To the center of Speyside, to the north-east coast of Islay and even south of the border to England – this sample flight from North Star Spirits takes me off and about. It consists of three single malt whisky bottlings, each of which got filled from a single cask and released in high strength without artificial coloring or chill filtration. Regarding their profiles and characters, the members of this tasting trio are very different from each other: There is a sweet, full-bodied Glenrothes 11yo from an oloroso sherry butt. There is savory, smoke-i-licious Caol Ila 9yo with a PX sherry finish. And there is a spicy, hot The English Whisky Co. 11yo from a Burgundy red wind cask. Do any (or all) of these drams sound good to you? Then read on!
The English Whisky Co. 11yo
(Single Malt Whisky • Burgundy red wine cask • 49.8% • 330 bottles)
When held against the light, this smoky dram from The English Whisky Co. is a real treat to the eye. It is red-brown in color and oily in texture. The smell is deep and dry. I get an interplay of reduced fruits (dried cherries and rosehips) and shy spices (mild curry and cayenne). There is also fiery note that reminds me of sparking flintstones. The taste is sweet, hot and peculiar – imagine buckets of bramble jelly and maple syrup poured over a pizza with deviled salami and green peppers. Furthermore, there is some kind of a metallic edge and a puff of sulfuric smoke. During the length of the warming finish, the whisky gets sweeter with peach tart and vanilla creme. But the spiciness remains, too. As does the fire!
(Single Malt Scotch Whisky • Oloroso butt • 51.4% • 562 bottles)
Oh, sweet mother of sweetness! The first sniff of North Star’s new Glenrothes 11 Years Old, which got released in collaboration with famous whisky YouTuber Ralfy, is immensely sweet: Apple juice, raisins, vanilla milk and sugar cubes are the first scents that fill my nostrils. Later, they are joined by darker notes of brittle, cassis, plums and old cushions. The spirit’s stature is heavy, creamy and full. It brims with strawberries, redcurrants, raisins, nougat creme, cocoa milk and curd mixed with honey. It is amazing how soft and silky this medium-aged Speysider feels despite its heaviness and its cask strength ABV. The fruity aftertaste lasts long. It has citrus, strawberry and cherry-flavored hard candy. Also a bit of chocolate. Yummyyy!
Caol Ila 9yo
(Single Malt Scotch Whisky • PX Finish • 51.8% • 344 bottles)
Maturated in an ex-bourbon hogshead and finished a PX sherry cask, this 9 years old Caol Ila has developed quite a unique nose. It smells of thin cigarette smoke as well as yellow fruits, popcorn, egg foam, cotton candy and saw dust. When filling the mouth, the whisky produces sweet, smoky and fruity notes: pears, apricots, strawberries, marzipan, banana milk, almond paste and more popcorn. The mid-long finish has butter cookies, yellow plums, sugared redcurrants and light grapes. The smoke is noticeable at any stage, too. But it is rather thin and fleeting for a peated Islay malt of such young age. If you are looking for an affordable Caol Ila that is a little bit different, you might want to grab this blue-labeled bottle out of the rack.
The English Whisky Co. 11yo (Single Malt / UK / 11yo / Burgundy wine cask / 43.1% / ~110 Euro)
Glenrothes 11yo (Single Malt / Speyside / 11yo / Oloroso butt / 43.9% / ~80 Euro)
Caol Ila 9yo (Single Malt / Islay / 9yo / PX finish / 51.8% / ~60 Euro)
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*** Whisky samples kindly provided by North Star ***