No grain, no glory! With three out of seven expressions being made from other ingredients than malted barley, Series 008 of North Star Spirits grants grain whisky a prominent spot in the limelight. And the bottlings that Iain Croucher and his team picked for their latest line of releases are outstanding. First, there is a spicy Blended Grain 36yo that was composed exclusively from casks distilled in July of 1982. Given the comparatively little outturn of 288 bottles, I would be surprised if it was made from more than two or three different casks. Then, there is a Cameronbridge 37yo Vintage 1982 that has a surprisingly fresh character – despite its respectable age. And last but not least, there is a Girvan 26yo (from September 1992) that brims with sweetness and savoriness. If you are as much a cherisher of grain whisky as I am, you might be interested in learning more about this well-aged power trio. So here we go with a set of tasting notes. Cheers, cheers!
Blended Grain 36yo
(Blended Grain Scotch Whisky • Barrel • 52.5% • 288 bottles)
This blended grain whisky from my year (and month!) of birth opens with a chewy, creamy and very delicious bouquet. Snickers bars, jaffa cakes, vanilla sundae and caramel sauce form a great foundation. Spring twigs, lime zest and an ounce of cinnamon add shiny highlights. Before I have even sipped it, I can already proclaim: “Oh, this one’s gonna be great!” When North Star’s Blended Grain flows into my mouth, the first flavor I get is sea salt fudge. Then sugar canes, lemon-flavored gummi bears and sliced oranges. Also strong licorice. The whisky feels sturdy, but not overpowering on the tongue. Its smooth finish is both sweet and spicy with millionaire’s shortbread, grated ginger, orange juice and a bit of white pepper. Somewhere in there, I also made out a mint drop freshness. It’s drams like these that remind me why I am such a fan of grains!
(Single Grain Scotch Whisky • Barrel • 51% • 198 bottles)
You’re only as old as you feel! Although it spent a baffling 37 years in the cask, this grain whisky from Cameronbridge shows no signs of getting old – except for a wee bit of saw dust, maybe. The wooden residue settles upon a complex potpourri of fresh and fruity aromas. Clover, citrus, apple puree, honeydew melon and mint-flavored bubble gum. The palate is heavier. I found it to be thick and milky with caramac bars, breakfast cereals, toffee apples and a whole lotta salt sprinkled on top of it. Towards the end, new flavors enter the mix: raspberry cough drops, orange slices and sugar cubes make a highly satisfying finish. Grain, grain, hooray!
(Single Grain Scotch Whisky • Barrel • 53.5% • 180 bottles)
Got a sweet tooth? Then read on: First up is a delightful nose with a delicate sherry-pop sweetness. Other scents are strawberry muffin, vanilla ice cream, sugared cream and cookie dough. The palate starts with slightly sour garden fruits that quickly become sweeter. Did the gooseberries and plums yell “Pour some sugar on me” by any chance? The whisky’s signature sweetness is accentuated by sturdier flavors like burnt pastry, dried oranges, brittle chips and crumbly fudge. Whereas a grain’s aftertaste is usually on the short side, this 26-year-old Girvan stays with us for quite some time. Its satisfying finish offers a lot of baked goods and hard candy. Now who’s up for a very yummy treat?
Blended Grain 1982/2019 (Blended Grain / Scotland / 36yo / Barrel / 52.5% / ~XXX Euro)
Cameronbridge 1982/2019 (Single Grain / Lowland / 36yo / Barrel / 51% / ~XXXEuro)
Girvan 1992/2019 (Single Grain / Lowlands / 26yo / Barrel / 53% / ~XXX Euro)
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*** Whisky samples kindly provided by North Star ***