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 fully in 2013.

A 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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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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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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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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Highland Treat – Glen Garioch 15 year 53.7%

Waaaay back in the summer, our Whisky Ladies enjoyed a Highland Trio – starting with two whiskies from AnCnoc and closing with this Glen Garioch.

What did we think?

Glen Garioch 15 year Sherry Cask Matured 53.7%

  • Colour – A lovely dark ruby gold
  • Nose – Mmmm…. really good black coffee, honey, buttery, banana, caramel, treacle, banoffee pie, apricots… coming back loads of delicious sherry
  • Palate – Coffee candy, toffee, toasted raisin bread slathered in butter, raisin, dates, rolling around in heavy sherry with a great mouthfeel
  • Finish – A slow burn that tapers into sweet spice

This really was rather delicious! Generous sherry influence, quite satisfying in all ways.

The folks at Glen Garioch haven’t kept tasting notes on their website, however the folks over at Master of Malt have this to say:

Glen Garioch 15 Year Old has been aged in oloroso sherry casks and has a sweet and fruity character. The nose opens with dark berries and dried fruits, followed by sweet vanilla notes and a slight tartness. The palate is thick and full bodied, giving notes of dried fruits and cinnamon spice. A hint of heather honey appears before a long woody finish, with gentle spices throughout.

As of late 2019, you can still find this at The Whisky Exchange for approximately £125.

We also had these as part of our Highland Treat :

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Highland Treat – AnCnoc Rùdhan 46% 

From the honeyed sweetness of the Black Hill, we shifted into a peatier AnCnoc, with their Travel Retail edition Rùdhan. What did the Whisky Ladies think?

AnCnoc Rùdhan 46%

  • Nose – Strong and sweet, peat then settles down, bit of spice… a bit sharp… surprisingly we then found it shifted into vegetal aromas – distinctly carrot juice! Then shifted again to vanilla apple spice with cinnamon
  • Palate – First sip had a nice spice kick, lots of cinnamon, tobacco, like fireworks sparkling on the tongue, nicely buttery, honey
  • Finish – Peat yet also fruity with primarily apple just and a chaser of tart cranberry juice

It was quite provocative and perhaps a bit fickle minded. 

We set it aside and found it became even sweeter, the sharpness settled down and yet its character remained. Smoke and spice – subdued yet most enjoyable.

And what do the folks at AcCnoc have to say?

The highly anticipated Rùdhan is the latest travel retail expression to join the Peaty Collection. In keeping with anCnoc’s traditional style, the whisky takes its name from the peat harvesting process. The term ‘rùdhan’ [roo-an] refers to the final stage, in which the peat is stacked for several weeks to dry out ahead of burning to create the signature smokiness associated with the range.

  • Colour – Pale Straw
  • Nose – TA light fruitiness kicks off this elegant dram. Delicate floral notes play their part before bowing out to a burnt wood smokiness.
  • Taste – On the palate, it takes on a whole new character. Earthy peat smoke still prevalent, it is now accompanied by the more robust notes of spice and burnt sugar. 
  • Finish – The finish is smooth and warm.

Like the Black Hill, depending on where you travel, you may still be able to find a bottle for approximately €52.

We also had these as part of our Highland Treat :

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Highland Treat – AnCnoc Black Hill Reserve 46%

So back in July, our Whisky Ladies had an evening featuring a trio of highland drams. It was a lovely evening where the tasting progression was spot on! And then I somehow managed to lose my tasting notes – for months!

Finally recovered, hope you enjoy our impressions…

AnCnoc Black Hill Reserve 46%

  • Nose – First whiff was full fruity, a bit spicy, a little rustic, some hay, lovely honeyed sweetness, like a fresh fragrant meadow, rewarding us with a delightful perfume. After the 1st sip, grapefruit citrus twist, vanilla, desert custard, heather
  • Palate – Lovely, floral, lots of honey, orange, gets more and more flavourful, spice
  • Finish – Heather with leather, long and satisfying

We really enjoyed this one and found it both very well balanced and frankly, just well done! That light, bright sunshine kind of whisky that is a perfect way to start…

We set it aside to try the next two and then revisited to find honeydew melon, honey… quite pleasant.

And what do the folks at AcCnoc have to say?

Knockdhu Distillery’s enduring charisma echoes the timeless allure of the nearby Knock Hill, known to the locals as the Black Hill. It is the source of the springs which bring our whisky to life and in whose shadow the Distillery has flourished since 1894. Gaelic for Black Hill, Knockdhu remains rooted in traditional production methods, yet the refreshingly modern personality of anCnoc Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky conveys its contemporary outlook. An outstanding addition to our range of whiskies, Black Hill Reserve is testimony to the finest qualities of anCnoc. Matured exclusively in first fill American oak ex-bourbon casks, it is a whisky every bit as captivating as the historic corner of Scotland from which it comes.

  • Colour – Bright Gold.
  • Nose – The bright and crisp notes of citrus, green apples and coconut are complemented by honey sweetness and layers of fresh vanilla. Satisfying and refreshing.
  • Taste – Full bodied and bursting with rich flavour, it brings to mind ground spices, pear drops, candied orange peel and sharp toffee sweetness underpinned by just a hint of old leather.
  • Finish – The finish is long and intense.

Did we agree? Absolutely!

Depending on where you travel, you may be lucky enough to find this in travel retail for around £52.

What else did we try in our Highland Treat?

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Glenglassaugh Revival 46%

The best thing about sampling blind is being saved from your own prejudices.

I will have to admit my first brush with Glenglassaugh was in 2015 with an open bottle of Torfa at Quaich in Singapore. To put it mildly, I wasn’t impressed and my strongest memory was that of solvent. Fast forward two years and I had an opportunity to compare minis of both Evolution and Torfa – better, definitely better. Late 2018, I was introduced to their Peated Port Wood – certainly moving in a much better direction. And now, in May 2019 I found a Glenglassaugh that clearly hit its mark.

Yet I knew none of this when I picked up that Glencairn glass and began to sniff, swish and sip my way…

Glenglassaugh Revival 46%

  • Nose – Sour curd, spice, prunes, raising, chocolatey custard, black pepper spice which then shifted into red chillies, oily, orange cloves and Christmas pudding, tobacco, dusty
  • Palate – Greeted with a bit of spice, tobacco, prunes, medium body with a good mouthfeel, wood smoke, chestnut, caramelized apples, some oak, honey malt
  • Finish – A great chewy cherry finish, more of the prunes carried through, had staying power

Of the three whiskies sampled that evening, it was by far the most robust and complex. The character also kept changing. Most remarkable was when it was revisited there was a delightful perfume!

While I couldn’t find anything specific on the bottle which indicated which batch, our host thought it was from their first release.

What do the folks at Glenglassaugh have to say?

The Revival is the first expression released from Glenglassaugh distillery after being mothballed for more than 20 years. The Glenglassaugh Revival has been matured in a balanced mix of ex-red wine and fresh bourbon casks, vatted and re-racked for double maturation in rich sherry casks. Bottled at 46%, non chill filtered and of natural colour, Revival is a stunning Highland single malt with a coastal charm.

  • Colour: Copper
  • Nose: Sweet caramel and toffee with notes of nutty sherry, milk chocolate and honey. Ripe plums, red berries and oranges. Caramelised sugar and earthy, charred oak.
  • Palate: Sweet, rounded and creamy. Oranges, plums, cherry and walnuts, chocolate, honey-mead, sherry and soft, spiced oak.
  • Finish: Medium with warming mulled-wine spices, sherry and caramel.

While not sure where our host sourced this whisky, it is available at Master of Malt for approx $40.

What else did we try?

What about other Glenglassaugh experiences? Read on…

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The Dalmore King Alexander III 40%

What do we know about this Dalmore? That it was matured in not one or two casks but seven! Aside from the standard ex-bourbon (Kentucky) and Sherry, it also spent time in wine (unspecified), Madeira, Marsala and Port casks. The goal was to produce a unique rich, fruity Highland single malt.

However we knew none of this when we sampled it… blind…

Dalmore King Alexander III 40%

  • Colour – Deep dark burgundy
  • Nose – Dark fruits, cherries, nuts, cheap chocolate bar with nuts and raisins, curdled milk, liquorice, an oddly artificial aroma
  • Palate – A light teasing spice, a bit of mango pickle?
  • Finish – Lingers – a bit bitter then gets spicier with a fruity close… yet still a medium finish that runs away

The colour was a dead give away that something else was going on… which we later discovered with the reveal is augmented with caramel. Hmm…

Overall it was a bit disappointing nothing exceptional and there were a few odd elements that didn’t quite work.

Our host shared he received this whisky as a gift. There was no doubt the person gifting had the absolute best of intentions. And it certainly isn’t cheap – typically retailing for approx $200.

However in our humble opinion, there was more hype and high price than quality. Which is a pity.

What do the Dalmore folks have to say about the King Alexander III?

  • Aroma – Red berry fruits and hints of passion fruit
  • Palate – Citrus zest, vanilla pod, crème caramel and crushed almonds
  • Finish – Cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger

What else did we try?

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Port Finish – Tomatin 14 year Port Wood 46%

From the Highland, we sampled Tomatin’s 14 year Port Wood finish 46%. In 2014, Tomatin added it to their core range, noting that it starts in Bourbon barrels before spending a year being finished in Port pipes.

So what did we think?

Tomatin 14 year Port Wood finish 46%

  • Nose – Initially lots of wine, grapes, some spice, even black salt from a chaat masala, dried herbs, old shoes
  • Palate – Grape cool aide with spice, yoghurt, a bit thin
  • Finish – Bizarre tannins
  • Water – A bit softer, yet gained an odd metallic quality

Sometimes when you taste with others, one thought leads to another and another. In this case, we spiralled from the above observations into uproarious laughter. Why?

Well… we started off remarking how the aroma reminded us of a cheap bar… more specifically the morning after with the stench of spilt cheap red wine and tequila. The reaction was so strong from a few that there was considerable trepidation to even taste.

And then?

Let’s just say it considerable devolved into talk of baby puke (not uncommon with whiskies) and even less polite observations… back to that bar with the unmistakable aroma of those who over indulged and could not contain there… er… you get the picture.

So we read what the folks at Tomatin have to say? Could we discover some of the notes they share?

The Tomatin 14 Year Old is soft, smooth and sweet, benefiting from its time spent in Tawny Port casks which previously held port for around 50 years.

Rich but balanced aromas of red berries, sweet honey and rich toffee develop into aspects of light fruits and nuts on the palate and an abiding finish of smooth fruit salad.

Sorry? Rich? Fruit salad?! And that’s when we devolved into laughter… when someone mentioned maybe if it was fruit that… er… again… you get the picture.

So I set it aside to see if it improved with a bit… it happens sometimes.

And?

Nope! Not for us. If anything was a bit queer. Sigh…

What other finishes did the Whisky Ladies explore that eve? A few we enjoyed much much more!

And that is the terrific thing about experiments – some hits, some misses and more!

If you picked it up from Master of Malt in the UK, this Tomatin would set you back approx $60. However like most whiskies, prices vary massively depending on where you purchase it and understand this particular bottle cost nearly double that! Yikes!

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