North Star’s Orkney 12 year (2006/2018) 57.8%

Our 5 region tour of North Star’s series 5 continued with a whisky from the Islands.

(www.tripfolk.com)
http://www.tripfolk.com

This time our Whisky Ladies of Mumbai guest reviewer is Shruti Sutwala… 

A marketer by profession, Shruti brings her passion to travel across through her travel blog MeWanderlost. She divides time between creating brands, travelling to distant corners of the world & inspiring many to experience the world. 

Given that Shruti travels extensively (plus has a partner who shares her whisky explorations), she has blessed us with equally adventurous  whiskies from AustraliaBhutan, FranceIceland, Japan and US.

Here is what she has to say about the North Star Cask Series 005 Islands offering…

North Star Orkney 12 year (March 2006/May 2018) 57.8% is a great example of the trend of “secret bottling” by an independent bottler.

It’s secret because all we know about it is that it comes from Orkney and that it’s bottled from a refilled bourbon hogshead. Well, the Orkney is so small that the secret is really not a big one, it has to be one of the two big ones on the island!

It’s rare because independent bottling is all about small batch production – we tasted the Cask Series 005, 1 of 362 bottles, and yes, the same one will not be available in the market anymore.

And of course its experimental if the official tasting notes are any indication. Here it goes – on the palate it’s supposed to be ‘Melted Normandy salted butter poured over popcorn’ & on the finish Clover-honey on yer toast”. That’s experimental for sure!

  • Nose: The nose definitely connects to the island origin of this dram – it has strong sea salt & sea weed notes followed with some fruitiness. It feels quite young in the beginning, however develops subtle smokiness & butter notes, a perfect invitation to sip it along.
  • Palate: The peat on the nose doesn’t disappoint as you sip it along as it develops a nice caramel toffee sweetness. What stood out for me was a nice buttery coating on my palate which reminded me of the butter whisky I had in Scotland. Notes of burnt caramel, pipe tobacco, vanilla & a touch of spice with the subtle smokiness is just lovely!
  • Finish: After the mélange of notes on the palate, the finish was a little flat for me. Some comments around the table were “flat ginger ale” and “bitter”.

Adding a few drops of water made it more approachable for a few, however for me it lost the nice chewy and buttery character with the water.

Summing it up, it’s a solid dram which is nicely matured & balanced & at the same time not so serious. With the Orkney, the bottlers have clearly made a statement that whisky can be fun & experimental, yet well rounded. It would be a great addition to any collection, pity, there are so few of them in the market. A clear vote winner, this one was polished off in the post tasting session!

For those curious about cost, this whisky was purchased online in July 2018 from Master of Malt 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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Orkney Island’s God of Thunder “Thor” 16 year 52.1%

The last in our evenings explorations was actually the start of Highland Park’s Valhalla series with Thor, God of Thunder. Cue visions of Vikings, the sound of swords and shields clashing, wind whipping through wild hair as a longship gathers speed with crashing waves.  In keeping with the theme, it is packaged in a wooden frame styled after the prow of a viking longboat.

And the crazy thing? Clearly the Valhalla quartet (Thor, Loki, Freya, Odin) captured some collectors imagination. The Thor alone has auctioned for £490!

None of this we knew before we tried it, sampling blind to see what we thought of the whisky irrespective of origins.

Highland Park Thor 16 year 52.1%

  • Nose – Initially sharp, soap, then roasted pineapple, black liquorice, not so many layers yet something unique, teasingly uncommon, fruit, floral, talcum powder, one even suggest fahrenheit perfume! Then shifted into green pears, baked apple pie…. After the 1st sip, all the interesting elements disappeared, shifting into burnt sugar and walnut shells
  • Palate – Lovely on the palate, a tingly spice with pepper, sweet cloves, allspice, like a masala chai, just a hint of smoke, well finished with character yet surprisingly thin, like it is skirting on the surface, lacking depth, body and those critical mid-notes
  • Finish – Again a lovely finish with a hint of spice
  • Water – Really opens it up, adds the missing ‘mid’ level to the palate, tempers and rounds out the spice allowing the gentle smoke to join in harmony. With water the whisky now feels complete with a good mouthful, a bit of rubber and other elements joined which gave more depth to the ram. From our perspective, a bit of water is a “must add” for this whisky to truly reveal its character.

We began to speculate and debate…

  • We could tell this clearly wasn’t a ‘green’ young whisky though not very old either – hence guesses in the 16 year range were thrown about.
  • We also thought it began in an ex-bourbon cask the had a sherry finish thing going on…
  • From a strength perspective, we thought perhaps 46 – 48%

What mattered most is some really like it – finding it the kind of whisky that welcomes you home after a long journey. There was some debate whether the nose or palate was the best part.

With the reveal, we discovered we were spot on with the age, off with the strength and hard to tell for the casks as the details are not disclosed.

However the real surprise? The price. £490/$685. Yikes! There is nothing about this whisky that pushes it into that territory. For our original group, this must be one of the most expensive bottles shared.

And yet this is what clever packaging, keeping an edition “limited’ (i.e. 23,000), released in 2012 followed by others to create a quartet, managed to accomplish – transporting a rather nice whisky into the ridiculous range.

Are we glad we tried it? Absolutely! However for our merry Mumbai malt aficionados, our explorations and adventures will continue… in a more affordable vein!

What else did we try in our explorations (and distraction with packaging)?

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Douglas Laing’s Island Blend Rock Oyster Cask Strength 57.4%

Our Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malts explorations continued with the Island blend… this time from the Cask Strength edition.

Rock Oyster Cask Strength 57.4%

  • Nose – Had a similar yoghurt quality, yet with more character and oomph! than the Timorous Beastie, zest of lemon rind, barley, young, mild yet fruity – particularly melon, some smoked sweet bacon or other sweet meats, agave then quite a bit of brine
  • Palate – Nice spice, sweet, skirting on the surface, amazingly balanced, nothing harsh, a hint of pipe tobacco, honey, cherry bokum pickle, ginger, briney
  • Finish – Nice long finish, salted caramel, cinnamon, sawdust, for some too salty on the finish for many
  • Water – Opens up more, removes the edge, salty, adds a dash of cayenne, paprika, makes it smoother

There was a sense that this is from a similar ‘family’ as the Timorous Beastie however also had its unique variation, like siblings.

Many found Rock Oyster just like one would expect from the name, salty raw oysters, the feel of being on a boat, the distinctive pervasive smell of barnacles, a tidal pool of salty whisky.

At cask strength, it is also very deceptive, giving no hint of the power behind its smooth briney swish.

There was a clear divide between those who enjoy salty whiskies and those who do not care for this maritime style.

Here’s what they have to say:

Introducing Douglas Laing’s Rock Oyster Cask Strength; the super-charged partner to the original Rock Oyster bottled at 57.4% ABV. Containing the finest Malt Whiskies from Scotland’s Whisky Islands, including those distilled on Islay, Arran, Orkney and Jura, this Limited Edition delivers a massive amplification of all those coastal qualities from the original Rock Oyster.

Tasting notes:

Anticipate a blast of sea air on the nose and a tempestuously oceanic storm on the palate. Rock Oyster Cask Strength delivers a big peat hit full of Islay phenols, iodine and coal dust, with a shake of pepper softening to a distinct honey sweetness from the Arran casks. The Isle of Jura brings waves of citrus and barley to the mix, and Orkney fetches up some salt from the deep.

Photo: Nikoulina Berg

What were the whisky blends explored?

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MacPhail’s Orkney 8 Year 43% (Highland Park)

Next up in our miniatures tasting session was a Highland Park

The MacPhail’s Collection is a small range of single malt whiskies bottled by Gordon & MacPhail.

The focus of this collection is the quest for younger, quality drams at affordable prices. You won’t find a rich mature complex aged marvel here, instead a younger, better than decent dram for a reasonable cost.

Macphail's Orkney 8 year

MacPhail’s Orkney 8 year 43% (Highland Park)

  • Nose – Banana, apricot, lemon zest, butter toast with sugar sprinkles, woodsy, vanilla, citrus soft, wet cloth with a bit of brine
  • Palate – Peat, malty cereal, a little pepper spice, smooth
  • Finish – Enjoyable finish, like a puff of smoke then dry, bitter ending sweet

Overall a drinkable dram… much more so than the Highland Park 1998. Light balance between sweet and smoke, coming together so smoothly.

Here are the official tasting notes:

  • Nose: Soft fruits – peaches/mangos, heather/earthy notes and a touch of saltiness.
    With Water: Fruity (green apples), subtle sherry influence and touch of floral.
  • Palate: Rich, mulled fruits with a touch of smokiness.
    With Water: Sherry wood with smoky notes (charred oak). A vanilla sweetness emerges
  • Finish: Long with a delicate sweetness.

Check out what other’s have to say too:

Other miniatures sampled recently include:

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