There are plenty of old whiskies around like this. Whilst many bottlings in recent years have become premiumised and over-priced, supermarkets’ Aldi and Lidl found a working model that offered its customers old juice at low prices. One could argue that North Star Spirits sit somewhere in between these premiumised and budget models. We all like what NNS are doing and how they are doing it, but that doesn’t mean I’m an automatic fanboy of everything they release. Not all NSS bottlings are [or can be] stellar.
N: Once I’d acclimatised to the sulphur and given it a few days to settle, a characterful elegant soup of flavour emerges with all manner of cakes and sweet treats. Namely, Window Chapel Cake, sweet pickled walnuts, walnut stone & fig jam, fatty fudge, root ginger…. This could hold it’s own against many esteemed and premiumised malts but at the same time it wouldn’t go amiss as a 30yo Aldi Christmas special, especially those from a while back. This often reminded me of the Trojan [WLP], any number of beautifully well-aged often sherry-matured undisclosed 1970s Speysider’s, Lidl’s 25yo Glenalba [WLP], and occasionally even Balblair’s 1969 vintage [WLP]. As elegant as it is on the nose, has it got the steam to hold up to the palate? At 46.2% it’s got every chance, but a soft profile on the nose often means it’ll be soft and/or sharp to taste. That nose though, once the sulphur settles down, is a cracker – impressive and immersive with new pleasures every re-visit.
T: Initially, soft and instantly disappointing narrow acute peppery slightly fatigued arrival. Soon becomes oaky, peppery sharp and citrus=spearmint fresh before a rapid dip in intensity.
As the days turn to weeks my perspective changes. Like the nose, I find there’s a dichotomy between the subtle layered complexities that talk of rancio raisins & old dusty chesterfields, and the contemporary nature of active sherry-syruped finishing casks. Does it work? Yes, at times. When it fires, there’s all manner of olfactory joys. On the other hand, it’s occasionally all too easily relatable to the bolt-on mechanics of so many sherry-activated/invigorated old-timers and young/juvenile contemporary whiskies for that matter. However, even when it struggles to fully rise, what’s certain is there is a dignity to this blended malt that can be lacking with less well-considered presentations. Don’t add much water because it can easily drown, but adding a few drops leads to an amelioration of delectable dried fruits and oaky fruit syrups in a way that only whisky can provide.
F: Sulphury dusty/woody-dry tail with hints of nutty tobacco. What’s commendable is the restraint of the ‘finishing’ for this old-timer. That’s where the Alid/Lidl offering often falls down the most. With an oaky doughy pancake finish, some quality sherry [cask] notes linger with a nice humming light syrupy-sweet ashiness at the death – dependent on water management/sip size/air intake,… honestly, it’s such a sensitive malt.
C: There’s lovely stuff to glean but those old joys don’t always surface. Overall, very good aged whisky for the price but I won’t miss the bottle. OK, maybe a little for that nose.