North Star Regions – Highland 11 year 50%

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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North Star Series 8 – Inchgower 11 year 52.5%

The minis can’t have all the fun in virtual tastings! It was time to also crack open one of the big boys! And that is exactly what happened one fine eve with the Bombay Malt &Cigar gentlemen. What did they have? It was a revisit of standard bar fare with Bowmore 12 year, Caol Ila 12 year with a Mortlach thrown in for good measure.

As for me? I let them decide… and here is what they picked!

Inchgower 11 year (July 2007 / Mar 2019) Refill Hogshead 52.5% (North Star 008)

  • Nose – It started with light peat, caramel and spice, leaves
  • Palate – First sip was bursting with lots of pepper, spice and fire… then it opened up to reveal treacle and maple syrup
  • Finish – The finish was like chomping down on a cigar with a leather chaser

Something about this one clearly called for some water… and no careful 2-3 drops but a generous dollop. What did this do? Transformed the Inchgower!

  • Nose – That caramel cola quality came through even more, sponge cake
  • Palate – Lots of cinnamon spice…. a bit of kumquat
  • Finish – Retained the sweet spice

This was no easy drinking dram but one that demanded attention… a bit of an unruly beast… tamed slightly by diluting.

What else do we know? It was matured in a refill hogshead which produced 321 bottles. With shipping and tax, it came to approx GBP 60. Which frankly is quite reasonable for a  cask strength original!

As for Iain Croucher and his delightful tasting notes? Here is what he has to say:

  • Nose – Kola Cubes & pancakes with maple syrup
  • Palate – White pepper & caramel shavings
  • Finish – Tobacco (Montecristo not Marlboro)

Prior to this, my only brushes with Inchgower were 13 year olds bottled by G&MP from their Connoiseurs Choice range – one at cask strength and the other not.

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Minis – Dailuaine 10 year 46%

Deprived of whisky festivals and tasting events, online versions aplenty have sprouted up all over the place!

As for our three whisky tasting groups based in Mumbai? We’ve also switched to catching up virtually… which enables me sitting here in Nurnberg to have an opportunity connect too.

Truth be told, our Bombay Malt & Cigar group is a rather international lot. As things started to shut down, one member was in his UK home, another in Belgium, of course I’m here in Germany, leaving only two anchoring our Mumbai presence. With the booze shops in India firmly shut, supplies dwindled.

So what did our gents chose to accompany their cigars? We had a Glenlivet 12 year, Glenfiddich 18 year and Bowmore 100 proof… and me? What did I select? In our last gathering I cracked open a big bottle so this time was more sensible and went for a mini…

Dailuaine 10 year 46% (Douglas Laing’s Provenance) 

  • Colour – Like a pale white wine, almost without any colour
  • Nose – Mmmm apple sauce, then a bit salty, sweet, reminded me of sesame snaps, then revealed a copper quality, a bit vegetal, sweet hay, then saline and leafy, increasingly woodsy, even a bit toast, sour mash then back to butterscotch cream
  • Palate – Cooked fruit and cream, malty, barley… it continued to evolve, nice and oily,  shifting between sweet and a hint of bitter, chased by light pipe tobacco
  • Finish – A nice spicy zing, ginger, cloves and cinnamon with a bit of bitter bark and more of that slightly metallic twang with a touch of minerals too

There was enough going on here for it to be interesting yet was somehow personable too.

I tried to find out more – checking the options on Master of Malt to see what might be a likely candidate for inclusion in the advent calendar.

I can’t say for sure, but think what I tried may be from Cask 11618… If correct, the folks at Master of Malt have this to say:

A single cask bottling of Dailuaine single malt, independently bottled by those ever-wonderful Douglas Laing folks. This whisky was distilled by Dailuaine back in January 2007 and left to age in a refill hogshead for 10 years. In February 2017, it was bottled as part of the Provenance range with an outturn of 357 bottles.

  • Nose: Oily malt balanced by gristy sweetness, followed by a touch of heather honey.
  • Palate: Buttered bread, fresh ginger, sliced apple and a subtle hint of toasted barley smokiness.
  • Finish: Mineral hints linger on the finish.

The other option could be Cask 11777 (Mar 2007 / May 2017) however the tasting notes don’t jibe and specifically miss the clear mineral qualities found in the one I sampled.

Either way, you can find a cousin of this bottle in Europe for around EUR 45. Quite reasonable for a decent dram….

Here are a few others I tried from my advent calendar minis:

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Minis – Glenturret 14 year 54%

Our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai, like many tasting groups around the world, are lying low waiting out this COVID storm. However our connect remains strong and the bonus of going virtual is that I could even join one evening!

We each chose a preferred dram from home supplies to quaff together. What did I select? I was in the mood for something summery – a day-time dram in keeping with sipping on a sunny late afternoon in Europe. I also didn’t want to crack open a full bottle so turned my attention to my box of advent calendar minis.

My eye spied the Glenturret and thought – that looks about right! My last brush with Glenterret was the stunningly delicious 30 year from La Maison du Whisky‘s Artist range.

What did I discover?

Glenturret 14 year (2001) 54% (Highland Laird – Bartels Whisky)

  • Colour – Bright golden
  • Nose – Initially quite vegetal, lots of barley, hay, then shifted into delicious honey, strawberries, sweet spices…
  • Palate – Wow! Light spice, cereals, a twist of citrus, becomes fruitier… is that apricot? Or peach? Delightful with just enough depth to keep interest up!
  • Finish – Ginger sweet and fruit forward
  • Water – Fabulous! Even better… delicious

It was distractingly good – right up my alley in terms of taste profile. Whilst not complex, it was sunshine in a glass. Slowly sipping it was like having a fabulous blend of breakfast and desert – cream, fruits, cereals with a drizzle of honey topped with fresh grated cinnamon and cloves…

What more do we know about this whisky? It was matured in a port pipes and sold under Bartels Whisky’s Highland Laird range – which is focused on bottling single casks at cask strength.

And what do the folks at Bartels Whisky have to say?

We bottled this Glenturret in 2017, it has always been one of our more unusual malts having been aged in an ex port pipe.  The natural colour reflects this well.  It has gone down really well at events and shows we have attended.

Nose: Cooking spices, sultanas, anise and a touch of damp wood.
Palate: Oak spice shows off very well in this Glenturret, with black pepper, ginger and clove. Layers of orange keep it from getting far too spicy.  A slight sweetness coming through from the port pipe.
Finish: Drying and long.

Now I will admit my math was a bit perplexed at a 14 year being maturing from 2011 and bottled in 2017, but what the heck! It is just a terrific dram no matter the age.

As for what it would set you back? Bartels Whisky have it listed as GBP 58 – which is a complete bargain!

Here are a few others I tried from my advent calendar minis:

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Minis – Glenlossie 8 year (2010) 56.8%

My earlier brushes with Glenlossie were quite positive – both from That Boutique-y Whisky Co and then later in Berlin with a fabulous Sharing Angel. I was completely pre-disposed to enjoy, hoping to discover something interesting. It was fitting my tasting companion for the evening was the same Angel I shared the earlier Glenlossie in Berlin.

We opened this wee dram in February 2020… and what did we find??

Glenlossie 8 year (Oct 2010 / Apr 2009) Cask 8645 56.8% (Hannah Whisky Merchants – Lady of the Glen)

  • Colour – A hint of rose in the gold
  • Nose – Forest honey, sour fruit, a bit heavy, toast, incredibly sweet
  • Palate – Warm, the honey carries through… it was also a bit woodsy, a kid of course texture, mace, garden lovage
  • Finish – Nothing remarkable

We joked that it was a bit like a Winnie the Pooh honeypot – super sweet and not what we expected from Glenlossie. We speculated what could bring about this result? Clearly an ex-bourbon cask but there was something else going on…. certainly not sherry, a wine cask finish perhaps? We then tracked down the Mast of Malt notes – the Port cask finish was clearly the answer we sought!

Months later I decided to polish off the last few drops… what did I find? Surprisingly it was chock full of red berries and red cherries, candy sweet… on the palate it was a bit peculiar but better than I remembered. Interesting? Somewhat… but not one I would run out to try and repeat.

What more do we know? The folks at Master of Malt have this to say:

A wonderful amber-coloured indie bottling of Glenlossie. The single malt was distilled on 8 October 2000, and matured in a single bourbon hogshead. It was then treated to a finish in a first-fill ruby Port cask for around six months, sourced from a family-owned bodega near Porto in Portugal. The liquid was then bottled on 10 April 2019 by Hannah Whisky Merchants for the Lady of the Glen range, with the cask yielding 287 bottles at cask strength.

  • Nose: Toasted oats, berry compote and honey, floral malt and baking spice.
  • Palate: Caramelised nuts, vanilla fudge, lots of dried fruit, fresh red berries, liquorice and butterscotch.
  • Finish: Toasted walnut and buttered brown bread with blackberry jam.

So the dates don’t jibe – the bottle says 2010 whereas you might have spotted the above says distilled in 2000.. suspect this was a typo.

And what would it set you back? Hannah Merchant have it listed for GBP 100. Before this sample, I hadn’t tried anything from Hannah Whisky Merchants with their “Lady of the Glen” line.

Here are a few others I tried from my advent calendar minis:

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Minis – Cambus 24 year 52.7%

I will admit I had high hopes for this one – both as it is from North Star and also my last Cambus stood out as my favourite grain yet!

Cambus 24 year (May 1993/Sep 2027) 52.7% (North Star – Series 003)

  • Colour – Light gold
  • Nose – Big old dusty cupboard, fruity yet also sour, some leather reminiscent of a tannery, earthy, dry old leaves – that distinctive neem leaf in particular, sweet dry flowers… started to shift into vanilla toffee, caramel cream
  • Palate – Light yet slightly sharp, a bit piquant, sour fruits, curiously “slim”
  • Finish – Negligible
  • Water – Softens the grain on the tongue, making it milder… settled into cured leather with toffee cream, a bit of an odd combination

We set it aside for a bit and returned to find the sulfur of matchsticks with sweet cinnamon! It wasn’t bad but it didn’t exactly rock our boat.

Though we originally tasted the Cambus in February 2020, there was a bit remaining which I revisited in May. What did I find? The sour fruits were quite pronounced on the nose, however the sharpness we found earlier was gone, replaced with sweetness that became quite tasty on the palate. Not a bad way to finish the last few drops!

What do the folks at North Star have to say?

  • Nose: Cinnamon & warmed cloves
  • Palate: Buttered toffee and shortbread
  • Finish: Sweet rum & raisin

What more do we know? Only that it was bottled from a refill Pedro Ximenez sherry butt.

Here are a few others I tried from my advent calendar minis:

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Christening the new whisky cabinet with an Old Pulteney 12 year

With the move to Nurnberg comes re-building a new whisky collection and finding new tasting companions.

My first move was to find a new whisky cabinet… and stumbled across this rather interesting piece of furniture which has a subtle cork exterior and “jatak” interior with mirrors and glass.

My next move was to see what ‘standards’ could be easily acquired locally… My eye spotted this familiar favourite and I couldn’t resist.

To say it wasn’t my first tryst with Old Pulteney is an understatement… this romance kicked off more than a decade ago and hasn’t abated.

A few memorable experiences with this expression include:

So what could casual sipping late 2019 to 2020 add? To be honest, just a reminder why I enjoy this whisky so much.

Here’s to you Nurnberg and my new collection!

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Balvenie evening in Mumbai

Now I have to admit, this post is rather late… the event occurred many months ago in Mumbai at the St Regis – Aug 28, 2019 to be precise.

The occasion was sparked by the Mumbai visit of Gemma Paterson, Global Brand Ambassador for The Balvenie. We had visions of a very private evening with just a few tables, proper sit down tasting with interesting anecdotes and insights into The Balvenie distillery, its people, the whiskies. The usual masterclass format.

Nope! It was a complete jam of people, a mash up of inaudible stories and poetry, flute and was.. well… unexpected.

True – the cocktails flowed generously and one after another tasting glasses with different expressions of The Balvenie made their rounds but it was a far cry from being able to connect with someone close to the whisky makers, who is known for collecting stories or being able to truly focus on the whiskies.

Which is exactly why I have zero tasting notes, only a recollection we were partial to the 14 year…

Which is exactly why I dug up notes from some of our other Balvenie experiences as it would be a shame to miss insights into this distillery and its drams:

With such a crowd, the St Regis did a brilliant job with the food and keeping the throngs happy. But as a whisky event, I couldn’t even hear Gemma speak let alone meet and make some kind of connection. Which is ultimately for me what is terrific about the whisky fabric – the way different lives and experiences are woven together over exploring and enjoying a good dram.

On a more personal note, it was terrific to see so many familiar folks so close before my move to Germany. For that alone it was a good evening, so Slainthe!

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Advent Minis – Caol Ila 8 Year Old 46% – Provenance

After a rye, bourbon and highland, it was time to turn to something peaty – and what is a more classic expression than Caol Ila?

Caol Ila 8 Year Old – Provenance (Douglas Laing)

  • Nose – Pure peat, wood smoke, cured meats, bacon, maple
  • Palate – Full peat, cinnamon, a clear classic Caol Ila, nicely rolled around on the palate with a lovely peat
  • Finish – Nice finish, cinnamon spice

While I can’t guarantee it, I think this is cask #13077, which was aged in a refill hogshead from February 2011 to February 2019. After its maturation, it was bottled at 46% ABV with an outturn of 392 bottles.

Here is what the chaps over at Master of Malt have to say:

  • Nose: Toasty at first, becomes increasingly coastal. Sweetness of honeycomb in the background.
  • Palate: Flapjacks, oatcakes and plenty of smoky barley.
  • Finish: Meaty malt and black pepper spiciness.

Here are a few others we tried from my advent calendar minis:

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Advent Minis – Dalmore 14 Year Old 2003 57.8%

Dalmore is one of those Highland distilleries that you count on for a familiar flavour profile with a good dose of sherry.

A couple years ago the Whisky Ladies enjoyed the Dalmore standard 15 year… and at Whisky Live in Singapore, I had full plans to come back and spend time at their booth however somehow only managed to check out the 18 year in passing… The last Dalmore properly sampled was the slightly pricey King Alexander III which was a bit of a let down.

Beyond these, I’ve had a few quite enjoyable Dalmore’s over the years and had high expectations of this one… So what did we discover with this single cask edition bottled by the folks over at Master of Malt?

Dalmore 14 Year Old 2003 57.8% 

  • Nose – Lots of toffee, caramel, bannofee cream pie, it settled down quickly, shifting into something a bit sour, peach pits and cherry
  • Palate – Warm sweet spices, wood, dry, sits on the surface
  • Finish – Long finish, tingling and a bit tart
  • Water – Sour cherries, some spice but flat – honestly water did not do the malt any favour

I’m not sure if it was my anticipation of something “good” or how the Dalmore followed the Rye but I must admit, I found it a bit disappointing. It wasn’t bad, it just simply wasn’t exceptional. And that’s just the way it goes sometimes.

Here is what the chaps over at Master of Malt have to say :

It’s been a bit of a while since we independently bottled some Dalmore single malt, so we decided to fix that by bottling up a stunning 14 year old from the distillery as part of our Single Cask Series. This one was distilled in April 2003 and left to age in a bourbon cask until March 2018, when it was bottled at cask strength.

  • Nose: Sultana, dusty oak and new leather, hints of fresh pear drenched in honey.
  • Palate: Hugely chocolatey, though pear notes still shine through. A hint of hoppy bitterness.
  • Finish: Fizzy oak, foam bananas and greengages.

Here are a few others we tried from my advent calendar minis:

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