21 February 2023

121st Whisky Insiders Interview - Martin Markvardsen

Highland Park
Senior Global Brand Ambassador

How long have you been working in the whisky industry?
Well, I’m a bit of a dinosaur. I hosted my first whisky tasting 33 years ago, but I started working full-time in the industry 22 years ago. My first job was at the Whisky World in Copenhagen airport. It was great time, being able to work with my hobby and passion was simply amazing!
I later went onto start The Whisky House shop in Copenhagen, before then moving to the Craigellachie Hotel as Whisky Manager in their famous Quaich Bar. From there I moved to Edrington and Highland Park, where I’ve been working since 2006.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
To name one highlight would be difficult, as the world of whisky gives you so many. Becoming Global Ambassador for Highland Park was a dream come true - and still to this day I think I have the best job in world.
Crossing the North Sea in a sailboat to launch the Highland Park Dark Origins in 2014 was a scary, funny, crazy and breath-taking experience. We experienced the worst weather in the North Sea for 12 years, so we really experienced how the Vikings would have felt it 1000 years ago.
Becoming a Keeper and later a Master of the Quaich, would be a personal highlight, along with winning the Icon of Whisky award two times as best Global Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador.
Can you remember your first dram, and indeed what it was?
It was a Ballentine’s and I loved it! I still think it’s a great blend. My first single malt was Glenkinchie - and that’s where it all began! I became fascinated by the history of whisky making, loved the passion people showed for the product they produced, and then of course the chemistry and mystique in production and maturation.

What does whisky mean to you?
It means a lot to me. It’s not only about the product we produce, but the entire world around it. From the team in Orkney that make the spirit that becomes the whisky I talk about and praise, to my colleagues in Glasgow - and of course my fellow ambassadors in the industry. They are family and the ones I talk to and dine with during my travels, so for me, family!
Where would you like to see yourself in five years’ time?
You know what, I love what I’m doing, simply love it. So I’ll be happy to continue. Maybe do more education for our local Brand Ambassadors.
What was your last dram?
My last drams were a Highland Park 21 Year Old and a new (Old) Highland Park, that I can’t mention at this moment.
Do you have a favourite whisky and food pairing combination?
I love pairing food with Highland Park. Since my days at the Craigellachie Hotel, I’ve always had a passion for it - and we did a lot of whisky dinners and pairings. Highland Park and BBQ is simply amazing. Smoked salmon with Highland Park 12 Year Old is no less than a match made in heaven, along with Highland Park 18 Year Old and grilled scallops.
Seafood in general matches well with Highland Park, but cheese, lamb and even fried rice with chicken, served with Highland Park 10 Year Old, is unbelievably good.
What’s your favourite time and place to enjoy a dram?
Depending on the dram I can always find a time and place. There are of course favourite places, and one of them is Orkney and more specifically, the Cliffs of Yesnaby. It’s beautiful, rough and its where nature shows its power. It’s the essence of Highland Park, and I love to go sit there with good friends and talk with a glass of great whisky in front of me.
What do you think is going to be the next big thing on the whisky horizon?  
We’ve already seen it coming - collaborations with other companies, such as The Macallan/Bentley, Bowmore/Aston Martin etc. but I also hope that food pairing will be bigger, as there’s so many opportunities there. Question is, does the world of whisky need a next big thing? I’m not sure.
What’s the one dram you couldn’t live without? 
One? only one? Then I have to say Highland Park 18 Year Old. Still to this day the best dram for me!
Many thanks to Martin Markvardsen. Who will be our next Whisky Insider? Click back soon to find out!