North Star Spirits Ardbeg 15yo cask #5076 (Master of Malt Exclusive) & North Star Spirits Williamson (Laphroaig) 11yo


A couple of Islay malts released by North Star Spirits to kick the week off.

North Star Spirits Ardbeg 15yo cask #5076 (Master of Malt Exclusive)

Region: Islay

ABV: 61.0%

Price: £199.95

Distilled on 29th October 2008, this whisky spent 15 years maturing in a refill oloroso butt, before its bottling in October 2023. 120 bottles were released.

Nose

The nose opens with aromas of sea salt, dried seaweed, marzipan, and a backbone of smoke. Giving it air and there’s also wet earth, cashew nuts, milk chocolate, toffee pops, lime cordial, aniseed, cracked black pepper and a slight meatiness.

Palate

The palate opens with tar, ash, caramel, warming pepper spice, dirty water and toffee. The mouthfeel is good with a slight creaminess to it. The finish is a medium length with the ash and caramel notes lingering. Air reveals ginger spice, orange peel, bacon, and thyme.

Nose (with water)

Reduction has brought out some cloves, gingerbread, strawberry Chewits, more ash, and burnt caramel sauce. The lime note has been accentuated, while the wet earth has dried out and the pepper spice has disappeared. Water has opened the nose up nicely.

Palate (with water)

The reduced palate has less smoke, and is showing more sweetness largely in the form of brown sugar. It’s a little spicier now verging on a sweet chilli. The mouthfeel has held up well to a few drops of water. The finish is a little shorter, but there’s still a good amount of smoke and sweetness lingering. Overall the palate has held up well to reduction, and we’d suggest adding a few drops.

Conclusion

The cask has mellowed the Ardbeg spirit, adding a complexity to the dram, while also managing not to overpower the spirit. Good quality Ardbeg that benefits from a little reduction.

Score: 7.5/10

Value

While not cheap, when compared to other recent Ardbeg releases this is actually pretty competitively priced.


North Star Spirits Williamson (Laphroaig) 11yo

Region: Islay

ABV: 56.4%

Price: £150.00

Distilled on April 2012, this whisky spent 11 years maturing in a PX hogshead, before its bottling in April 2023. 240 bottles were released.

Nose

The nose is a little more restrained than expected, but initially we’re getting notes of treacle, cold butter on burnt toast, red apples, figs, a very light hint of tar, and vanilla icing sugar. Given its age we were expecting a bigger wallop of peat. We’re not sure we’d have guessed Laphroaig if we’d nosed this blind.

Palate

There’s notes of iodine, treacle, cured bacon, and cigar ash with a dark chocolate bitterness. You can really taste the alcohol on this one and we’d have guessed the ABV was higher. Good length finish with saltwater, peat and gingerbread spice dominating the finish. The mouthfeel is good, but not spectacular.

Nose (with water)

With a few drops of water we find liquorice, menthol, eucalyptus oil, cloves, more red apple, vinegar and dirty water appearing on the nose. The peat has transitioned into a more medicinal form, and it’s now more noticeable as a Laphroaig.

Palate (with water)

Water has reduced some of the alcohol bite, and bitterness, while pushing the peat to the fore of the dram. We’re also getting orange juice, cough sweets, and smoked kippers The mouthfeel has diminished somewhat, but the finish is still a good length. Like the nose, the palate is now more obviously a Laphroaig.

Conclusion

We usually prefer our Islay whiskies at cask strength without reduction, but this release like the Ardbeg benefits from a little water. Not our favourite our Laphroaig release, but still a solid dram. The Ardbeg pips it however so we’ll go with a 7/10.

Score: 7/10

Value

This feels a little pricey at £150. Berry Bros release similar aged Williamson releases for around £90.

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  • 10 - Perfection. One in a million
  • 9 - Outstanding. Exceptional whisky.
  • 8 - Great. Would seek this out.
  • 7 - Good. Quality whisky.
  • 6 - Above average. Happy to have a dram.
  • 5 - Average. Drinkable whisky.
  • 4 - Below average. Passable.
  • 3 - Flawed. Noticeable negatives.
  • 2 - Defective. Significant faults.
  • 1 - Offensive. Pour it out.

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