Anyone who has ever been part of a hobby (something I used to think was ubiquitous but have since realized isn’t) and made it realizes that there’s a point where you’re newer, and you want to share facts about this fun new thing, so you end up talking to someone who is very experienced.
And you say things that you know because we’re a social species even though the person you’re talking to has 10+ more years. And they nod, have a nice conversation, maybe half agree.
Then later you become intermediate or even experienced and someone says that to you and because you try not to be a giant gatekeeping snob you go along with it.
Where am I going with this? The number one thing I’ve said and has been said to me is “Hey, blends aren’t as bad as I was originally been told”
There’s some weird idea that blends automatically poison. Well, today, to reiterate, they aren’t. Yes, taking 90% grain that saw a barrel for the same amount of time as most teenage relationships and is less cute, exploratory, or impactful overall.
These aren’t those. These have age statements. While the industry would have you think, no, those are poison as well and somehow mean that they have to pay typists to add numbers. And of course, we all know the horrible things that typists have done through the ages.
So let’s delve into some age stated blends from North Star and see how they taste, shall we?
Thanks to /u/Throzen, /u/boyd86, and /u/smoked_herring for these drams.
North Star Vega 28 1990
Price: € 130
Number of bottles: 800
Nose: Mango, roses, Macintosh apple, lime zest, peanut, coconut milk
Floral, tropical, very distinct apple notes, all in here. The sherry isn’t completely taking over and there are obviously well-developed elements, even from that grain stuff that some in the industry would have you believe is the cure to all that ails you.
Taste: Strawberry, caramel, pistachio, lime juice, chocolate milk, caramel
Good balance of sherry here, more than the nose with nuttiness coming through and some of that strawberry/non-rich red fruit note. Lots of caramel still though, so it’s not “hey this is high proof sherry”, it’s actually whisky.
You’re welcome. I just proved what the label said. Not all heroes wear capes.
Finish: Cherry, button mushrooms, lime zest, peanut, herbal, caramel
This has a long finish where Sherry is driving the bus. It’s more of that acidity and nuttiness, good herbal notes that come from water. There’s a big hit of the earth here.
Conclusion: Sherry-driven (though not dominated), well-done complex dram. There are times where I have a blend, or really a vatted dram from a distillery, and I wonder if the better components were saddled with some whisky they had to make some money off of.
This whisky I didn’t get that. Complex, fun, good balance, nice complexity, good flavours that mixed well. This is what we should be aiming for, and if you’re into sherried whiskies, would be a no-brainer to pick up.
North Star Spica 29 1989
Price: € 100
Number of bottles: 1,000
Colour: 7.5YR 3/6
Nose: Butterscotch, banana funk, dragonfruit, floral, cotton candy
Tropical and tart note. My wife said dragonfruit, I said a weak kiwi. It’s like a light tropical fruit note. Water makes this go from funky to really, really sweet. Like it goes from “oh, those bananas need to be made into muffins” to “if I eat this, I’m gonna need to go for a run today to work off the energy”.
Taste: Salt, banana, caramel, candy floss, oak, honey
Simpler taste, though it starts out doing this whole salt and sweet thing… then the salt wears off and I gotta do another walk around the block. Wow sweets.
Finish: Funk/sweat, Smarties, passionfruit, Sprite-y, banana, oak
Long finish. Again, great start, good funkiness, some strong sweets, more tropical, and then more sugar and sugar water and sugar.
Conclusion: All over the place, too much sweet flavour, though some good funk. Swing and a miss, though still nice.
I feel like they took a funky whisky, like a Tobermory or maybe a Springbank, and used a bit of it and then a lot of other really, really sweet things. This comes off as candy. I really couldn’t have more than one.
I was speaking to the friend who poured this for me and he mentioned as it oxidized more it the mineral really ramped up. Which is good, right? Well, now it’s too minerally. I can’t say myself, though I think this is another swing and a miss.
North Star Vega 22 1996
Price: € 92.60
Number of bottles: 1,205
Colour: 5Y 7/8
Nose: Nectarine, cream cheese, honey, molasses
Alright, starts out tart and sweet. But more like “I’m having a healthy-ish breakfast” sweet. Like you mixed cream cheese and fruit and some honey together and you’re a yuppie now. Welcome. Please pick up your privilege and sweaters on the right.
Taste: Mineral/gravel, green apple, cinnamon, grass, cotton, pepper
Lots of minerals, and some distinct tart apple and then… well kinda stalls there. Get some heat, some floral… Nothing is really popping here. Time brings out a bit more but it’s just gentle.
Finish: Brown sugar, cloves, ginger, butter, anise
The finish is short and spice heavy. It’s a bunch of spice with nothing to really grab onto. The butter isn’t strong enough to hold it back. It’s like a Cinnabon but more of a let down because they lost the bun part.
Conclusion: Meh. I don’t hate this, but it’s easy drinking as heck. There’s going to be people who’ll love it because it’s “smooth”. So if you love smooth whisky, here you go. You’ll have an age statement, it can be a birth year bottle, and yuppies will love it.
Myself? It’s a mix of simpler flavours and I’m too “experienced” for that to work for me. I wanted more, it’s not my style, maybe next time.
Scotch review #1310-2, Blend review #116-118, Whisky Network review #1965-7