North Star Regions – Speyside 12 year 50%

North Star has a Millennial Series with whiskies from Scotland’s four main regions – Highland, Speyside, Islay and Island. I started with the Highland and have now cracked open the Speyside! Alas I haven’t been able to get my hands on either the Islay nor the Island, so this will conclude my exploration of this series.

The distillery isn’t directly stated, but the longitude and latitude provided on the bottle brings one to Aberlour distillery in X (N 57° 26’36.14″ by W 3° 14’17.04′). When I think of Aberlour, what comes to mind is a robust sherry bomb – particularly A’bunadh which was once upon a time regular duty free cask strength purchase.

So what about this one? Well… it was sampled over a few sessions – including with our Whisky Ladies of Europe!

The Speyside 12 year 50%

  • Colour – Dark copper
  • Nose – Rich, fruity with apricots, pineapple, heavy with honey or maple syrup, rum raisins, as it opened up some dark bitter chocolate (think 95%), more raisins which were joined by nuts – particularly walnut, dried figs, some cherries…
  • Palate – Very tasty! Pepper, sweet spices of cinnamon and cloves, dark berries, more of that apricot, perhaps a bit of melon? Nice creamy butter that coats the palate with oils, buttered toast
  • Finish – Quite long. There was an almost coffee-like quality or betel nut? A bit bitter, with some chilly spice.
  • Water – Dampens the aromas… however nuts became slightly more pronounced. Less spice, more sweetness, betel leaf and melons. In some cases adding water transforms a dram. In this case? It neither added dramatically nor detracted.

Overall it lived up to its promise of being a proper sherry dram – though not as overwhelming as some cask strength A’bunadh’s I’ve experienced! What was remarkable was the consistency – from 1st whiff to finish – it followed a common theme. I had jotted down a few notes from an earlier solo tasting months ago… to then see notes from the tasting with the ladies was practically identical!

The only shift was after we set it aside and returned after an hour. We immediately found it a bit sour or tart – crabapples with a bit of medicinal sweetness, orange peels and cloves. And yet – even this was all aligned to the overall character of the dram.

Rather than tasting notes, the North Star team share the following quote from Aedan Andrejus Burt:

Speyside is often considered Scotland’s sweetest and most approachable region. Wherever you go, they’ll introduce you to a dram, and probably something the locals call a ‘breakfast whisky’ soon enough. Home to around 50 distilleries, over a third of Scotland’s total, the area covers a 50-mile strip between Inverses and Aberdeen, around the River Spey. For that, most distilleries have their own water source, of which they are immensely proud. The honeyed and fruity character of Speyside whiskies make them highly sought after, and the banks of the Spey accommodate many of the country’s best known stills.

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!

Curious about earlier Aberlour tasting experiences? Well… there have been a few…

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A’bunadh Batch #52 (2015) 60.5%

During our December sampling session, one of our fellow tasters brought along an Abelour A’bunadh. It is remarkable to  realize they are on to batches in the 50s… and soon to hit 60! I still have fond memories of their sherry bombs of the 20s…

But  on to this one… what did we think?

Abelour A’bunadh Aberlour A’bunadh Batch No 52 (NAS 2015) 60.5%

  • Nose – As expected – a complete sherry bomb, lots of chewy black cherries, Christmas cake, dark dried fruits, almost rum like
  • Taste – Christmas cake, a drizzle of caramel, warm and smooth, apply cider, raisins, prunes, robust and bursting with character, a little ginger, creamy and very berry Christmassy
  • Finish – Sweet spice with more of those dark cherries
  • Water – As always, opens up with a generous dollop of water

Worked for us and met every expectation for a Christmas sherry bomb dram!

And what about other Aberlour experiences?

And other drams sampled in our chilled out evening?

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Bar Night – Penderyn, Lagavulin and Aberlour

In lieu of our original planned evening, the Bombay Malt & Cigar gents shifted gears to enjoy their version of a ‘Bar Night’ with a Gurkha cigar.

There was some debate over the tasting order and, in retrospect, it could have had the peatier Lagavulin last, swapping place with the Aberlour. However it all worked out in the end!

Penderyn Madeira 46% 

  • Nose – Initially distinctly varnish, then sweet, banana, citrus sweet oranges, resin, pine, vanilla, apricot, bannoffee pie, then odd bitter, pine needles
  • Palate – Tingle at the front, sweet, acidity at the back, banana sweet
  • Finish – Pleasant yet nothing substantial

The two of us who sampled it earlier, were reminded of why we found it an interesting conversation whisky. While not for everyone, there is a distinctive quality to it that cannot be ignored.

It also turned out to be the dram choice of the night for most gents, as it complimented our Gurkhas rather well.

Lagavulin 16 year 43%

  • Nose – Clear peat, yet rounded not harsh, wet rag, berry sweetness, black berries, shifting into a briny ocean spray, leather
  • Palate – Spice sweet, peat, ash, lovely balance
  • Finish – Lovely sweet

In short, a beautiful whisky! What a treat to return to a familiar friend…Those who once upon a time treated the Lagavulin 16 as a bar ‘staple’ were reminded of why that is the case – its ability to have balanced peat and sweet.

And how did the Lagavulin fare with the cigar? A contrasting pairing, with the whisky the predominant note.

Aberlour 12 year 40%

  • Nose – Prunes, sherry, berry
  • Palate – Candy sweet, cinnamon
  • Finish – Light spice finish

The whisky was oddly disappointing as it was a pale comparison with the more familiar A’bunadh.

And yet it was an absolutely perfectly balanced pairing with the cigar.


Though it wasn’t our original plan, the substitute ‘bar night’ theme worked rather well.

What would you chose as a trio of more accessible drams for a sociable evening?

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Bombay Bar Nights…

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming on quality whiskies, somewhat serious reviews and general pontificating to introduce you to a fine Bombay tradition – the BAR NIGHT.

Now, what you may say makes ‘Bar Night’ here any different than another part of the world?

I’m so delighted you asked!

You see we have a fine colonial tradition of gym khanna in these parts… bastions for a certain sort that once upon a time some were frequented by those mad dogs and Englishmen.

Since then, membership at such clubs may still remain a privilege and yet from time to time a few of us ‘riff raff’ get invited into these rarified domains.

Enter ‘Bar Night’ where more sociable evenings happen opening the doors to members guests on a wider scale.

In our impromptu BMC version, we opened up the ‘Bar Night’ liquor cabinet of our host.

bar-boozeLet’s admit it folks – most of us with a prediliction for quality drams have our ‘jaanta’ (masses) cabinet with an assortment of ‘bar booze’ and then our special ‘reserved’ section hidden away from prying eyes.

Helps avoid those gasps of dismay where a crazy expensive rare single malt is shocked with a bucket of ice or horror of all horrors drowned in soda or some other fizzy substance that has no business going near a prime whisky!

Don’t worry, I haven’t gone all crazy snobby, just some whiskies DO deserve a different sort of treatment.

Here is what we sampled:


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Aberlour 16 year (1995/2011) Cask No 2303 57.2%

I will admit to having a weakness for a sherry bomb or two. While not my ‘everyday dram’, when in the mood for something robust and very berry good, nothing beats it.

Aberlour‘s A’bunadh is a particularly good example of a full cask strength sherry bomb that remains in the affordable category.

No surprise then that this 1st fill sherry cask Aberlour was a hit!

Last in our special “filled by hand” distillery trio, it was quite the whisky.

Hand filled Abelour 16 year

Hand filled Abelour 16 year

Aberlour 16 year (10 June 1995 / 6 Sept 2011) Cask No 2303 (1st fill sherry), Bottle No 180, 57.2%

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Gorgeous sherry! Figs, plums, juicy dark fruit, nuts, christmas cake, chocolate, dates, orange peel, vanilla
  • Palate – Woodsy dry edge, bit bitter, light balsa then softened to settle into a balanced sweet, bursting with raisins
  • Finish – Rich plums
  • Water – Not necessary but doesn’t hurt. The little extra spice adds something, rounds it out further and opens up to reveal ginger

Overall – a very palatable, rich, sherry bomb that goes down beautifully well.

While thoroughly enjoyable, when it came time to chose my preferred dram to accompany my panatela cigar, I will admit reaching for the Glenmorangie as the Aberlour was fabulous to sample but almost too much ‘Christmas’ for the March heat in Mumbai.

Also part of our remarkable Cask Strength hand-filled whiskies evening:

Other Abelour’s sampled previously:

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