For our cheap sips articles we look at more budget friendly bottles. Our goal here is to find the diamonds in the rough. In these articles we limit ourselves to a maximum of £50 a bottle and focus on whiskies that are available all year round. This article is a little different as all three releases are actually small batches, and won’t necessarily be available all year round, but they’ll be around long enough for you to nab one if they take your fancy.
To mark the announcement of Dál Riata Distillery, the team at North Star Spirits have launched South Star Spirits. The first three releases are available now. These consist of a Highland, a Speyside and an Islay.
South Star Spirits Speyside
This is a release of ten first fill hogsheads vatted and bottled at 10 years old. South star have released 2,200 bottles.
There’s heaps of fruit on the nose, we’re getting red grapes, cranberries, and strawberries glazed in honey. With a little air and time we find there’s also some melted butter, orange juice. and a touch of plastic. Promising start.
On the palate there’s sweet notes of vanilla, cranberries and pineapple. This is followed by a little warming heat on the finish which would best be described as cinnamon. We really think they’ve nailed the ABV here it’s also got a good mouthfeel, and the alcohol is well integrated with just the right amount of spice.
On the reduced nose we find citrus has become the dominant note, digging deeper and we’re also getting toffee apples, buttered crumpets, salt and watermelon.
With the addition of water some of the fruitier notes have mellowed, and these now come across more like white sugar. The palate is now dominated by warm spicy notes like chilli and black pepper. There’s a salty note here now as well, and we’re finding this has dried out our mouth similar to what we’d expect from drinking a glass of red.
This is a little simplistic, but a good example of what a Speyside whisky is. Usually we prefer cask strength releases where we can add water to taste, but they’ve really nailed the ABV here, it’s tasty, and is a good price at just under £50. It’s an easy 8/10 for us, just don’t add water.
South Star Spirits Highland
Similar to the Speyside, this is a release of ten first fill hogsheads vatted and bottled at 10 years old. South star have released 2,200 bottles.
Initially we’re getting old spice aftershave, butter, pepper, some tobacco, and a note that we’re not enjoying, but are struggling to place. We’re not particularly enamoured by the nose. Maybe there's some Highland Park in here as we're finding some similarities between the two.. who knows..
Initially very spicy, there’s a heat here akin to red chillis. There’s also some faint notes of orange juice, dark chocolate, alcohol and a bitter note we’re not enjoying. We would have guessed this was bottle at above 48% given the bite of alcohol.
The reduced nose has a sweaty note, along with some treacle. We’re also finding the tobacco and black pepper notes are still fairly dominant here. Water hasn’t really helped much.
The reduced palate is not as spicy with water, but the heat still dominants the other flavours. We’re also getting the tobacco, and cracked black pepper from the nose on the palate now.
if you like the spicy tobacco notes we’ve listed above then this maybe a dram for you, but personally this is too hot with the heat overpowering the other notes. Definitely not for us.
South Star Spirits Islay
This is a release of ten hogsheads vatted and bottled at 8 years old. Again, South Star have released 2,200 bottles.
Not an overly complex nose here. We’re finding a distinct nuttiness here that we’ll say is cashew nuts. There’s also some butter and bonfire smoke. Air and time reveals some charcoal and malt.
The palate reminds us of ash covered marshmallows. There’s also a touch of salt, but it’s mostly just sweetness and light peat. There’s something here that reminds us of Ardbeg, but we’re going to guess this is Caol Ila, and not a bad one at that.
The reduced nose has some double cream, tobacco, and cereal/oats. We’re also getting a good amount sweet vanilla syrup coming through. Pleasant, but simple nose.
On the reduced palate the sweeter notes, marshmallows and vanilla are brought to the fore. With a little air we're seeing a herbal note develop along with more ash. This has a warming decent length spicy finish.
This is a generic Islay, and we don’t say that as an insult. It’s actually pretty tasty and would make a great introduction to peat. Like they have with the Speyside, South Star have created something here that’s a perfect example of what Islay whisky is all about. Another easy 8/10.
- 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
- 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
- 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
- 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
- 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
- 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
- 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
- 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
- 2 - Pour it out
- 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.
And that’s all folks. If you’d tried any of these we’d be interested in hearing you thoughts in the comments below. We’d also be interested to hear what other whiskies you’d like us to review in future articles.