Every now and again I like to take a look at something a little different on whiskyreviews.net – like when I reviewed Fraiser of Scotland whisky liqueur for example. This little gem from North Star Spirits is another which can be filed under that category. North Star recently released their second batch of single malt and single grain scotch, but unlike their first bottling run, this new selection was bolstered by the addition of a Tennessee Whiskey, a new Blended Malt and a fortified wine from Montilla.
Montilla lies right at the heart of Andalucia and along with neighbouring Meriles, it forms a ‘Denominacion de Origen’ – a wine region. The area is known for sweet dessert wines, not unlike the sherry of nearby Jerez. Here in Montilla the Pedro Ximenez grape is king but while there are several dozen registered producers, few export outwith their country, giving this intriguing liquid an air of the unknown.
Montilla, like Sherry, is made by adding a neutral grape spirit to fermenting wine before ageing in European Oak casks. Maturation must be for a minimum of two years and most 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 have 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 which would once have been loaded with heavily peated spirit…
Smell: Rich, dark Fruit Cake with Raisins, Sultanas and Nutmeg. Salted Caramel, Treacle and 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.
Value for Money: An excellent buy for those looking to try something a little different.
Score: 44 / 50. About the scores…
While I’ve experimented once or twice, I’m not really a sherry drinker generally, so my frame of reference may be quite small but I have to say that I found this to be rather wonderful. Even on its own the wine would have been a winner but that little Islay backdrop adds a whole other dimension. Great stuff.