The Dark Origins of an Iconic Whiskey Distillery


The line often blurs between myth and reality when discussing the origins of some of our favorite spirits. Nobody believes we’re getting the entire story with the recent “Untamable Since 1862” campaign by Bacardi — which details the many calamities that have befallen the largest privately held spirits company in the world — that tells the entire story of how the company has kept it together for over 150 years. Nor does anybody believe the hilarious commercials showing John Jameson performing herculean tasks to save his precious whiskey. 

People love stories to go along with their drinks. Whether they’re real, embellished, or downright fictional doesn’t really matter. That’s why distillers like to reach back into the past to sell their product in the present, and that’s probably why Highland Park released their Dark Origins single malt along with a back story concerning the company’s founder, Magnus Eunson, who is described as an 18th century “beadle by day and smuggler by night.” 

The new no-age statement whiskey from the Scottish distillery sits in sherry casks and is then chill-filtered. It is a higher proof than other Highland Park bottles you might pick up. The nose is dark chocolate, a little cinnamon, and other scents that might take you back to sitting in the kitchen while your mom baked a cake. The palate is surprisingly peaty with a hint of citrus, leading to a smokey finish. 

But Highland Park isn’t totally hellbent on selling all of that info since people are still getting used to no-age whiskeys. While it’s a perfectly good black bottle of Scotch that you should want to serve to friends when they come over, Highland Park puts a lot of emphasis on the interesting story of the distillery’s founder, the churchgoing man-of-God by day, creator of the evil elixir by night, who once supposedly disguised his barrels using bedsheets in anticipation of a raid by tax collectors, pretending that he and some of his fellow bootleggers were presiding over a funeral for victims of the plague — something people were still very terrified of during the late-1770s. 

It’s a good story. True or not, we can’t confirm. But the myth works alongside this newest scotch from one of Scotland’s finest distilleries.