I have quite the backlog of whiskeys to get through and subsequently review, but after a care package arrived from Shane McCarthy of Two Stacks, everything instantly got dropped. Having been presented with four samples and their new Dram in a Can, my attention was immediately drawn to the Polaris 1.2, given my fondness of the 1.1, reviewed by the WOL a few months back.
I graciously receive whiskey quite often, but by no means does this equate to a biased and influenced review; I score the whiskies by their own merits. Now that that is out of the way, I can focus on the actual liquid and the Polaris series. Shane informs me that the Polaris series will be characterised by quality, taking advantage of the best casks and spirits they can get their hands on. This doesn’t necessarily mean that their other merits are less good; it’s just that there is a focus here on different aspects: rarity, quality, taste, and, I suppose for them, price.
Their relentlessness for rarity and sourcing quality whiskey again shows no sign of stopping. They recently acquired some 100-year-old Olorosso sherry casks from a bodega in Córdoba, Spain. The casks, which hold around 450-650 litres, now hold an ancient, re-discovered pot still distillate discovered by none other than Fionnán O’Connor. Two Stacks, albeit custodians of these unbelievable casks for Boann distillery, managed to acquire two casks for experimenting with in the future. I find myself becoming increasingly impatient for the next three years to go by so I can see the results from this. What may help is a visit to their new bonding warehouse. Officially opened with the commencement of Belfast Whiskey Week, some lucky individuals could get amongst the Two Stacks repertoire and came away with a goodie bag which I can only imagine had some exciting bits within. A visit is certainly on my cards; how incredible to see (and smell!) some 100-year-old casks holding some historic mash bills from Ireland.
Anyway, back to the whiskey. In February, I reviewed the Polaris 1.1, which I stated was a single malt sourced from the Great Northern Distillery, Co, Louth. The guys at Two Stacks then finished it in Ice wine casks from Ontario, Canada, for six months. The difference this time is that the sourced distillate from GND is a six-year-old pot still and is, according to Shane, one of the oldest from GND. It has then been matured in an ice wine cask for 12 months, six months longer than the previous. What will be interesting is the typical characteristics of a pot still whiskey and if the combination of maturation in an ice wine cask accentuates the ‘sweetfest’ that I described the Polaris 1.1 as having.
Price: Unknown as it remains unreleased for now. Expected to be released by the end of the year. Polaris 1.1 was sold at about £70, which should indicate the rough price-point to expect.
Nose: lashings of dried cranberries with a sprinkling of nutmeg. Lots of other dried fruit too: raisins and sultanas. Almost quite cakey and sweet, similar to a Victoria sponge. Lots of maraschino cherries
Palate: spice comes through in absolute spades, with lots of cinnamon and pink peppercorns. There’s also a hint of chilli flakes, making it quite the spice concoction—beautiful texture, so creamy and luscious. There’s a brief hint of smoke too, it hides within the cream, but the infusion is perfect. Some sweetness too, with hard-boiled sweets prevalent. It is balanced expertly.
Finish: more of spice, morphs more into cloves and some aniseed but lingers on more and more—long finish.
Okay, the score may suggest some hyperbole or over-exaggeration, but it certainly is not. This is an excellent whiskey, like seriously good. As previously stated, the 1.1 showcased a ‘sweetfest’ variety of notes and given the combination of a single malt with maturation in an ice wine barrel; the result was an excellent whiskey, balanced, considered and unassuming. However, the pot still variant gives it a completely different edge and depth; the spice is fantastic, and the heat and prickliness of the distillate are married perfectly with the ice wine cask—fruitiness, spice and sweetness all in one; superb.
I will add that given there is no indication of price, this could change the score. However, if priced similarly to the 1.1, I can’t see any changes necessary; I would happily pay that for a whiskey of this quality. I think that once a reviewer scores something as high as this, they ultimately put their neck and credibility on the line; I am happy to do so for this; I will be first in line for a bottle.
I sometimes get the impression that Two Stacks portray themselves as still finding their feet and learning their trade. From what I have tasted in this whiskey, their foundations have truly been solidified, and the competition has increased in terms of the bottlers, blenders and bonders contest.
Disclosure: As stated the sample that informed this article were provided to the Water of Life team by Two Stacks free of charge. Two Stacks have not had any other input into this article, nor has the Water of Life team relinquished any editorial control.
*note: given that the Polaris 1.2 has not been released yet, the featured image is of the 1.1