Glasgow based independent bottler North Star has a Millennial Series featuring whiskies from Scotland’s four main regions – Highland, Speyside, Islay and Island.
So far I’ve only managed to acquire the Highland and Speyside, together with a Royal Brackla. Whilst I was impatient to try all three, I decided to start with trying the Highland. Though the distillery is not directly stated, the longitude and latitude provided on the bottle brings one to Teaninich distillery in Alness (N 57° 41’30.35″ by W 4° 15’28.75′).
Now part of the Diageo stable, Teaninich was built in 1817 by blind Captain Hugh Munro on his estate of Teaninich Castle. After changing hands several times, by 1904 Robert Innes Cameron took charge, adding it to his interests in Benrinnes, Linkwood and Tamdhu. It was then sold to Scottish Malt Distillers and expanded in 1970 with both a new building and stills. By 1984, operations were halted then resumed in 1991 with Diageo renovating the distillery fully in 2013.
One unique feature of Teaninich distillery is use of a mash filter press rather than mash tun. Whilst more expensive, requiring more maintenance and space, this method is considered more efficient, able to process “challenging” grains like rye and results in a clear higher gravity wort which contributes to a spirit with limited cereal notes.
I will admit this was my first introduction to Teaninich – which is no surprise given it is used for blends with only a limited 10 year Flora and Fauna bottling and a 200th anniversary 17 year officially available.
Highland 11 year 50%
- Colour – Light golden hay
- Nose – Subtle, leafy, reminding me of an herbal tea, fresh apples, then shifts into a light vanilla sponge cake, a bit of milk chocolate
- Palate – Spice, a nice earthy quality, sweet and sour – caramel and cookies side by side with a bit of tangy citrus. There is also a metallic quality – like sipping from a copper vessel
- Finish – There but unremarkable
- Water – Absolutely recommended, making it even more amiable and approachable – in a good way.
Overall it is an easy drinking dram – uncomplicated, fresh yet with substance – when sipped with a very generous dollop of water! I must confess I enjoy it most with almost 1/3 cold water.
What more do we know? Only that it was from a single refill sherry butt with 600 bottles produced.
Rather than tasting notes, the North Star team share the following quote from Aedan Andrejus Burt:
The first thing you need to know about the Highlands: they are vast. The Highland Line came about on whisky maps for tax reasons in 1784, when customs duties were set lower in the Highlands to encourage local farmers to register their stills. It didn’t work. But it has given us a range of incredible whiskies to drink. The Highland style is often heaver and slightly spicier than Speyside, but still sweet. Peat may feature, as some distilleries maintain older practices, but there is no one representative whisky for the Highlands. Like Scotland itself, embrace the diversity.
I miss the fabulous North Star tasting notes, however Master of Malt has this to say:
Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
- Nose: Hay, greengages, a whiff of peat swiftly enveloped by coffee-dipped pastries.
- Palate: Orange peel, caramel and almond. Still slightly grassy at points. A flinty touch or two here and there.
- Finish: Grist, apricot and milk chocolate.
I purchased this bottle in May 2020 during our COVID ‘shut-in’ from Sansibar for EUR 37.82 plus 19% tax. There is zero doubt this is a value for money dram!
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