North Star Spirits is a new independent bottler based in Glasgow, Scotland, created by former AD Rattray Ambassador Iain Croucher. The label launched last month with an impressive series of Single Cask scotch whiskies including 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. Having been fortunate enough to try the whole range, I would be more than happy to recommend each and every one of them, but holding a special attraction for me was the grain offering. Having worked in the Cowcaddens area of Glasgow for many, many years I had become used to being greeted in the morning by the welcoming scent emanating from the Port Dundas distillery, an aroma that has now, sadly, disappeared from my morning commute.
Port Dundas 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 yet another distillery, Dundashill, swallowed up by the expanding complex, bringing a working cooperage into the fold and increasing the site’s self sufficiency. Though extensive damage was caused by fire in both 1903 and 1916, the distillery was rebuilt each time and continued to thrive, making the most of the excellent transport links and vast blending industry within the city of Glasgow.
Everything has it’s time however and in 2010, after refocusing the entirety of their grain production to the newly expanded Cameronbridge in Fife, Diageo decided to close Port Dundas for good, terminating 140 jobs in the process. Despite interest from potential buyers, the huge amount of maintenance work required at the distillery condemned it to eternal silence, bringing a piece of Glasgow and indeed Scotland’s history to an end.
Smell: Lovely nose with Grain (surprise!), Vanilla and lots of Cream. There’s Biscuit and little touches of Almond and Coconut.
Taste: 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: An excellent buy at around £50. Grain whisky is traditionally viewed as inferior to it’s malt cousin but this reputation is a tad unfair. Grain spirit that has been well looked after and allowed to mature in casks of decent quality have much to offer, with this Port Dundas being a fine example.
I couldn’t help but allow an element of sentimentality to creep into my writing this time around but with every dram tasted, we consume a little piece of history. We sample the hard work of distillers from years gone by and taste spirit which rolled off the still 8, 10, 12 or 20 years ago… and with this Port Dundas, I’ve been enjoying a grain spirit which will never be produced again. It is a tiny snapshot of a distillery, rich in history, which is now merely a plot of empty land. Though of course, beyond all that, it is a very pleasant dram in it’s own right, and well worth the money.
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