North Star Spirits is a new independent bottler based out of Glasgow, Scotland. Created by former AD Rattray Ambassador Iain Croucher, the brand launched just last month with an impressive series of Single Cask scotch whisky. This first release features a 20 year old Arran, 8 year old Ardmore, 26 year old Bunnahabhain, 20 year old Glenrothes, 27 year old Tormore and a 12 year old Grain whisky from lost Glasgow distillery Port Dundas. I’ve been fortunate enough to try the whole range and would be happy to recommend each and every one of them but the one that attracted me the most was the latter.
For about 15 years now I’ve worked in the Cowcaddens area of Glasgow and have been greeted on many a morning by the welcoming scent emanating from Port Dundas. There’s nothing quite like the smell of a working distillery on a cold and frosty morning.
Port Dundas distillery was founded in 1811 next to the Forth & Clyde Canal at the highest point in the city of Glasgow. In 1860 it merged with another distillery, Cowlairs, and became the largest in Scotland, producing some 200 million gallons of spirit per year. 1902 saw another distillery, Dundashill, swallowed up by the expanding complex, bringing a working cooperage into the fold and increasing the site’s self sufficiency. Extensive damage was caused by two fires in 1903 and 1916 but each time the distillery was rebuilt and continued to thrive thanks largely to the excellent transport links and huge blending industry in Glasgow.
All good things must come to an end however and in 2010, after focusing much of their grain production in the newly expanded Cameronbridge distillery in Fife, Diageo took the decision to close Port Dundas for good, terminating 140 jobs in the process. A few parties were said to be interested in buying the distillery but huge modernisation work was required and proved to be off-putting for potential saviours. Thus, the stills fell silent, the doors closed and the distillery, a piece of Glasgow and indeed Scotland’s history, was lost forever.
My morning commute has never seemed the same without the smell of Port Dundas working away in the distance so perhaps there’s a sentimental reason for my chosing to review this whisky. Then again, perhaps it’s just a bloody good dram.
The Scores: About the Scoring…
Smell: 18.5 / 20. Lovely nose with Grain (surprise!), Vanilla and lots of Cream. There’s Biscuit and little touches of Almond and Coconut.
Taste: 17.5 / 20. The palate reinforces the nose – Vanilla, Cream, Caramel & Toffee with a dollop of Pepper, a wee touch of Lemon and maybe a hint of Pineapple.
Value for Money: 8 / 10. Retailing for around the £50 mark, give or take. Many people are put off paying that kind of money for Grain whisky but I hope that attitude will start to change. Traditionally, grain whisky has not been as well looked after as it’s malt cousin. Often Grain spirit has been matured in weak old washed-out casks and this, more than anything else, has led to an inferior experience. On the market today however, we are starting to see fine examples of what Grain can be when it has been nurtured with a little more care. This Port Dundas being a good example.
Overall: 44 / 50. Maybe I’ve been a bit sentimental with this wee dram but the fact remains: it is a fine whisky in it’s own right. Aged for a full 12 years, bottled at cask strength, natural colour and from a closed distillery no less. OK, Port Dundas doesn’t inspire the same excitement as other lost distilleries but the fact remains that this stuff is not being produced any more and opportunities to try it out are only going to get rarer. For now, just six years after the closure, there is still a fair bit about but in years to come, who knows? Why not grab some now while it’s available, affordable and bottled at such high standards by North Star.
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