Since its creation in 2016, North Star Spirits has grown in reputation to become one of the most exciting independent bottlers on the whisky market. Releasing everything from fortified wine to American Whiskey and a whole array of wonderful scotch from distilleries both famous and less known, there has been something to appeal to whisky fans of all persuasions.
Batch 008 is their latest release of single casks and comprises of a trio of old grain whiskies combined with an array of single malts. Ranging from 8 to 37 years old, there is something for all palettes and all budgets…
*I was sent these samples by the fine folks at North Star Spirits. As always, I will strive to remain as objective and impartial as possible in my reviews.
Glenturret is one of the oldest operational distilleries in Scotland, founded in 1775 by Thomas Stewart. Closed in the early 19th century, it reopened in 1957 and eventually came under the ownership of Highland Distillers who used it to create ‘The Famous Grouse‘ experience. In December of 2018, Glenturret was acquired by Swiss wine maker Art & Terroir in partnership with Lalique and with plans in place to increase production and invest heavily in the visitor experience, the future for this old distillery looks promising indeed.
Matured for 8 years in a refill hogshead and bottled at 58.5%.
Smell: Honey & vanilla with green apples & lemon, straw & buttery shortbread.
Taste: Crumble with a little honey. Apple juice! Lemon & lemongrass. Malty & maybe a tiny bit of peppery smoke at the finish.
Thoughts: I’m not sure I’d spend the best part of £60 on this one. Not because it’s bad (it isn’t) it just didn’t particularly grab me unfortunately.
Interestingly however, I went back to it a little later and found that there had been some development, with even more aromatic spice in the background. It may not blow you away but could prove to be something of a grower.
Inchgower 11 Year Old
Inchgower was founded in 1871 but was liquidated in 1903. The site lay dormant until purchased in 1937 by Buckie Council who transferred ownership to Arthur Bell & Sons a year later. Now owned by distilling giant Diageo, the distillery continues to provide malt for Bell’s though official single malt bottlings are rare, limited to a solitary 14 year old from the Flora and Fauna range.
Matured for 11 years in a refill hogshead before bottling at 52.5%.
Smell: Vanilla, fresh apples & pineapple. A wee bit young perhaps. Lemon, pepper & floral heather honey. Fresh baked bread.
Taste: Any threat of immaturity is dispelled with a palate of caramel & toffee, pepper & rock salt, dry oak, leather & liquorice. Prominent honey throughout.
Thoughts: A solid and reliable dram that won’t disappoint at £50 a bottle.
Manages to come across fresh and vibrant on the nose and a little more mature on the palate, making for a more interesting experience than I perhaps expected from 11 years in a refill Hogshead.
Auchroisk 13 Year Old
Founded after the discovery of Dorie’s Well in 1972, Auchroisk began production only after a sample of the source water had been used to produce a test batch at nearby Glen Spey. Once deemed satisfactory, production commenced in 1974. The single malt was branded ‘The Singleton’ in 1986 but today, official bottlings are few and far between.
Matured for 13 years and bottled from an Oloroso sherry hogshead at 51.2%.
Smell: Perfumed sherry nose with lots of confectionery. Loveheart sweets! Honey & caramel. Vanilla & hobnob biscuits.
Taste: Subtle sherried raisins, then milk chocolate covered caramel, orange creams & a touch of malt before a drying peppery oak finish.
Thoughts: More than enough character and complexity on offer to justify an asking price of £60.
I won’t deny that a big sherry bomb can be very satisfying but it can also be a rather one dimensional experience, drowning out the complexities of the malt. Here, it is refreshing to see a more balanced sherry impact that never dominates but adds additional layers of flavour to an already interesting spirit.
Glenglassaugh 8 Year Old
Glenglassaugh was originally founded in 1875 by local entrepreneur James Moir of Portsoy. Traditionally used to supply blends like Cutty Sark, Laing’s and The Famous Grouse, Glenglassaugh first appeared as a widely available single malt in 2008.
Matured for 8 years in a Pedro Ximenez octave before bottling at 42.4%. Limited to 38 bottles and available by ballot only.
Smell: Syrupy sherry nose. Juicy raisins & prunes. Red berries & glacé cherries. Cola. Cinnamon & nutmeg. Pepper. With time in the glass, a little smoke appears.
Taste: Huge sherry arrival with peppery heat. Dark chocolate and coffee. Leather, liquorice & bitter oak. Right at the finish there’s a burst of peppery smoke that lingers well.
Thoughts: For those lucky enough to get a bottle, £60 is an absolute bargain.
Octaves generally hold around 50 litres. Thanks to evaporation, the spirit has dropped from a strength presumably around 63% to just 42.4%, meaning only 33 bottles have been filled after just eight short years.
Upon first sip it felt totally dominated by the huge Pedro Ximenez influence. With time and water however, it began to evolve and by the end of the dram I was starting to see the full spectrum of flavours. Alas, with such a small out-turn, the chances of ever tasting it again are slim. But! That is the magic of the single cask. It must be savoured in the moment because when it is gone, it is gone for ever. For me, that only makes the moment even more special.
Girvan 26 Year Old
Located in South Ayrshire, Scotland, Girvan distillery was founded in 1963 by William Grant & Sons. Under the guidance of Charles Grant Gordon, it was producing spirit within a year of breaking ground. Since then it has been a consistent provider of spirit for the Grant’s blends.
Matured for 26 years in a bourbon barrel and bottled at 53.5%.
Smell: Usual grain notes… Crème brûlée, caramel, toffee. Also flour & grain husks with pineapple & a lemony freshness.
Taste: Light on the palate, with lots of toffee but then surprisingly fruity with orange, raspberry & blackcurrant. High cocoa-content dark chocolate. Custardy finish.
Thoughts: One of the more unusual grain whiskies and at £130 a bottle, comparatively good value for its age.
A juicy fruit character unlike any other grain whisky I’ve come across makes it the surprise package of this batch.
Cameronbridge 37 Year Old
The oldest grain distillery in Scotland, Cameronbridge was founded in 1824 by John Haig. Originally designed to produce both malt and grain whisky, it was converted to focus purely on grain in 1929. In 1989 the site was expanded to produce spirit for products like Pimms, Archers, Smirnoff, Tanqueray and Gordon’s Gin, whilst the original stills continue to serve the likes of Johnnie Walker, J & B, Bell’s, Black & White, Haig Club, White Horse and the Cameron Brig single grain.
Matured for a whopping 37 years in a bourbon barrel and bottled at 51%.
Smell: Lots of bourbon. Vanilla, honey & caramel. Crème brûlée. Coconut. A little sawdust & pencil shavings.
Taste: Werthers Originals sweets. Vanilla fudge & toffee. Buttered scones & a touch of oak, yet subtle for the age. Pepper. Water brings more oak.
Thoughts: £150 can’t be described as a bargain but a dram of this age is a rare thing. For context, the spirit was distilled the same year Michael Jackson released Thriller and Argentina invaded the Falklands. It is, in fact, liquid history.
At age, grain whisky can rival single malt and this is no different. Despite its advanced years however, a harmonious balance between cask and spirit has been retained.
36 Year Old Blended Grain
There are five ‘categories’ of Scotch whisky, the rarest of which, without a doubt, is the blended grain which consists of grain spirit from two or more distilleries. At present I can think of only two currently on the market. The first is the excellent ‘Hedonism’ from Compass Box while the other is ‘808’, a strange product aimed at the club scene and named after the Roland TR-808 drum machine.
This offering, however, is a different beast entirely, having matured for 36 long years in a barrel before being bottled at 52.5%.
Smell: Fudge, caramel creams, bitter oak. Vanilla, coconut… Puff pastry & lemon. Leather & dark chocolate.
Taste: Age shows straight away. Wood. Leather, liquorice, aniseed & pepper. Caramel, toffee… Crema Catalana / baked custard. Water releases orange & lemon citrus.
Thoughts: Another old grain coming in around the £150 mark. Maybe a lot of money but if you have your heart set on buying something of age, grain whisky is by far the most affordable way to do it.
Showed its age more than the Cameronbridge but not over-oaked. Always a treat to try something unusual and a blended grain is about as rare as they come.
Visit North Star Spirits here.