whisky is floral in aroma but packs a muscular punch of peatiness that suits the smoked veal nicely.

It is the dessert where the Chef Jaakko’s smoking skills go into overdrive. The drottning cake - a moist chocolate cake topped with raspberry and blueberry beneath a chocolate dome - is flavoured with pine tar. It’s the aroma of the dying embers of a smoky bonfire as the dew falls on a summer evening at a high latitude. By which we mean it’s evocative, if that’s your sort of thing. And it’s paired with Highland Park’s 18 year-old, which has twice been crowned not just the best whisky in the world, but the best spirit in the world. If that’s not reason enough to give the whisky pairing menu a try, we don’t know what is.

George Major