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North Star Spirits are Glasgow-based independent bottlers founded by Iain Croucher. Sourcing casks from around Scotland and beyond, they specialise in bottling the finest single malt, blended malt and blended scotch whiskies, alongside small batch bourbon, rum and even gin.
Croucher had previously worked as an ambassador for A.D. Rattray but harboured a desire to put his own stamp on the whisky he was promoting. When the opportunity came along to purchase a parcel of casks he grabbed it with both hands and released his first batch in 2016.
The company now bottle between 6 and 9 casks every quarter, exploring multiple flavour profiles and catering to every budget with prices ranging between £35 and £200 a bottle.
Alongside their single cask offerings North Star have released some very well received blends… First came Vega, a blended malt brand that has now spawned 22, 23, 40, and 41 year old versions. Next came Spica, a blended scotch of 20 and later 29 years of age whilst the latest to emerge is Sirius, a blended malt of an impressive 31 years.
*Full disclosure: I was sent samples of the latest Vega and Sirius releases free of charge. As always I will strive to give an honest and impartial opinion on the inherent quality of the drams and the value for money they represent.
Vega 22 Year Old Blended Malt
A blended malt named after the star dubbed “the most important in the night sky after the Sun” thanks to the level of study devoted to it. 25 light years from the Earth, it was the first star to be photographed outside our own system and around 14,000 years ago it took the place of Polaris as the northern pole star – a role it will resume in approximately 11,000 years time.
This latest incarnation of the Vega malt is a combination of whiskies distilled in 1996, matured in a combination of European and American Oak casks for 22 years. Bottled at 43.9% it retails around £85.
Smell: Lots of Oak and some pleasant sherry notes. Burnt caramel and dried fruits. Maple syrup. Highland Toffee. Old leather. Tobacco. Cracked black pepper.
Taste: Juicy raisins and sultanas with warm wintery spice. Cinnamon. Treacle. Strong tea and a woody finish.
Thoughts: A dram that shows its age in the best possible way and more than justifies a cost of £85 a bottle. In actual fact, it is a bargain at such a price.
A worthy addition to the excellent Vega series that maintains the incredibly high standards set by previous releases. Well aged without being over-oaked, it packs a lovely old sherry character full of comforting warmth and mouthwatering juiciness. A word of warning however, at such a low strength it is frighteningly drinkable!
Sirius 31 Year Old Blended Malt
Another blended malt named after a star, Sirius is the brightest in our sky, twice as dazzling as any other. Its glare is expected to increase for 60,000 years before it begins to fade, though it is estimated that it will take around 200,000 years before another star takes over. Known as the Dog star, the Ancient Greeks observed that its appearance heralded a hot and dry summer, believing that it caused plants to wilt, men to weaken and women to become aroused. One can’t help but wonder if the whisky shares this ability…
Sirius is matured for 31 years in ex-bourbon barrels, bottled at 43.1% and retails around £115.
Smell: Vanilla and butterscotch. Toffee. Apple juice. Walnut and milk chocolate. Orange zest. Honey.
Taste: Coffee & dark chocolate. Marzipan. Lots of caramel. Currants and well aged oak. Satisfying length to the finish.
Thoughts: You could purchase four bottles of Sirius for the same price as one bottle of the ridiculous Fettercairn I reviewed here. Incredibly good value for a dram of such age.
Sirius has age, maturity, depth of flavour, balance, complexity… To put it simply it is a magnificent whisky. Whilst the lack of information regarding the spirits origins can be a little disheartening, blended malts must surely now be considered the value for money option in the scotch whisky category – especially for those looking to add age to their collection. Forget your misgivings about the ‘b’ word, this is 100% malt and it is as good as you will find in today’s overpriced market.
For more on North Star Spirits, go here.