Balblair 16 year old
Strength 40% vol
Nose: dark chocolate, raisins, honeycomb, digestive biscuits but something isn’t right here…
Taste: and the watery palate confirms it. Sadly this miniature did have a low fill level and has lost its character.
Overall: we’re unable to judge this one although I question why these zealous miniature collectors are happy to see their whisky evaporate.
Strength 40% vol
Nose: initially coconut and a handful of coffee beans. The sticky marmalade, apples and digestive biscuits rounded off by tablet.
Taste: a spicy express with cloves, pepper and all spice. Orange peel and more coffee beans.
Overall: passable but nothing more, its recognisable why Balblair revamped the range and ditched the Elements.
Strength 43% vol
Colour: melted butter
Nose: a real fruity freshness with strawberries, pears and kiwi fruit. Then we’re into a tub of Stork margarine, icing sugar and floral notes. Quite an outdoor dram with worn twine and a broom forest.
Taste: now this is what you’d associate Balblair as being today. Apples, sugar work, white grapes and fresh warm meringues.
Overall: a good solid Balblair offering, nothing special or provocative.
Strength 43% vol, bottled 2014
Nose: walnuts, orange peel, , warm toffee and a well worn leather chair. Fresh yeast, a touch of oak, black pepper oat cakes and chestnut puree.
Taste: a pleasing richness here with honey and caramel seeping through. Arrival of figs, dark chocolate, a little of ginger and raisins. For the finish I was picking up vanilla pod.
Overall: the use of Oloroso sherry butts for the couple of years have added another dynamic. Price around £100 it is expensive for some but well worth the extra cost due to the experience itself.
Strength 43% vol
Nose: apples a real buttery sense going on here – I’m thinking tarte tatin! Marzipan, a floral heather note and sugary tablet. Honey check, a minty freshness and kiwi fruit.
Taste: unexpected this not as fresh as the nose suggested. A little ash, black pepper combined with an oily texture. Oatcakes and that dirty vanilla once again with blood orange dominating.
Overall: I really connected with the nose on this one but the actual palate wasn’t characteristic of Balblair we know today. An interesting experience but not one I can recommend.
Strength 43% vol
Colour: spring water with a twist of lemon
Nose: rich tea biscuits combined with the sugary sweetness of barley drops. Orange zest and what I’d say is dirty vanilla a combination of crisp freshness and a real blackened quality. Perhaps this carries onto the fenugreek leaves I picked up before diving into posset.
Taste: More lemons with ripe pears. Jumbo oats and toast adding a cereal aspect with drop scones rounding off the experience.
Overall: one to enjoy for its simplicity and straight lines.
SMWS 70.11 Sweet, clean, juicy and moreish
9 years old, 59.2% vol, 244 bottles, refill bourbon cask
Colour: cloudy lemonade
Nose: lemon drizzle cake, icing sugar, yeast, cotton sheets and dirty vanilla with basil leaves.
Taste: more icing sugar sweetness mixed with limoncello, vanilla and char from the cask.
Overall: not hugely detailed by again enjoyable starter dram for its approachability and freshness.
Balblair 1997 distillery bottle your own
18 years old, cask 1715, abv 52.8%, ex-bourbon cask
Colour: cobalt yellow
Nose: lively Balblair this one with heather honey, vanilla, dark chocolate flakes (jeez I sound like the Balblair manager who does their tasting notes), caramel, almond nougat, orange peel, a touch of smoke and golden syrup.
Taste: more honey and vanilla but also ginger. Lemon, apple
Overall: this one will set you back £120 at the distillery and once the cask is empty its gone for good. Julie who does the tours at Balblair felt it was one of the best bottle-your-owns they’ve done and whilst I haven’t tasted every such cask, it is a lovely drop.
Balblair 1985 Gordon & MacPhail
30 years old, 43% vol, 244 bottles, refill bourbon cask
Nose: honey and vanilla, oddly rose petals and talcum powder. A handful of used copper coins and wine gums.
Taste: bitter at first with the cask wood dominating then more vanilla, caramel with leathery and tobacco notes.
Overall: a very well rounded and solid whisky but if you’re looking for something a little more crazed try the next fella…
Balblair 1993 Gordon & MacPhail
21 years old, 53.4% vol, cask #1962, 1st fill sherry puncheon
Colour: glorious treacle
Nose: a rich texture of cherries, blackcurrants, raisins, more treacle and black pepper. I’m also picking up ground coffee beans, rubber bands and smashed red grapes.
Taste: rich dark chocolate, honeycomb and tar. Braised beef and caramel follow in this sticky glass of glory.
Overall: utterly bonkers but fantastic fun. A great cask and Balblair unite to pull off something extraordinary.
30 years old, 46% vol, 1st release
Colour: dirty carat gold
Nose: huge sweetness with juicy pears, sherbet and syrup. Moving on butterscotch, honey and spiced marzipan. Given time there’s a tropical Caribbean flavour coming through with coconut and what I’d say is rum fudge!
Taste: in a word its juicy again. More vanilla, cinnamon and icing sugar then the wood rises up and gives this a real dirty (but enjoyable) undercurrent. A long finish persists with a hint of tobacco leaves.
Overall: not a huge malt in terms of rich flavours on the palate but it exudes a real confidence. What it provides it does extremely well and a lovely finish rounds off a memorable dram.
And that’s another vertical done! Quite a few highlights here in retrospect. Very enjoyable bottle your own, the 1983 and not forgetting the 1990. I could have thrown in a review of the 2004 sherry travel exclusive which is also excellent and well priced from an earlier piece here. Yet the most memorable are the independent offerings from Gordon & MacPhail including that 1993, 21 year old.