Balblair

Balblair
It’s fascinating to experience a brand of whisky that offers a whole host of expressions that are not to the norm. Vintages can be seen as an exclusive way to release something special, whether it corresponds with a certain milestone year, or a particular one-off style that’s never to be seen again. Indeed these sort of expressions become highly sought-after, and are rarely seen on a shelf within your favourite whisky haunt.

Balblair have seemed to buck the trend on this.

They only create vintages that are ‘timed to perfection’, and have done since 1790. No 12-year-old in sight. No 18-year-old to speak of. But a 1999 vintage? No problem.

But why this way? Lets take a look.

The Balblair Distillery was established back in 1790 in Dornoch Firthby by a local man, John Ross (although the first known records date from 1749) and was soon joined by his son Andrew. Eventually, the sons and grandsons of John Ross operated the Balblair farm and distillery until the last years of the 19th century until the sale of Balblair Distillery to Alexander Cowan in 1894. Cowan brings Balblair into the 20th Century by building the present offices, still house, mash house, kiln and barns.

After the launch of the Highland Railway Company rail line between Inverness and Ardgay in 1862, Balblair started to take advantage of its use and moved the distillery half a mile north to its current location in 1895. Unfortunately, due to the tough economic times, Balblair Distillery shut in 1911, with the last drop of whisky leaving the warehouse in 1932.

Despite a brief use of the building by the army, 1948 saw Robert James “Bertie” Cumming, a solicitor from Banff, purchase the distillery for £48,000, with production resuming just a year later and expanding with extra warehouses and the first steam boiler in 1964. In 1970 though, Cummings sold the Balblair Distillery to Hiram Walker, the company that later becomes Allied Distillers. This era saw the renovation of the distillery throughout the 1980’s until its sale to Inver House Distillers in 1996.

It was in 2007 that Balblair opted for the bold move to only release Balblair as a Vintage Whisky, with the first vintages released being 1997, 1989 and 1979 in March 2007. It’s said that “Each Balblair Vintage captures the essence of its year in a bottle. They’re only ever selected at the absolute peak of perfection. Handpicked, to represent the very best our Distillery has to offer”.

I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some of the Balblair Vintages, so below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Balbair 1975 – 46%

Fresh citrus and coconut notes on the nose. Sweet and spicy on the palate with honey and fruits on the finish. Warming.

Balbair 1989 – 46%

Apple and raisin notes on the nose and then combines with spice flavours on the palate. A long, rich offering with raisin dominating throughout.

Balblair 1991 – 43%

Bold and fresh notes of honey and butter, with subtle cherry finding its way through. Soft green fruits on the palate creating a very dry, almost ash driven finish.

Balblair 1997 – 46%

Tropical fruits on the nose with apples, honey and vanilla coming through.  A hit of sweetness on the palate, but spice soon follows that creates a long, long finish.

Balblair 1999 – 46%

The second release of the 1999 that replaces the award-winning second release of the 1997 Vintage.
Honey and leather notes on the nose, with subtle hints of lavender coming through. Sharp lemon skin upon the palate, staying at the front of the mouth whilst the rest enjoys smooth vanilla and honey mixed with waves of bold spice. Long finish.

Balbair 2002 – 46%

Floral fruits on the nose with hints of vanilla and toffee following, A good mix of spice and sweetness on the palate with orange and lemons dominating.

 

 

Balblair 2004 – 46%

Bourbon matured. Light nose with no distinctive aromas coming through. Slight malt honey on the odd occasion. Dry orange with light, sweet hints available. A short and very dry finish.

Some fantastic whisky expressions here, and as you’d imagine, not the range that you would start to mix up a cocktail with. The odd drop of water would open up a few of the above, but personal rule is to enjoy it as it comes, and the Balblair range, currently, do not disappoint. A couple for the drinks cabinet won’t go amiss.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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Manchester Whisky Club

Manchester Whisky ClubI’ve been a bit lax lately in posting up the last few Manchester Whisky Club meetings, but after finding a spare evening, I’ve decided to consolidate the missing drams into one, all found with tasting notes below –

March saw the theme of Photo Finish, a look at the prospect of different cask finish and maturation styles within whisky.

Deanston Virgin Oak – 46.3%

Light on the nose with a slight spice, fresh corn and plenty of wood elements. A developing spice on the palate, quite mouth-watering that produces a smooth, long finish that has a slight cherry and pepper finish.

EdradourCadenhead’s Royal Lochnagar 17yr Rum Cask Matured – 57.4%

Light with green apples flesh pineapple and plenty of dry pot still elements on the nose. A nice developing warmth on the palate, rather potent with a lingering dry spice on the tongue and finish.

BenRiach 16yr – 46%

Sauterne finish. Soft, sweet aromas of dried fruits on the nose, with bold hits of sultanas and pine coming through. A dry palate with a slow spice lingering. Fresh nuts and pine counteract for a short finish.

Tomintoul 12yr Portwood – 46%

Smooth with plenty of creamy port nose with a dry finish. Very smooth on the palate with a slight kick of port dividing the experience. Short.

Edradour 11yr ‘Straight From the Cask’ Chateauneuf Du Pape Finish – 58.5%

Soft plums on the nose with red apple with a stewed sweetness coming through. Short, rich grape and plums with a dry finish on the palate. Simple yet fantastic.

Both the Tomintoul and Edradour were stand out highlights for the Photo Finish session.

WilletAfter unfortunately missing out on April and May’s meetings, June rolled around with a The United States of Dramerica evening.

Tincup – 42%

A sweet, aromatic aroma on the nose, with a good blend of vanilla and rye. Sweet yet a sharp dose of vanilla on the palate, causing it to linger slightly. It creates a dry, spice finish. Incredible.

Willett Single Pot Still Reserve – 47%

Very smooth on the nose with a slight dry aroma of raisin and brown sugar. Plenty of rich pepper on the palate, producing a long, fresh hit of dark chocolate on a dry, wood based finish.

Noah’s Mill – 57.1%

Soft, light notes of raisins and vanilla on the nose, leading to a sharp hit of herb mixed with plenty of wood notes on the palate. Slightly burnt with the lips enjoying a tingle sensation on the finish.

Corsair Ryemageddon – 46%

A rich nose of chocolate malt with plenty of sweetness coming through. The cocoa carries onto the palate, producing a rich, mellow and well-balanced dram. A long, soft and slightly dry finish with hints of vanilla.

Balcones Brimstone – 53.1%

A hickory smoke aroma dominates the nose, reminding me of rich ribs. The richness carries onto the palate, developing quickly into a mouth-watering, savoury experience. Short though, with whispers of the hickory smoke on occasion.

The Balcones stood out as unique on the flavour palate, with the Corsair Ryemageddon and Tincup worthy of praise too.

Sullivans CoveJuly saw a line up of whiskies from across the commonwealth in conjunction with the Commonwealth Games.

Sullivan’s Cove Double Cask – 40%

Velvet aroma of chocolate and rich Cognac on the nose, with vanilla, slight spice and a warming toffee flavour producing a short finish.

Milford 15yr – 43%

A very dry nose of banana and burnt sugar. Light pear and gingerbread notes on the palate with a dry oat finish.

Pike Creek – 40%

Plenty of pear, blackberry and cranberry flavours mixing well on the nose, with a slight spice coming through near the finish. Lots of dry grain on the palate, but a smoothness of vanilla and honey bring a velvet, yet short finish with plenty of oak whispers.

Glengoyne 15yr – 43%

Plenty of heather and cream with pushes of black berry near the finish. Rather thick on the palate, with toffee, honey and nut flavours mixing in an oily mouth-feel. Lingering on the finish.

Amrut Kadhambam – 50%

Fresh spice on the nose with aromas of aniseed and cinnamon present. A good mix on the palate including raisins, orange, dark chocolate, plum and slight spice. Flavoursome finish with a long effect with plenty of oak.

It’s Scotland and Canada that are winners for me, with the Glengoyne and Pike Creek respectively.

Travel Retail Lineup
Travel Retail Lineup

Just before the summer holidays began, we held a Travel Retail evening, looking at exclusive bottlings only available airside!

Old Pulteney Noss Head – 46%

Very light with citrus elements creating a smooth, creamy and rich finish on the nose. Slight cherry bakewell aroma coming through too. Rich coconut milk flavours on the palate with a smooth, long finish and a slight kick of citrus to boot.

Jameson Select Reserve – 43%

Produced using a small batch of grain collected once a week per year from a field that is never touched thereafter. Around 10 years matured. Slightly sharp nose at the beginning but softens out with a wisp of smoke. Sweet offering on the palate with very smooth texture of toffee and lingering smoke.

Balblair 2004 – 46%

Bourbon matured. Light nose with no distinctive aromas coming through. Slight malt honey on the odd occasion. Dry orange with light, sweet hints available. A short and very dry finish.

Old Pulteney Duncansby Head – 46%

Light sherry notes on the nose with plenty of shortbread blending well. Lots of sherry characteristics on the palate too, with rich vanilla creating a toasty finish.

Balblair 1991 – 43%

Bold and fresh notes of honey and butter, with subtle cherry finding its way through. Soft green fruits on the palate creating a very dry, almost ash driven finish.

Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2006 – 50%

Bold citrus aromas on the nose with an oily butter note that follows to the palate. Rather thin and sharp, creating a dry spice in time for a big barley finish.

Highland Park Svein – 40%

Soft citrus on the nose with notes of green apple coming through. A light sweetness begins the palate, with hints of cherry and smoke before a strong finish.

Highland Park Harald – 40%

Sharp hit of citrus on the nose before malt and biscuit notes come through. Soft with a thick treacle palate creating long finish with an eventual citrus dicing at the end.

Bruichladdich is the best of a diverse bunch. Some surprising drams though, and confirms to myself at least that some brands will put anything out in travel retail, losing that ‘specialness’ so-to-speak.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.