North Star’s Macduff 11 year (2006/2018) 55.2%

From the Highland region, our next North Star Series 5 exploring 5 regions in Scotland was from the Mac Duff distillery, best known for their Glen Deveron brand.

Our guest reviewer Rekha Sharma has been part of the Whisky Ladies of Mumbai from the start.

Having lived a fairly nomadic existence since a young age, Rekha gained over two decades of varied corporate & entrepreneurial experience.

From cable media industry in Hongkong with Disney Challen then Turner Networks (CNN), she then moved to New York where she founded & managed a retail business in Manhattan, combining an Asian antique store with an art gallery & a cafe/bar.

Now living in India, Rekha manages a serviced apartments business in Bombay,  being a part of a rapidly changing economic & social landscape that is India today.

Above all, Rekha enjoys the arts, cooking, interior design, travelling & good whiskey!

Here is what she has to say…

Macduff 11 year (Nov 2006/May 2018) 55.2%

  • Nose – Dish water soap, very light, flowers, flirting with us by running away then gently re-appearing, red delicious apple, balsa wood and some lovely ripe bananas
  • Palate – Peach, apricots, metallic, almost eggy, liquorice
  • Finish – Bitter walnut, big red chewing gum
  • Water – Much better! Really brings out more with this one and gave it a somewhat sweet, creamy finish

It was a friendly easy drinking dram and hard to imagine it was cask strength!

The North Star Macduff was bottled from a refill bourbon hogshead, un-chill filtered, natural colour with only 240  bottles.

North Star’s tasting notes:

  • Nose: Red apple & that smell you get when rain hits hot tar macadam
  • Palate: Instantly creamy & sweet, like my mum’s custard
  • Finish: The crispy topping on a creme brûlée 

This whisky was purchased online from Master of Malt in August 2018 for £53.76 / USD 70 / INR 5,080 and was opened in November 2018.

Don’t miss the other Whisky Ladies guest reviews of North Star Series 005 whiskies covering 5 Scottish regions:

Original Group’s North Star Discovery:

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Glen Deveron 20 year 40% matured in Sherry Oak

Last in our Sherry expressions evening was 20 year old whisky from Macduff distillery matured in Sherry Oak.

We first sampled it blind then our host revealed the whisky. Here is what we found…

Glen Deveron 20 year 40%

  • Nose – Initially whiff was pure jackfruit, then sour, lots of sulfur, a bit musty then it started to settle down revealing lots of tropical fruits – particularly pineapple, a bit more sourness in the background, but largely a sweet slightly overripe fruit basket, as it opened up further, it began evolving into a sourdough, almost plasticine element, then bubble gum and sugary cola
  • Palate – So soft and mild, like a vanilla sponge cake or pineapple upside down cake, lemon custard, quite lovely with a light bitterness creeping too as it eased into its finish
  • Finish – Very nutty – particularly hazelnut and part of what made the whisky interesting
  • Water – None were tempted – no need to add even a drop

Though it clearly was low alcohol and hence for many it was a bit too watered down, like sipping sugar water, it was beautiful in its way. Some really appreciated its subtle and nuanced character, even if it was not massively complex.

Key was giving it time to let the initial sulfur dissipate so the fruit sweetness came to the fore. Particularly the palate was pleasing – one even remarked “outstanding.”

And the reveal?

Again a surprise. None would have expected a 20 year old.

Which triggered a reminder of our earlier encounter with this specific single malt – an evening back in October 2014 – remembered as the night a 3 year old Japanese whisky (Chichibu ‘The Floor Malted’ 3 year) outclassed a 20 year old!

This time around, the Glen Deveron got a favourable response from a few who thought it quite pleasant and enjoyed the soft sponge cake flavours on the palate.

Yet it brought us back to our discussion on the critical role played by the cask – both its quality and the number of times it was used and how.

While it says Sherry Oak Casks, this doesn’t actually tell you much. Had it been 1st fill sherry casks, one normally sees this proudly declared. We thought it is much more likely to be a combination of oak (logically American given its affordability) and a 2nd or 3rd fill sherry cask. While pure speculation on our part, it struck us as the right combination to produce the results we found.

Such an approach could be called “Sherry Oak” – as yes there is some “Sherry” – just how much and what fill is indeterminate and equally there is “Oak” – whether it is is ex-bourbon 1st or 2nd or 3rd fill or simply straight American Oak or something else – it is still legitimately Oak.

Not so long ago, this duty free dram could be found for $75. However more recently it made an appearance at Mumbai’s duty free for $125. That shared, you may not find this Macduff’s offering as easily today as you once could as the expression has been discontinued.

Here is what we explored with our Sherry expressions evening:

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Sherry Expressions – Seasoned, Finished or Matured…

Sherry’s influence on single malts is significant. At one of the spectrum could be a full on sherry “bomb” matured for years exclusively in first re-fill casks and at the other a mere hint with a “touch” of sherry finish for a mere month.

Our host for the evening cleverly selected from duty-free three different variants of Sherry expressions. Each explored a different approach to bringing a sherry influence to the whisky.

Here is what we explored with our Sherry expressions evening:

Read on over the next few days for insights into our impressions, speculations and interpretation of what the distillery shares about the way in which the sherry element influenced each single malt.

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Glen Deveron 20 year

This will forever be known as the evening when a mere three-year old out-classed a twenty year old… read on…

Glen Deveron 20 year

As usual, our merry malt sippers tasted ‘blind’ three different whiskies, revealing the sample after snipping, swishing, swallowing and hopefully savouring!

On this evening, our whiskies were carefully ordered by age – 3 year, 16 year and closed  with this 20 year.

Glen Deveron 20 year

  • Colour – Dark amber…. So dark couldn’t help speculate perhaps some of the colour was ahem… enhanced?
  • Nose – Sweet all spice, some jackfruit, banana pie, perhaps a hint of caramel too?
  • Taste – Oily sweet, sherry with caramelized orange
  • Finish – Fresh mint, brass
  • Water? Spice and nothing else

Reactions – Oddly disappointing… perhaps as the Blair Athol 16 year had such an unmistakable character or the Chichibu ‘The Floor Malted’ 3 year was such an interesting start, the Glen Deveron didn’t stand out. The nose was promising, taste was somewhat familiar and the finish had more of that toothpaste mint than a fresh sprig.

The reveal – None had thought it was 20 year… with such an age, it is entirely possible the colour is natural. However goes to show our minds came to different conclusions based on our experience with the whisky which simply did not have the complexity and depth we seek in more mature whiskies.

While I initially blithely listed this as “Glen Deveron” distillery, turns out it is actually part of Macduff distillery, which was acquired by William Lawson Distillers, which became part of the Martini & Rossi corporation in 1980, acquired by Bacardi in 1992, who put their subsidiary John Dewar & Sons in charge of the Macduff distillery. So… think I’ll stick with calling it Macduff?!

So… this release from Macduff distillery is part of their Royal Burgh of Banff Collection with 16, 20 and 30 year releases for the duty-free market.

Chichibu, Blair Athol, Glen Deveron

So does age really matter? At the hands of a master, apparently a mere 3-year-old ‘toddler’ can out-class a 20-year-old ‘adult’!

PS – For those curious to read more about the other whiskies:

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