A couple of months ago on Twitter we threw out a message asking for suggestions about distilleries, whiskies or independents we should cover more. The responses were interesting to compile and we’ll maybe do it again in the near future.
There’s so much whisky being released nowadays that the competition for your spare cash is a virtual bloodbath. Take for instance the last few days in my world. A Cadenhead’s international outturn with a clutch of interesting whiskies amongst the field. Then as I write this, the latest Scotch Malt Whisky Society outturn and the Springbank Society. That’s all within the space of a few days without venturing online or into a store. Ridiculous.
More than ever before we rely on word of mouth, shared bottles and recommendations of others we trust. These are still vital resources for my own purchases and important considerations when I’m weighing up purchasing a bottle. You can just go on gut instinct, the track record of the distillery or bottler. Perhaps there’s an interesting cask variation? Such as that young Miltonduff Cadenhead’s bottled that was matured in a Laphroaig cask. On paper that’s an exciting proposition; one to prompt the purchase if you won the chase. Needless to say this Balblair comes from our Twitter shout out, so thanks to whoever suggested this release!
Balblair is another distillery on the rise thanks to a continuous assortment of releases that have found favour with many enthusiasts. For many years you’d have to rely on the independent bottlings to give you the true potential of the distillery. Nowadays that has changed under the ownership of Inverhouse Distillers and now International Beverage Holdings Limited. Well priced, flavoursome whiskies that combine the approachability of a classic Speysider and the rugged appeal of the Highland region. Bottle at the right strength, don’t mess with the liquid and they will clearly come at the right price. The bottle your own distillery exclusive remains a core favourite here with 2 recent 2006 vintages namely Cask 448 and Cask 714 both receiving a thumbs up.
The distillery also goes on vintages, giving more prominence to the year of distillation than the time elapsed since. The 1991 3rd release which we’ll eventually review here, replaces the popular 1990 2nd release. Both of which featured American oak ex-bourbon casks and Spanish sherry butts. The advantage of the vintage style is it may highlight a particular high point such as with Ben Nevis and 1996 or a marriage that meets your desires as a consumer.
This dynamic is refreshing and removes some of the ghostly apparitions around an age statement. Yes, to a certain extent age does matter as an indicator and this is certainly true around the price attached to the bottle. Nothing is guaranteed in whisky, for example, I felt the Highland Park 25 year old is a much better whisky than the 30 and 40 year olds, or even my Dornoch cask at a year is tasting better than most of the young whiskies we’re seeing coming to market now. Age might look good in the trophy cabinet or on Instagram, but the liquid isn’t a dead cert.
This Balblair 1991 was released in 2018, making it around 27 years in age give or take. Bottled at a reasonable 46% strength this will set you back £122 via the Whisky Exchange or via Amazon around £125.
Balblair 1991 3rd release – review
Colour: a golden toffee
On the nose: I’m torn betwen mint leaf and cinnamon, there’s almost a marriage of both. A freshness and vitality that comes through admirably supported by the vanilla pod. More spice with ginger then a honey oat cereal influence and burnt orange peel. Notes of chocolate, pine resin, ripe pears and a gorgeous summer fruits dynamic.
In the mouth: joyous arrival and fruit explosion with a lingering vanilla caramel finish. A very delicate layer of spices from the sherry cask influence with cloves, cinnamon all-spice and nutmeg. Wine gums, stewed apples, peaches and dark chocolate. All subtle elements without any taking the lead. A lovely summer orchestra and harmonious experience.
That moment when a whisky and price comes together. There’s little to fault here in reality. Yes, maybe a higher strength or a bit more detail on the plate perhaps, but these are minor quibbles of someone seeking perfection. This is a well aged Balblair for a stonking price. This will sell exceptionally well, so grab a bottle while you can. I know I will.
You can read our scoring guide for more information.
Lead image from the Whisky Exchange plus there are a couple of commission links within the review if you are inclined. We purchased a sample for this review.