Balblair is well-known for its old whiskies – it tends to sell only a few vintages, dating back quite some time (the oldest on their website being the 1965 vintage – a snip at £1260…). So I ordered a sample of the 1978 vintage through Master of Malt to see what the fuss was about.

Colour: remarkably light and straw-like for a whisky that’s been sitting in wood all that time. On the nose: it pretty much comes in two waves. There’s the surface vanilla and honey notes, then a load more fruits, pineapple juice. A creamy, buttery, blood orange.

In the mouth: superb balance, a mixture of deep sweetness and possibly peaty smoke and spice. Oaky and with a lot of bourbon affecting the character. Quite understated… and potentially quite dull, for what it is. All these flavours – they’re nothing outstanding. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, it’s mature, it’s got a lot of class about it. Ticks all the right boxes – Bells, it ain’t.

But at over £130 a bottle?

I’ve had significantly younger whiskies that have been more interesting and characterful. You could easily spend that money on some much more sophisticated whiskies. Stick to getting a sample, like I did.


I've written about (and reviewed) whisky for Whisky Magazine, among other publications, and have been a whisky judge for competitions including the World Whiskies Awards. I've done other writing too: several mass market genre novels, a few short stories, including for BBC Radio 4. For my day job (I know, I don't get out much) I work in digital content. Follow me on or Generally, my tastes lean towards ex-sherry cask and ex-wine cask influences on the spirit, but I'm not so fussed as long as the whisky's gone into good wood.

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