Thanks to /u/ScotchGuy_TO for sharing a dram with me (and splitting the bottle with me) for the year end tasting.
I’m not really nice to single grain whiskies, which is probably because I’m not a fan of drinking solvent. Granted I’m also Canadian, and our whiskies are majority single grain that’s aged in a cold climate, so perhaps my bias is showing.
That said, I’ve been interested in the odd single grain over the years. Thus it should come as no surprise that I’d be down to split a bottle of the distillery once known for making “one of the more flavoursome grain whiskies around”, to quote scotchwhisky.com. I am, of course, talking about North of Scotland, which was located in the Lowlands prior to being demolished.
Which yes, for you geography nerds out there, will note that’s not really the north of Scotland at all, and rather close to the south.
North of Scotland started in 1957, after the building was converted from a brewery. We know the stills were quite high, so high in fact that they had to be set into pits in the distillery since the roof wasn’t high enough. Being a grain distillery, most North of Scotland went right into blends, and their malt whisky producer sibling Strathmore saw the same.
Like most good things, the North of Scotland distillery died in the 1980s. Thanks Thatcher, probably. The whole thing was demolished, and the former king was no more.
There is a 2017 release of North of Scotland as an OB (official or original bottling, I mix them up but mean the same thing), however we’re not here to talk about Official Bottlings, contrary to my recent run. No, we’re talking about North of Scotland 50 1970 Douglas Lain Xtra Old Particular The Black Series, a name so long that I instinctively breathed in deep as I read it.
Cask strength, refill ex-bourbon, limited run, pulled at the first month you could slap a 50-year age statement on the bottle. But how does it taste? As someone who’s had some really, really sad single grains, what will the former king be like? Bottom of the top, or top of the bottom, if you will.
Let’s see, shall we?
Distilled: December 1970
Bottled: January 2021
Number of bottles: 215
Cask No. DL 14548
Cask type: Refill Barrel
Colour: 2.5Y 8/8
Nose: Charred oak, being in a field of violets on a Spring day, Minute Maid orange juice, soap gum, pumpernickel
Holy fuck that’s a lot. Alright, let’s try and take my word soup and explain it.
It’s not over-oaked. I’ve had many a hyper aged, younger whisk(e)y that has more oak. No, it’s like being around freshly burnt wood, and very, very floral. Not to mention very strong, syrupy orange juice.
Soap Gum – In Canada we have a gum that tastes like soap. It’s fucking weird, I don’t like it, and I love the flavour of floral in my whisky. But it’s here. And there’s this yeasty, odd, funky note. Very weird whisky.
Taste: Mandarin orange, icing sugar, Galaxy brownies, Mini wheats, cashews, papaya
Exception to my hatred of oranges? Give me the small ones. Mandarin oranges, clementines, honey mandarins, all of that. Love them. And that’s the note here. Or it’s at least sweet enough to have that.
Also there’s moments of sharp sweet notes, cereal, nuttiness, and tropical elements. Again, super weird, but it all works. It’s just a very large break between, you know… Drinking Scotch with typical Scotch flavours.
Finish: Having a bubble bath, brine, pomelo, orange, cocoa butter, ash, lemongrass
That’s a lot of soap. And acidity, some cocoa butter (not as earthy as cocoa by itself). Or maybe that’s more of the sharp sweet notes. But then it’s grassy and more of the oak is there.
Conclusion: That’s about my maximum amount of soap I’m fine with… in my food. I have no maximum, go wash your god dang hands, we’re in an endemic for fucks sake.
What an odd, lovely, fun whisky. First off: You’re buying this if you are a Lowland fan. Full stop. Well, that and you can afford it, but let’s leave that alone. There is a lot of citrus, and while I feel the sugar balances it, I’d be a massive hypocrite if I didn’t mention my bias against round Florida death fruit isn’t coming into play. Beyond that? I’m in a very happy place. It’s too bad more people won’t be able to try this. In the writeup on the distillery I never read who used North of Scotland in their blends, however once I find out, that’ll be a dusty I’d like to taste (like a GILF but more likely).
If you, like me, are into Lowlands, then this is well worth your time. It’s not just another single grain that never got picked by the blends. I’ll have a hard time not grabbing samples or bottles of future releases.
Well, other than my wallet physically stopping me, but hyperbole aside, I hope I get to try more.
Scotch review #1536, Lowland review #67, Whisky Network review #2256