Good Spirits Company: Ralfy and NNS

Sometime last week, a great ‘virtual’ night was had, with whisky enjoyed and £1900 raised for charity. Of the subjects discussed, Iain Croucher of NNS starts us off by explaining that the “dribs and drabs” of whisky/cask-offerings from distilleries to brokers & independent bottlers can be worth more than the price of a house. Keeping his overheads low [no shop, no distillery, no bonded warehouses], price-point is important to Iain’s company, so finding some great casks at realistic prices is key to the success of NNS.

Amongst other things, a relaxed Ralfy mentioned WOWGR, something I had not heard about before, but essential reading for cask owners out there.

With six drams to get through, we begin.

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Vega 1996/2019 22yo NNS Limited Edition #6 [1205 bts] 43.9% WB87.51[42] WF88 & WF87[Angus]

Pronounced ‘Veega’ [by Iain], this blended malt is sherry-matured. Edrington [SW: ‘namely Glenrothes, Glenturret, Highland Park and Macallan, as well as being co-owner with Diageo of Edinburgh’s North British grain distillery‘] blended it, so it’s likely we won’t find out exactly what’s gone into it.

  • N: With oily briny sweetish chocolate showing first, this is a nose that talks of refill sherry cask maturation, though, there’s also is a dunnage-y bourbon profile underlying. Overall, this is an ultra-congenial blend with a consolidated air, yet with plenty of abv to sustain its vitality.
  • T: Like the nose, with age comes a desirable softness coupled with vibrancy. I find it desirably sweet with consolidated cask action that reminds me of whisky released around 10 years ago, when finishing wasn’t quite so deliberate or heavy-handed.
  • F: With a relaxed and sustained form, I love the gentleness of this one. I might have expected some congealed oiliness at the death, but there’s none of it. Clean malt oils ring true to the last.
  • C: This is right up my street. A whisky I could drink in quantity.

Scores 87 points

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Orkney 2007/2020 13yo NNS Cask Series #10 [308 bts] 59.6% WB88.17[37]

This is from a refill hoggie finished for around 6 months in PX. It was bought by NNS as an ‘Edrington Island Single Malt’, but it was agreed that using the Orkney moniker would also stand. Iain explains that this type of cask might be sold to brokers in their 1000s, whisky that might not fit the distillery profile for example.

  • N: Very malty creamy and raisin-sweet with a lovely toasted whisp of smoke, and even more smoke with water that soon moves towards shoe polish. Very competent if a little obvious, the PX finish a big driver.
  • T: Initially quite contrived though with more dirty interest developing soon after the arrival.
  • F: A fair amount of raisiny rubber but a desirable rubberiness, gritty phenols aiding much of the underlying interplay.
  • C: Despite the firm PX finishing influence and a fairly concise storyline, this is a refreshing take on Highland Park and the numerous official releases.

Scores 86 points

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Spica 1980/2020 40yo NNS cask series #10 [877 bts] 44.8% WB89.46[83]

Another Edrington pre-blended malt, this one made up from a bourbon barrel and a sherry butt with a 60/40 grain/single malt ratio.

  • N: Less ‘obvious’ than the Orkney yet a firm cask influence is noted. Furthermore, it’s grain-forward also, but what lovely grain it is, at a glorious age too. 40+ years for grain is so frequently the winning ticket. The nose is a cracker time and time again.
  • T: Same again, absolutely gorgeous grain with an agreeable malt support. With lovely age comes a salivating natural dryness.
  • F: A lovely sweet < bitterness with a malty > lactose underside,… and rich Smarties casings, concluding with a gentile/refill bourbon-matured base.
  • C: Spot on. Buy buy buy!

Scores 89 points

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Longmorn 2005/2020 15yo NNS series #10 Oloroso butt [596 bts] 63.1% WB89.85[50] WF87&WF85

Though everyone thought this bottling appeared expensive when first released [£125?], Iain knew it was a cracker. He tells us he hasn’t made a bean from this cask, despite it proving so popular amongst the plaudits and subsequent secondary market exchanges. Perhaps the lesson here is, if a NNS bottling seems more expensive than the often staggering BFYB releases, assume it’s probably be a cracker.

Given I have another virtual tasting after this, I decide to keep my Longmorn sample for another time. These were my notes of this superb whisky from another tasting a few weeks ago [WLP89]:

  • N: Dark/deep-sweet, dry-rich fruity squidgy lightly salt-seasoned oloroso nose which, unlike a ‘bomb’, washes over you rather than exploding in your face. Given time, I pick up on flavours that are rarely found in the majority of contemporary malts at this age. Add [tired] cola fudge-covered soft apple, supermarket armagnac, Nocino,…….. stop already [and get a bottle]. Try not to think of flat coke after watching the tasting video. This is darn on impossible not to like, but on an objective front, is the cask too dominant?
  • T: If not on the nose, you may think it’ll be a bomb on the palate, but even neat at 63.1%, it’s utterly agreeable. Having said that, let’s add water. It doesn’t need a lot before the bitter>sweet waxy fruitiness blossoms, and with old skool rancio vibes – wow! “Intelligent active wood“, says Iain, who states that Longmorn works best at this kind of age in single sherry casks. Underneath, a slightly sandy oaky thread supports the waxy-fresh fruitiness. I find this on the edge yet totally within itself. A marvel!
  • F: Some fine pencil shavings find their way onto the fusty oloroso path with a consolidated soft understated freshness, though how has this happened over 15 years in a first-fill oloroso butt at 63.1%, I do not know? The question remains, however: has the distillery character been lost, and if so, does it [always] matter?
  • C:A Killer, an absolute killer,……….. Eeked out before the cask came to dominate“, says Dave Broom. What a find, what a result, and still available from European shops for around €200. Imagine this having a Japanese label. What price then?

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Bowmore 2001/2020 18yo NNS series #10 [190 bts] 55.2% WB89.06[19] WF90

As Ian couldn’t afford a cask of 1960-70s Bowmore [and wishing to avoid some particularly infamous casks from the 80s and 90s], he settled on a more contemporary version. This is a re-review [WLP89].

  • N: No extra notes to add tonight since my last impressions, but with nothing out of place whatsoever, the nose is fabulously unctuous and chatty.
  • T: Not massively tropical for me, more farmy, but every character detail is measured. No soap, minimal violet, savoury for sure, sour,…..
  • F: Not overly complex at this stage, but faultless,…. A contemporary classic perhaps? This is the first whisky of the night where we didn’t talk of the cask mix, finishes, or indeed, rubber or vanilla.
  • C: As good as I found it just a few weeks ago. I’m not passionate about it but I regard it highly. Fantastic whisky, perhaps even deserving of a point higher today?

Scores 89/90 points

Glenturret 2010/2019 8yo NNS Cask Series #008 [330 bts] 58.3% WB88.25[4]

Glenturret was the first cask Iain ever bought when he worked for A D Rattray. Meanwhile, Ralfy recommends Drambuie for reaching mountain tops, followed by mentioning a liqueur Glenturret made years ago as being a great meeting of liqueur and malt spirit. I concur [WLP].

  • N: Starting with sour cheese and chive, this could surely pass, initially, as Ben Nevis. The descriptors start to flow with peanut oils, sesame oils, slight picked onion phenols – chive phenols,… you make your own list. ‘Scampi fries’ was offered also, and the saltiness.
  • T: An unusual smoked vegetal oiliness and unusual texture to boot. With Glen Scotia/Loch Lomond vibes [as well as a SMWS-like profile but with a controlled abv strength], this is a rather loveable oddball.
  • F: Not rough, but certainly homemade. Great! Up there with the better Glenturret I’ve had.
  • C: An odd profile that shows the idiosyncrasy of a distillery which, for years, was buried inside Famous Grouse, the blend, and the ‘Experience’. Think I’d like a bottle for its competent oddness.

Scores 87 points

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Taking the poll, I vote for 5 drams out of the 6. The HP, not so fussed, but good whisky all the same. I choose the Longmorn as my favourite [from before] – also the favourite overall – though the Spica and Glenturret are also hits as is the Vega. Naturally, the Bowmore remains highly regarded. What a cracking tasting!

With thanks to The Good Spirits Company, Ralfy and North Star Spirits.

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END

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2 thoughts on “Good Spirits Company: Ralfy and NNS

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