North Star Annandale 2015 7 Year Old (Series 21) & Caol Ila 2014 8 Year Old North Star Port Octave (Series 20)


Two North Star releases today including our first review of a whisky from Annandale Distillery.

North Star Annandale 2015 7 Year Old (Series 21)

Region: Lowlands

ABV: 54.9%

Price: £86.00

This 7yo release was was distilled in 2015 and bottled in 2022. It spent its entire maturation in an oloroso Sherry Butt. 458 bottles were released.

Nose

We're met with smouldering logs, brown sugar, raspberries and prunes. Going back to it and there’s some ginger, soil and mint leaf. It’s a good nose that shows promise and doesn’t give away its age. A little time in the glass reveals meaty pork, rice crackers, yeast, and fresh strawberries.

Palate

The palate begins with cinnamon sticks, smoke, dirt and cracked black pepper. We’ll be honest, we were expecting more sherry sweetness. It’s also a touch hot, but saying that it’s still within reasonable balance. As we go back to it we’re getting treacle and a little fizzy cola. The mouthfeel is touch disappointing and a little watery for the strength. It has a short finish with caramel and spice from dark chocolate ginger biscuits lingering.

Nose (with water)

Initially there’s notes of cheap brown sauce, aniseed, and beef gravy. As we go back to it there’s a nice sherry sweetness in the background along with freshly laid tar, and a more pronounced mint leaf note. The dirty earth note now reminds us of a muddy puddle.

Palate (with water)

Water has initially reduced some of the spice on the palate, allowing the sweeter notes to shine. The spice however comes back with a vengeance, mainly towards the short finish. Mouthfeel also remains a touch disappointing. As we go back to it the sweetness seems to turn bitter. Think dark chocolate and burnt caramel. We recommend passing on water in this one.

Conclusion

It’s on the more interesting side of sherry cask releases we’ve tried. We may sound critical of this, and while it does have its flaws we have a soft spot for this that’s hard to explain. It doesn’t taste its age and the flavours that are here are interesting... at least as long as they last. We’ll give this a 7/10 and make a note to try some more Annandale in the future.

Score: 7/10


Caol Ila 2014 8 Year Old North Star Port Octave (Series 20)

Region: Islay

ABV: 51.2%

Price: £75.00

This release was distilled April 2014 and matured for 8 years in a port octave before being bottled September 2022, as part of North Star Spirits Series 20.

Nose

Initially we’re getting very little smoke or port influence with the dominant notes being warehouse funk, melted butter on crumpets, and a little dirt from freshly pulled vegetables. As it sits in the glass it develops notes of red berries, and red jelly babies that have slowly started to melt on a bbq. One final sniff reveals cotton candy and ash. Again another promising nose.

Palate

It's sweeter on the palate than the nose with red cola and strawberry jam nicely balanced by peat smoke. It has a good mouthfeel with a good length finish and just a hint of ginger spice lingering along with a little smoke and the sweeter notes. Going back to it and there’s seaweed, aniseed, liquorice, cloves and Arbroath smokies still in the smoke hut.

Nose (with water)

Reduction brings out ketchup, golden syrup, a smoke filled saloon, earth, Cadbury eclairs and week old red wine. The smoke has dissipated somewhat and is now appearing more like burnt paper.

Palate (with water)

The alcohol remains well balanced although it’s now a touch spicier. The undiluted palate notes remain broadly similar but now we can pick out ginger bread men and a synthetic sweetness/white sugar with the peat having diminished. Mouth feel remains good as does the finish. There’s a perfume note from musk pulling through also a hint of lavender. It is quite dry even with the sweeter notes.

Conclusion

Caol Ila’s get released so frequently that you really have to deliver something special to stand out, and while this is a solid Caol Ila it doesn’t reach the level where we feel we need a bottle. Saying that, £75 is a pretty good price in todays whisky market, and if you purchased one we’re sure you’ll be happy with it

Score: 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.

    Interested in trying drams like these? We've created the Two Whisky Bros Dram Club to help you get access to high quality, rare whisky by the dram.

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