So you are an independent bottler. No, not because I said so, I don’t have that power. My superpower is leaving a film on glass, and someday the X-men will call because they are fighting the Sparkler.
Marvel, call me for phase 5, I’m awesome.
Back to my original point: You’re working as an independent bottler. In make-believe land. And you’re offered some less expensive barrels, however, you’re not supposed to release the names. What do you do?
When running into this situation, it would seem that North Star took the potential lemons and made lemonade. Enter the North Star Millennial Series. No, this doesn’t mean that these whiskies will also never have a job and generally have a worse life than their parents. The series is an affordable group of regional whiskies with age statements. So you get all the bonus of normal whiskies at a cheaper cost. You know, like people underbidding Millennials for similar jobs to ensure they make more money.
But no distillery name, right? Well… not really. You see, each of these have a Geographic Coordinate System code that oddly points to a distillery. So while I won’t name these as part of the whiskies themselves, I will add where these coordinates point to.
But how do these taste? Are they inexpensive for a reason, or not? Which wins out? Who cares, let’s taste them.
North Star Speyside Star 12
(Rumoured to be Benrinnes)
Starting off with a Speyside. This makes sense, as the majority of the time you have a Scotch you’ll have a Speyside because there’s a shit-ton of distilleries there. Like Benrinnes. And many others. But Benrinnes is a good thing to remember.
So it’s 12-years-old, aged in a refill sherry butt, and watered down to a decent 50%. All of that bolds well, as some Speysides (like Benrinnes) do well with sherry. But how did this one do? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Cask Type: Refill Sherry Butt
Number of Bottles: 600
Colour: 10Y 9/3
Nose: Pear, ginger, almond, brine
Pretty standard nose. Without knowing you’d have a hard time finding the sherry influence. I guess the spice? It’s nice, but I’m looking for a bit more.
Nutty, some pear, and some brine. Nothing rough notes, lighter, and water didn’t bring much else out.
Taste: Almond, ginger, caramel, pear, honey
More almond. More ginger. Basically the same as above, however sweeter/more caramel.
Finish: Almond, ginger, pear, sand, honey
Almond. More ginger, now dry instead of sweeter. No salt anymore. Again no rough notes.
Live. Die. Repeat, simply put.
Conclusion: Nothing that’ll blow your mind, but nothing that’s bad either. It’s consistent, nothing is hiding, and nothing will surprise you. If you’ve read the rumours and are buying this because you like Benrinnes in ex-sherry and don’t have all the money, you won’t get that epic dram.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something to sip every day or bring people in on a dram that’s not at a low abv., then it works. If you like almonds then you’re golden.
North Star Highland Star 11
(Rumoured to be Teaninch)
Another refill sherry but, one less year old. Oh, and a completely different region and distillery. I hear that changes things. I’ll get back to you after another 1700 reviews on that.
Joking aside, we see lighter different notes in the Highlands. Maybe some coastal notes, maybe some coffee notes. So perhaps this will have something the last one was missing. Let’s see, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Cask Type: Refill Sherry Butt
Number of bottles: 600
Colour: 10Y 8/8
Nose: Grass, coffee, ginger, syrup, algae
Lighter nose. Yes, there’s some of that stronger coffee note. That’s interesting. There’s also this sugary/algae thing. That’s a little off. Not totally jiving, if I’m being honest.
Taste: Strawberry, ginger, grass, peach
Fruity. Taken to the sherry cask well, though it’s not really giving anything back. Maybe some grassiness? I don’t know, I’m not the biggest Highland fan. And potentially not a fan of Teaninich. If this is it.
Finish: Ginger, raspberry, vegetal/algae, smoke
Very light and earthy. The sherry tries but just can’t sugar our way out of it. Don’t tell the Americans, that’ll break their hearts. What’s left of them.
Conclusion: Pretty boring, light, and earthy. I kept looking for something that never really popped up. It’s not really benefiting from the cask strength. Or high strength. Heck I think it should have been in a new cask for a lot longer.
Maybe pick this up if you like earth forward drams? Maybe if you’re a big Teaninich fan and want to be a completionist? I mean, it’s not totally bad. I’m just frustrated that it didn’t amplify the good points. I wanted something that beat out the Speyside with a tough flavour and that tough flavour only showed up on the nose.
I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.
North Star Island Star 10
(Rumoured to be Scapa)
So part of the reason I did these whiskies was that a one /u/ScotchGuyTO mentioned this was Scapa, and if I was hunting more Scapa whiskies to try, go for it. Then I was able to.
So what we have here is an Island whisky. Luckily Island whiskies are pretty distinct (well, at least when compared to other regions and how they differ between distilleries), so if there’s no peat, I feel safer saying that this is Scapa. Oh, and if it’s not horrible then it’s not unpeated Jura (I jest).
Let’s get past all that, and see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Cask Type: Refill Hogshead and PX Finish
Number of Bottles: 300
Colour: 7.5Y 9/4
Nose: Raspberry candy, toffee, papaya, fresh-cut pine
No peat, it’s Scapa. Also not horrible, not Jura.
Lots of candy notes here. Very sweet on the nose. Water balances it with pure wood. Little odd. Not hating.
Taste: Smokey honey, nori, grass, raspberry-mint, molasses
Alright, there’s honey, this is Scapa. Good grassy notes, just a bit of smoke. Wait, smoke… Fuck, is this Scapa? Who knows, who cares.
More sweet, better balance this time with some salt/umami notes. It makes you want to come back for more.
Finish: Wood, honey/floral, raspberry, foam, basil
Woody upfront. A bit off-kilter at first. It takes some time to get back to that sweet balance and works correctly.
Conclusion: Tasty, honey forward, good brine. This is what I was looking for. More balance with one of the sherry casks. Which is impressive because Scapa (or whatever this is) shouldn’t be able to do that. The base malt tastes of honey and wood, which aren’t super strong flavours.
I’m really surprised by this. So far it’s my favourite of the bunch. If I was looking for a salty/PX sherry whisky that still holds up for less than others, this would be it.
North Star Islay Star 11
(Rumoured to be Caol Ila)
So I see blank Islay, I immediately think: Is this going to be any good? Look, don’t get me wrong, I love Islay whiskies and want more at all times. But I’m also a fucking snob and I’ve had some rough ones.
It’s really easy to put out a peated whisky before it’s ready. Because most people are going to have all the peat and love it. No balance, just smoke. I’d argue that’s why pizza is always good. All that salt is tasty. We love it. Carbs, salt, sugar. Smoke is like that sometimes. And I goddamn love it.
So I went into this thinking it was a less desirable Islay that didn’t have a name on it. I didn’t look up the location, didn’t want to, and probably was biased more than I should have.
Let’s see if I screwed up the whole thing, shall we?
Cask Type: Refill Hogshead
Number of Bottle: 300
Colour: 10Y 9/2
Nose: Brown sugar, basil, pear, vanilla, anise, melon, brine
Wow. That’s not just one noted. Brown sugar? Herbal, some pear, some ex-bourbon influence?
Did someone mix up the casks? Why wouldn’t you want your name on this people! This is actually interesting. I wasn’t expecting this at all.
Taste: Cream, five-spice ham, vanilla pudding, orange oil
Creamy, acidic, nice spice. Nothing that overtly screams peat.
Well, my bias was totally off. Here we have a creamy orangsicle type thing going on with a bit of meat and spice. Melds really well.
Finish: Rice pudding, lemongrass, pear, lemon, hickory
Cereal, cream, and good herbal/pear. Water starts with some strong smoke characteristics, and it’s the first time this is showing the youthful age, as strong flavours pop up.
Conclusion: Surprised how much I enjoyed this, expected it to be meh. I actually had to hold myself back on how much I enjoyed this, given the low expectations.
So let’s remove those. What is this? It’s a herbal, sweet, and creamy. There’s a lovely amount of orange. It’s really well balanced. It’s not just peat going on here. Heck it’s light amounts of peat. I’d serve this to someone getting into peat and they’d love it.
This is a must buy for most Scotch fans. It’s not the most amazing whisky every, but man the flavours are a lot better than they deserve to be.
Scotch reviews #1143-6, Speyside review #326, Highland review #193, Island review #126, Islay review #305, Whisky reviews #1765-8