How are we all feeling about 50cl sized bottles nowadays?
When they first arrived on the scene, I can still recall the reluctance and disbelief with such a format. Since then, we’ve had several years to get used to the idea and the need to scan the online details, or the label, for the confirmation of size. We’ve had bottles come in all shapes and sizes to camouflage the small quantity of liquid within. Some more successfully than others, but it’d be fair to state that a large proportion of the market remains sceptical of 50cl bottles.
In reality, they are here to stay. Whisky continues to rise in price and demands on distilleries to produce are excessive. The smaller distilleries I do feel the need to consider small size releases. We’ve had 35cl bottles from Cardrona and 50cl from Langatun and Smögen to highlight but a few. Proving that this isn’t just a UK problem, it’s a whisky problem in general.
This is especially true for the smaller distilleries who put a great deal of time, effort and investment into their distillate before it even touches the wood. The types of distilleries that make today’s destination in Edradour, look like a Glenlivet wannabe in comparison. Such distilleries have shunned the most efficient route to market because they cannot compete with the big boys on scale, price, economies of scale and so on. They can only succeed with the quality of their liquid and delivering flavour but not on an output scale of Waterford, which is a titanic of the new distilleries, compared to Nc’nean, Dornoch and suchlike.
And while you’d hope that there was a magic whisky wand loitering somewhere in Scotland and approved by the Scotch Whisky Association. The reality is that most distilleries cannot up their production overnight, miraculously produce more maturing stock or hope to meet the torrent of demand. There’s a seesaw effect and like most things in life, you have to consider both sides.
Reducing the size of the bottle does soften the financial outlay for bottle chasers. It also means there’s more to go around, which in theory translates into for every 10 bottles purchased there’s a higher percentage that someone will open one✻. If you listen closely and put your ear to the ground, you can sometimes hear the vibrations of astonishment from shocked influencers that someone opened that Càrn Mòr Mortlach, or another lowly priced bottle you wouldn’t consider flipping material. These are crazy times indeed and we’re slowly losing sight of what’s it’s all about. Whether everyone is jumping onboard the flipping parade now I don’t believe is the case. Many of us have been restrained at home. Unable to go and spend, invest, or travel. It seems as if there is a new segment in the whisky market, buying up everything limited or new, in a speculative manner, as some form of lockdown pursuit.
Ballechin is pretty rare stuff indeed. We’ve talked about the distillate and its origins in a previous article. But it’s worth remembering that until recently, Edradour only devoted 10% or thereabouts of its annual production to this heavily peated variant. Mark and I have been pretty impressed by the standard of whisky coming out of Edradour in any form right now. After the impressive Ballechin 2007 Côtes de Provence, we felt it was time to return to a more natural presentation, even if it comes as a 50cl bottle with a twee wooden box.
This Ballechin was distilled on 3rd October 2008, bottled on 18th December 2018 at 60.8% strength. We think this was only recently shipped out of Pitlochry due to COVID-19 and the need to explore other retail channels beyond the distillery shop, or someone found a box at the back of a warehouse. Bourbon cask #280, provided 317 bottles and is available from Master of Malt for £66.95 and comes in a dinky 50cl bottle with the aforementioned wooden box. The Whisky Exchange have this one online for £69.95.
Ballechin 10 Year Old 2008 SFTC – Jason’s Review
Colour: a light caramel.
On the nose: not as forceful as I had anticipated, instead, the peat builds nicely with elements of earth and bacon showcasing balance and restraint. Hazelnuts and then the fruit comes through with green apples, Kiwi Fruit and pear drops. There’s a dulled vanilla, wet wool and hickory chips. A used shammy and adding water releases more of the fruit aspect from the peat alongside honey and rock candy.
In the mouth: an enjoyable texture is present and more harmony with the peat which builds nicely throughout with a peppery and earthy finish. Elements of toffee, kindling and chalk persist. It takes water well, becoming more rounded and pleasurable without showcasing anything new.
Ballechin 10 Year Old 2008 SFTC – Mark’s Review
Colour: a brilliant gold.
On the nose: very ashy and medicinal peat, tempered by some lovely citrus note: lemon sponge cake drizzled in golden syrup and custard. Moss, slightly earthy, wet bark, bay leaves. Burnt sugar, more vanilla – crème brûlée most definitely. There’s something pleasingly old-school about this, as if it’s a classic hits album.
In the mouth: very bright and intense, with hot chilli pepper heat, almost Sriracha sauce with an added sweetness. Please do give it water to bring it down, where the peat feels more approachable. Reminds me of Port Charlotte in some respects, and there’s a delightful citrus note; nutty, with toasted almonds. Sage. Underneath it, all the spirit has a very good mouthfeel with decent oils (even with the water). It’s a very exuberant peat, full of life and optimism rather than being mellow or down in the dumps.
I had such high hopes for this whisky. Such expectations weren’t met and I could be easily disappointed by the whole experience yet it is still a good dram. Arguably noting the size of the bottle (and doing the maths) a little more expensive than it should be. Ditch the box and either give us a little more or push the price downwards.
I’m left with a dram that allows people to step into the realm of Ballechin before the big bruisers arrive. And in that respect, it does have a purpose. As for the box? Today should all be about recycling so we’ll find a use for it somewhere in the Malt office.
Well, yet more excellence from Edradour. I don’t know what it is, but they feel like a bit of a portal back in time. A shit portal, admittedly, which only takes you back 10 years or more, but it seems to be this is the very reasonably priced sort of whisky to have pleased many a hardened bearded geek of the day (pre-lockdown, and pre-hipster beards, naturally).
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✻the current belief is for every 10 bottles sold, only 4 are opened – I just made that up but it makes you think eh?