“Just ten more minutes,” our bus leader said.
At this rate, the minutes started blending together as much as the rural Denmark pasture, gliding past the luxury hauler’s windows.
Our bus was number one out of three headed towards Danish designer Jim Lyngvild’s Raunborg compound for a night of feasting and theater to celebrate the launch of Highland Park’s new Valkyrie whisky and overall re-brand.
The bus pulled to a quiet halt at a dirt road under overcast skies. Awaiting us was a horse-drawn carriage captained by a farming couple whose very presence exuded decades of experience and grit.
Typically, I don’t write about press events. They’re usually cliché and just about as interesting as you’d expect a group of writers herded together to be. As soon as the carriage dropped us off at the front steps of Lyngvild’s fortress, though, I knew this would be one for the books.
A troupe of Medieval re-enacters greeted us with a proclamation about the celebratory nature of the evening. “Welcome to the castle,” I recall one of them shouting.
We were led by a small army of Viking traditionalists into a cavernous room complete with an initial photo op (because every press event needs one) and a welcome fire pit to combat the unseasonably cold April night. There was even a throne emblazoned with Highland Park’s new logo, because really on this night, we were all kings.
After an initial dram and toast (skål was said no less than three dozen times throughout the night), the re-enactors led us to a second room, which was technically the official launch room of the new spirit.
Elaborately dressed mannequins were the welcome wagon here. Their sheer scale of colorful feathering flowed not unlike Native American dresses seen stateside. Martin Markvardsen, Highland Park’s Senior Brand Ambassador offered some additional notes on the new whisky and the meaning of the evening ahead.
For dinner, a massive plate of pork rib skewers awaited us and the dames in charge of the eats invited us to grab a precooked rib and reheat it over small bonfires scattered in Lyngvild’s courtyard. Cocktails were provided by the team from Copenhagen’s trendy Helium bar. They offered a couple of balanced variations on classic favorites.
If the food represented was traditional Viking fare, then I would have been morbidly obese in that time period. The meal was a barrage of smoked sausage, cured charcuterie, pickled vegetables and bread. Appropriately enough, we ate off of wooden slabs.
All of this took place in Lyngvild’s banquet-style, open-air hall, inviting in the wind and occasional drizzle from the Danish skies (the hall was built specifically for the launch). A medium-scale wooden Viking ship replica sat off in the distance presiding over the festivities.
Throughout dinner, the actors served as entertainment, shifting between beautiful opera and an evolving dialogue about the King and Prince going to war over the kingdom. (There was never really a resolution about who was the true ruler).
As the evening wound down, and the troupe receded from the stage, orchestral music started humming from the small speaker setup. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an orange flicker.
That flicker quickly became an inferno.
The wooden ship that had calmly sat in the field all evening was suddenly a blazing fireball. It made no sense and somehow made perfect sense at the same time.
What a better way to cap off the excess and the gluttony of the day than by using man’s most primal discovery to send it all off, ablaze.
It was definitely a more appropriate sendoff than the 24-pack of Carlsberg we polished off on the way back. Sorry, vikings.