North Star English Whisky Co. 11 Year Old The Ben Charity Bottling

One stipulation of being married to a medical doctor (or at least, my medical doctor wife) made clear to me early on is that I am required to donate blood.

I was never reluctant to donate blood, and in fact remember as a child visiting the travelling blood bank in my hometown in Western Australia with my father, who donated hundreds of times. He told me that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in rural Western Australia, the local hospital would call him directly whenever the need for his blood type suddenly arose.

As an adult, blood donation was always in the back of my mind as something I ought to be doing, but getting out and doing it? A different story. Not due to fear of needles, nor fear of blood, but human laziness.

I’m pleased then that some years ago now, my wife applied enough pressure until I relented to regular donations. My local centre is a mobile blood bank that visits the nearby suburb of Williamstown, and for two weeks every three months they take over the theatre space inside the town hall. It is a strikingly atmospheric place to donate blood… and the snacks can’t be beaten.

Donating blood is also a convenient way to get a rudimentary health check every three months – weight, blood pressure, pulse; the statistics all stored online so you can track your health over the course of years.

All this is to say, that in terms of giving to the community, in terms of giving up my time in service of a worthy cause, you can’t say I do nothing. But I am reasonably ashamed that this is basically all I do (excluding two days a year working at a Salvation Army kitchen, but that is organised on a voluntary basis through my work, so I won’t give myself all the credit). I could do more, but once again… that human laziness. There are excuses! A full-time occupation. Two kids under ten. Spare time seems to disappear all too easily.

I tell myself: when I retire, I will get involved with community work a few days a week as both my parents do. That’s the plan, but that is years off.

One individual who is not waiting around to become involved in charitable giving is Iain Croucher of North Star Spirits. It’s fair to say where others may talk the talk, Iain walks the walk. I wrote about North Star’s bottling for the people of Ukraine last year. They’ve also done a 600 bottle outturn of 8 year old Caol Ila for Children’s Hospices Across Scotland.

Today’s release is in support of The Ben, a Scottish drinks and hospitality industry charity which dates back over 150 years. The Ben supports drinks and hospitality workers in need of assistance in the form of grants or financial support, as well as running an estate in Pitlochry with 18 bungalows offering accommodation for current or retired members of the industry.

A worthy cause, then. But then again, they are all worthy causes. You can’t possibly assist them all, but credit to North Star for doing what they have. The drinks and hospitality trade were hit as hard as anywhere due to COVID and the pain felt in the industry was very real.

North Star have produced a 102 bottle outturn of 11 year old English Whisky Co. from a Sauternes barrel. My experience with Sauternes matured whisky in particular is limited, though wine cask whisky isn’t exactly thin on the ground in Australia. Information on this release is somewhat limited and required some digging online; there is nothing on the bottle regarding the outturn or the maturation barrel.

A final thought before the review: why bottle an English Whisky for a Scottish charitable cause? It seems strangely perverse. Is there something I am missing?

North Star English Whisky Co. 11 Year Old The Ben Charity Bottling – Review

51.8% ABV. Paid $170 AUD, but appears to have sold out online.

Colour: Mahogany.

On the nose: Sweet spices, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. This gives way to sharper aromas of wood bark, chestnuts, red grapes, and plum jam. I mentioned Australian whisky above, and there are certainly similarities here. Later I detect a note of cardboard and an over-ripe bouquet of flowers. Shoelaces and book leather from old volumes. This is certainly a distinct style, and not a style I usually prefer.

In the mouth: Quite velvety on the palate, it has a soft arrival with almost no alcohol until the finish where there is some burn. Sweetness abounds, though: milk chocolate bars, glacé cherries, caramel ice cream. Some figs, warm apple crumble, and a hint of mint for which I am grateful. Butter chicken and banana bread. Quite drying ultimately in the mouth, and not a long finish.


The price on a charity bottling seems irrelevant; though in 2023 the $170 I paid is around par for 11-year-old single cask whisky, dependent on the distillery (triple that for Ardbeg, double that for Bruichladdich).

I expect all bottles of this have now sold, all funds have been distributed to The Ben, so I shouldn’t feel too guilty to say this isn’t my favourite dram from North Star. Luckily, we are at start of winter down here in Australia because I think this is a cold weather sipper; it may not last out the chilly months.

It’s a 4 or a 5. For the sake of The Ben, and in the spirit of giving, let’s round up.

Score: 5/10


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