North Star: “Unique whisky for every taste and budget” (Interview)

North Star Spirits (Glasgow Single Cask Scotch Malt Whisky Bottlings Blended BarleyMania)

Glasgow’s North Star is a young whisky company, specializing in drams that tick two simple but important boxes: to be unique and to be delicious. They kicked off their endevours with a six-part selection of single cask whiskies called Series 001,which received a warm welcome from the whisky crowd in late 2016 and will soon be succeeded by Series 002. In the light of these events, I reached out to North Star’s founder Iain Croucher to find out more about the previous history, current status and future plans of this thriving new force in the whisky landscape.

BarleyMania: North Star is a young company that released its debut bottlings in late 2016. Obviously, this did not happen overnight but required a lot of planning and preparation. When did the idea for North Star first form in your head and what were the main steps you had to take in order to make the vision become reality?

Iain Croucher: The idea of North Star came to me in the middle of April 2016. I was looking for a new opportunity since handing my notice in with the fine folks of A.D Rattray. I found myself being offered a huge package of blends and blended malts; they were all sublime, so I knew I would have no problem finding good homes for these liquids. As luck would have it, I sold 90% of this package within my first day of trading – happy days.

BM: Your first series of whiskies consists of six expressions: an 8yo Speysider by Ardmore, a 12yo grain whisky by Port Dundas, a 20yo islander by Arran, a 20yo sherry bomb by Glenrothes, a 26yo Islay malt by Bunnahabhain and a 27yo Madeira masterpiece by Tormore. I really like this set as it contains something for every taste and budget. By what criteria did you choose your casks and from what sources did you obtain them?

IC: I’ve been collecting single casks along the way for some years – some young, some old, some good, some amazing. Whilst purchasing large parcels of blended malts, I came across some really show-stopping single casks of single malt. Most of these find their way to other independent bottlers to package, but I like to keep some back to put in North Star packaging. With each series of bottlings, as you say, I make sure there is something for everyone’s taste and budget. It doesn’t have to be a single malt – just unique and delicious; that is paramount.

BM: I discovered North Star when I visited The Ben Nevis in Glasgow and saw the complete Series 001 on display behind the counter. The labels caught my attention right away and so I asked the bartender for more information on these bottlings. So at least in my case, the superb design of your products really hit the mark! Can you let us know a bit more about the look of your bottles and maybe even fill our readers in on the two little homages you incorporated into the labels?

IC: Ahh, The Ben Nevis, now there’s a cracking pub for you, managed superbly by Elaine and Allan. When I decided to bottle my own liquid and go knocking on doors trying to sell it, it was clear to me these have got to look good to stand out. You want people to pick up and look – or as you did, ask the staff for more info. That way you’re closer to getting the customer to taste it and from there the whisky does the talking. I’ve been very lucky to have huge support from the wonderful whisky bars of Glasgow; Paul and Thomas McDonagh from the famous Bon Accord and the Murphy family from the outstanding Pot Still also stock the full range. The labels are colour-coded per region and I’ve peppered every label with lots of foil to make them stand out of the busy crowd of bottles consumers are now faced with.

Yes, there is a couple of secret homages on each bottle from the first series. Well, who doesn’t love a secret message? But, it wouldn’t be secret if I told you, would it? ;)

BM: I have seen on your Facebook page that Series 002 will be ready for release very soon. When can the whisky crowd expect your next bottlings to go on sale? And can you already give us an idea of what to expect? While it might be a little too early to reveal any concrete distilleries, maybe you can hint at some of the styles or flavour profiles of North Star’s next outputs.

IC: Yes, Series 002 is in the making. Once again, you’ll find something for everyone’s budget and palate. There will be some young and some old and a couple of wild cards. I’m very excited to show off some of the nucleus of North Star Spirits in Series 002. A blended malt, the birth of a new range called VEGA. Have a look at this link for a first teaser. We have 10 export markets across the globe and great coverage in the UK, please see our website to find your nearest retailer.

by Tobi

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