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North Star Spirits
North Star Spirits is an independent bottler of Scotch whisky and other spirits. Founded in 2016 by Iain Croucher, North Star has already developed a name for itself, with some exceptional bottlings having been released. 2021 marks 5 years of the business and Iain and co marked the occasion the only way they knew how by releasing some great booze.
To celebrate turning 5, North Star released a rare single cask from Glasgow Distillery. Coincidentally, this was also the 100th cask they had bottled. Distilled in March of 2016, the spirit spent three years in a refill hogshead before being transferred, in April 2019, to an oloroso hogshead. The whisky was then bottled in March of 2021 at five years old. 358 bottles were made available at a strength of 51.5% abv.
The Glasgow Distillery Company was established in 2012 by Liam Hughes, Mike Hayward and Ian McDougall. The name of the business was inspired by the company that once owned Dundashill, an old closed distillery in the north of the city. Securing property in Hillington, the Glasgow Distillery Company began producing spirit in 2014 and filled their first casks in 2015.
The Glasgow Distillery unveiled its first single malt bottlings in 2019. Bottled under the brand name 1770, inspired once again by Dundashill, the single malt comes in three different styles. Regular unpeated, peated and triple distilled. The brand has done well since its launch, with each new release seemingly winning over new fans. To my knowledge, however, there haven’t been any independent bottlings of the whisky, until now.
It’s an exciting time for Glasgow. The 1770 brand is releasing some interesting whisky, the Clydeside Distillery has spirit that turned 3 years old in December of 2020 and Douglas Laing’s new distilling project continues to develop. A city that had no distilleries a decade ago will soon have three and that is an enticing prospect for whisky lovers.
It’s always interesting to see new distilleries featured in the output of independent bottlers. I’ve been fortunate enough to taste a lot of Glasgow’s whisky but sometimes you can learn more about a spirit by viewing it from a different perspective. After all, that’s the beauty of it. Bottlers like North Star don’t have to conform with any particular house style. Instead, they can allow the single cask to develop as it will. So without further ado, let’s see what two years in an oloroso hogshead have done for this Glasgow single malt.
Smell: Spicy oak and sherry. North Star’s own tasting notes mention Tablet and I get that myself. Rum and raisin fudge too. Cinnamon, clove, pepper. Dried fruits… raisins, figs, prunes. Walnut. Perhaps under all of that, there’s a little malty note.
Taste: Perhaps not one for fans of spirit-led bottlings. This is all about the cask. Old sherry notes at first, with plenty of oak in there as well. Then comes some peppery spice. Dried fruits emerge towards the back of the palate – raisins and sultanas – making the mouth water. Then the same tablet note from the nose comes back. There’s more cinnamon and walnut and some tobacco leaves.
Thoughts: £80 isn’t exactly cheap for a 5-year-old single malt but rarity will always drive up prices and I certainly haven’t come across other indie bottlings of this malt. I suppose I have a sentimental attachment though, as both a fan of North Star Spirits and a Glasgow native who takes pride in the city having its own single malt for the first time. Knowing the people behind the bottling I was confident the quality would be there and I think I’ve been proved right on that. Although, I may not have felt that way at first.
The first time I popped the cork off the bottle and poured a dram, I found myself a wee bit disappointed with this whisky. I got a whole lot of wood, a blast of spice and not a lot else. Experienced drinkers know not to trust the first dram, though. The second was better, the third an improvement again. Maybe it’s the increase in oxygen interacting with the liquid or maybe it just took a while for my palate to adjust to the flavour profile. Whatever the case, I’m thoroughly enjoying it now. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster of a dram. There’s an intense, woody arrival and a buildup of spice almost overwhelms you before the sherry comes through and sweetens the experience. With a splash of water added, the sherry arrives earlier and stays longer. Not a dram for fans of delicate little Speysides but if you like your flavours big and bold, this will hit the spot. Big time.
For more on North Star Spirits visit here.