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Every now and again I like to take a look at some interesting booze that isn’t whisky. It’s a great way to broaden one’s horizons, after all. This little gem from North Star Spirits is one that really caught my eye when their latest batch was announced.
North Star’s second batch of single malt and single grain bottlings also contained some Tennessee Whiskey and a fantastic new Blended Malt. Perhaps most intriguing of all, however, was this fortified wine from Montilla.
Montilla lies at the heart of Andalucia. Along with neighbouring Meriles, it forms a ‘Denominacion de Origen’ wine region. The area is known for sweet dessert wines, not unlike the sherry of nearby Jerez. In Montilla, the Pedro Ximenez grape is king but while there are several dozen registered producers, very few export outwith their country, giving the liquid an aura of mystique.
Montilla, like Sherry, is made by adding a neutral grape spirit to fermenting wine. The wine is then aged in casks. Maturation is usually for a minimum of two years and often takes place in traditional Solera systems. This is where casks are arranged in tiers, one atop the other with the youngest wine on top and the oldest at the bottom. When the time comes to bottle, wine is extracted from the bottom tier which is then refilled from the tier above, which in turn is refilled from the one above and so on.
Not satisfied with tracking down sherry’s mysterious cousin, however, North Star has gone even further by unleashing a fortified wine that has spent two years in ex-whisky casks… and not just any old whisky casks, these are Islay casks that once held a heavily peated Scotch whisky.
*Full Disclosure: North Star Spirits sent me this sample for review purposes. As always, I will attempt to remain as impartial as possible.
Smell: Rich, dark Fruit Cake with Raisins, Sultanas and Nutmeg. Salted Caramel, Treacle and perhaps the faintest hint of Smoke.
Taste: Christmas Cake, Plum, Cherry and Syrup. Somewhere in the background is a touch of Smoke and a little pepper.
Thoughts: I’ve seen this wee drop retailing for £20. It’s almost depressing how cheap that is when compared to Scotch whisky. I can’t claim to be a sherry drinker but I’ve tried it once or twice and this stuff was just too exciting not to sample. I confess that I found it rather wonderful. It’s sweet, of course. Some find PX too sweet but there’s an extra dimension to this one with a faint hint of smoke in the background. If you like sherry bomb whiskies, you really should try drinking some sherry. Or, should I say, you should try drinking some fortified wine from Montilla.