One Of The World’s Rarest Whiskies Sells At Auction

1981 port ellen
One of the world’s most sought-after and rarest Single Malt Scotch Whiskies has been sold at auction for an impressive £9,375 – nearly double the price estimate.

The 1981 Port Ellen went under the hammer at Bonhams’ Whisky Sale in Edinburgh, Scotland today (4 October 2017) and was purchased by an unnamed buyer.

As the first bottle drawn from a privately-owned cask, the 36-year-old single malt offers its new owner a taste of true rarity.

James Mackay, Head of Rare & Collectable Spirits at Diageo, commented: “Port Ellen stocks are rapidly diminishing, putting the liquid in a different category from most other aged Single Malts on the market. Moreover, this now legendary single malt is not merely rare, old and in great demand; it is of outstanding quality.

“Over the last few years we’ve seen a rapid growth of interest in rare and collectable whiskies, and our Casks of Distinction programme gives private clients the chance to purchase unique, rare whiskies from Diageo’s extensive collection.

“As a whisky that seemingly just gets better and better with age, Port Ellen is a stunning example of Diageo’s Single Malt Scotch Whisky reserves. The 1981 bottling price estimate was £4,500-£5,000, the fact that it sold for more than £9,300 speaks volumes about the allure of the liquid and quality of Diageo’s Single Malt Scotch Whisky.”

The 36-year-old Port Ellen expression is a rare survivor from a golden age. Port Ellen was established as a malt mill on Islay’s south coast in 1825 and soon after developed into a major distillery. When the distillery closed in 1983 it had been in production for just 16 years after 35 years of closure, so there was as yet no knowledge of how well Port Ellen would age – it turned out to be some of the finest character found on the island of Islay.

It is now one of Islay’s most distinctive single malts and has attained great status among drinkers, collectors and investors alike. With a deep smoky taste, derived from the peat used to dry its barley, its finish is described as “medium to long, charred and smoky-sweet, the char slowly fading into sweet-spicy oak, with a last note of white pepper to re-heat the palate”.

Since December 2012, prices of Port Ellen have increased by +128% – soaring from as little as £100 two decades ago to today’s £2,500 per bottle, with scarcity being the main driver of the consistently escalating prices*.

The 1981 Port Ellen bottle was auctioned independently by a private owner. The single cask, which the bottle was drawn from, was purchased by the owner as part of Diageo’s ‘Casks of Distinction’. As part of this programme, Diageo gives selected private clients the chance to purchase single casks that have extraordinary quality and character. As each cask is entirely unique, patrons become the sole owners of some of the rarest whiskies ever to be released from Diageo’s extensive collection.

*Source: Rare Whisky 101 ‘Port Ellen Index’ http://www.rarewhisky101.com/indices/distillery-specific-indices/port-ellen-ob-index

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Ballantine’s Launches Single Malt Series

Ballantine's Single Malt Range
Ballantine’s, the No. 2 Scotch whisky in the world, takes an innovative move into the Single Malts category, with the launch of three new Single Malts.

Always known for doing things differently, Ballantine’s will give consumers a unique opportunity to experience the flavour of the three signature malts that form the heart of Ballantine’s whisky. The Glenburgie, Miltonduff and Glentauchers Single Malts are all aged 15 years old and stay true to the Ballantine’s brand whilst retaining their own distinct personalities:

Glenburgie forms the heart of Ballantine’s whisky character, delivering concentrated fruitiness and honeyed sweetness. Perfectly balanced, with aromas of soft red apples and pears, this whisky has a full and velvety texture and a long, round finish
Miltonduff is the foundation of Ballantine’s whisky character bringing warmth and power. Floral with a subtle hint of cinnamon spice, this whisky is extremely smooth with gentle liquorice flavours and a long, warm finish
Glentauchers delivers the smooth and delicate lingering finish of Ballantine’s. With hints of delicate floral heather on the nose and soft berries and barley sugar sweets on the palate, this whisky has an incredibly long, luscious finish

Peter Moore, Ballantine’s Global Brand Director comments: “The Single Malts category is dynamic and continues to grow rapidly as more consumers become lovers of this iconic Scottish spirit.

“As a globally known brand, we are sure that consumers will have confidence in the quality and credibility of these new Single Malts as they are widely recognised as the signature malts that form the heart of Ballantine’s,” adds Moore. “Ballantine’s has never been one to pick the obvious route – we do things differently and create our own path to success. All of this is core to the Ballantine’s brand and our launch of three new Single Malts is yet another example of celebrating and staying true to our roots.”

As consumers taste the individual flavour profiles of Glenburgie, Miltonduff and Glentauchers, they will discover over 190 years of heritage and tradition born in the historic Speyside region of Scotland.

Taiwan, the 4th largest whisky market by value and the most vibrant Single Malt market in the world, is the first country to officially launch the Ballantine’s Single Malts Series. From 23 September to 1 October, consumers in Taiwan will be able to learn about its ‘stay true’ heritage and innovative spirit through an interactive experience in the heart of Taipei. Through this experience they will be among the first to taste the three unique flavours of the Ballantine’s Single Malts.

The Ballantine’s Single Malt Series is bottled at 40% ABV and available to purchase at an RRP of $56 USD in Travel Retail Asia for 70cl bottle ($80 USD litre equivalent). The release of the series is a testament to the spirit of George Ballantine and the remarkable people, places and events that have been part of the brand since 1827.

Glenfiddich Adds To Its Experimental Series With Winter Storm

Glenfiddich_Winter_Storm_Icewine_packagingGlenfiddich, the world’s most awarded single malt Scotch, today launches Glenfiddich Winter Storm, a limited edition whisky finished in Ice wine casks. The result is a short, crisp premium liquid imbued with a unique layer of sweetness and complexity.

Glenfiddich’s Malt Master, Brian Kinsman, is always pursuing ingenious innovations in Scotch whisky. This latest expression comes as a result of a trip to Canada in January 2016, during which he visited Peller Estate – a renowned winery in Niagara. Enduring freezing weather, Brian toured the beautiful vineyards, where he learned how the grapes had to be picked by moonlight at -10˚C when they were as hard as pebbles.

Inspired by his experience, Brian returned to The Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, where he started experimenting with several French oak Ice wine casks from the Canadian winery – filling them with various Glenfiddich aged malts for up to six months. Brian commented, “Only the rarer whiskies, those aged for 21 years, could cope with the extra Ice wine intensity. Having more tannins, extracted from years in oak, these malts brought out a uniquely fresh lychee note instead of being swamped by sweetness.” What resulted, was a perfect Glenfiddich 21 year old. The combination of pioneering liquids, the heightened candied sweets and oakiness of Glenfiddich are complemented by mouth-watering tropical fruit notes and underlying wine notes.

Peller Estates VP of Winemaking, Craig McDonald added: “It was a privilege to work with Brian on this experiment. We go to extreme lengths to produce our intensely sweet Ice wine and are always looking for ways to push the boundaries of taste, so I was intrigued to see how it could be used to create a new unexpected whisky. The resulting liquid is a unique combination of the warming soul of whisky and the frozen cold of Ice wine”.

Gwilym Cooke, Senior Brand Manager Glenfiddich UK commented: “Following the successful launch of Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series last year, we’re delighted to introduce the eagerly anticipated Winter Storm, an expression that challenges traditional Scotch whisky boundaries with a radically different taste and look.”

Glenfiddich Winter Storm is the newest expression in the Glenfiddich Experimential Series line up, joining Glenfiddich IPA Experiment and Glenfiddich Project XX which both launched in 2016. Designed to inspire unusual and unexpected variants, Glenfiddich Experimental Series combines the brand’s passion for pushing Scotch whisky boundaries and collaborating with trailblazers beyond the world of whisky. Created from partnerships and collaborations with like-minded experimenters from a wide range of different industries, Glenfiddich Experimental Series unlocks new whisky possibilities in the true spirit of experimentation.

Glenfiddich Winter Storm is available from early October, priced at a RRP of £199, at specialist whisky outlets and prestige retailers including: Harrods, Hedonism, Berry Bros & Rudd, and select on-trade outlets. With a striking white ceramic bottle and beautifully embossed presentation box, Winter Storm is a limited edition expression, and so when it’s gone it’s gone, just like the winter snow.

Read more at http://www.glenfiddich.com/uk/

New Peated Single Malt Showcases The Balvenie In Entirely Different Way

The Balvenie Peat Week Aged 14 Years
The Balvenie, the most handcrafted single malt Scotch whisky, reimagines a classic Speyside style whisky with the release of an exceptional peated expression – The Balvenie Peat Week Aged 14 Years (2002 Vintage), available initially in a select number of markets.

The Balvenie Peat Week is the product of trials undertaken by The Balvenie’s Malt Master David Stewart MBE and Ian Millar, former distillery manager and current Prestige Whiskies Specialist at William Grant & Sons.

At a time when very few Speyside distilleries were using peat in production, The Balvenie distilled a batch of heavily peated malt, which was laid down to mature at the distillery in Dufftown, Scotland under the watchful eye of the industry’s longest-serving Malt Master. Since this pioneering moment, the distillery has dedicated one week each year, named Peat Week, to using only peated barley in its production, in order to craft a different style of The Balvenie liquid with enhanced smoky notes.

The result of the initial experiment is a classic honeyed whisky enriched with a delicate, sweet and lingering peat smoke that unlocks flavours unexpected from a Speyside distillery and showcases The Balvenie’s truly innovative and forward-thinking nature.

The Balvenie Peat Week (2002 Vintage), released in September 2017, is a single vintage bottling, limited and rare by nature. This non-chill filtered expression, bottled at 48.3% ABV, will launch exclusively to the USA, UK, Denmark and Sweden in September. The liquid was matured solely in American Oak casks, giving the final spirit a velvety and round taste with the peat smoke balancing oaky vanilla and honey.

Commenting on the release, David Stewart MBE says: “Being able to experiment with different elements of whisky making and stock management is one of the most exciting and important parts of my job. The new Peated Week bottling is a result of our continued efforts to innovate and trial flavours not typically associated with The Balvenie. The expression is testament to the freedom we enjoy as a family company, and shows The Balvenie in an unexpected way, yet still remaining true to the distillery style our drinkers enjoy.”

The new release pays special homage to a time when peated whiskies were commonly produced by distilleries across Speyside, including The Balvenie, who utilised locally sourced peat throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s to dry barley processed at the distillery’s traditional malt floor, which is still in use today.

Ian Millar, says: “When we first started the experiments it was an incredibly exciting time as very few Speyside distilleries were using peated malt in production. Along with cask type, there’s nothing quite like peat to change the flavour profile of a whisky, so it was great to have the chance to undertake these experiments and lay the foundations for future peated malts.”

Alwynne Gwilt, The Balvenie UK Brand Ambassador added: “For anyone who thinks that Scotch is a staid category, this new release from The Balvenie will make them reconsider. Behind the scenes at whisky distilleries like ours, experiments are always going on and almost 15 years ago, we started exploring what it would be like to peat the malt that goes into our gorgeous honeyed liquid for one week each year. The result is something wonderful and will give The Balvenie lovers a chance to see this delicious whisky in a different light.”

The release follows the June release of The Balvenie Peated Triple Cask Aged 14 Years, exclusive to travel retail. Both bottlings will be permanent additions to The Balvenie’s existing range.

The Balvenie Peat Week will retail for £60 RRP and is available from September.

William Grant & Sons Appoints Stephen Rutherford As Glenfiddich UK Brand Ambassador

Glenfiddich UK brand ambassador_Stephen Rutherford
Independent family distillers, William Grant & Sons UK has today confirmed that Stephen Rutherford will take on the role of UK brand ambassador for Glenfiddich, with immediate effect.

Stephen’s new role will see him focus on generating brand awareness, building brand advocacy and bridging communication between the brand and consumers, bars & restaurants, retailers, distributors and press.

Stephen will take over from Mark Thomson who is moving north to focus on Glenfiddich’s home territory as the new Scottish brand ambassador.

Mark said: “I couldn’t be happier about Stephen taking on the national role as I move north to concentrate on Scotland. His joining of an already strong global team of ambassadors puts us in an enviable position within the industry but also offers a modern point of view for the whisky consumer. Plus, he has a great sense of humour- so I know he’ll fit in just fine!”

Stephen said: “I am extremely proud and honoured to be appointed as UK brand ambassador for Glenfiddich. It is a truly exciting time to be getting involved, with some fantastic projects coming up, and the opportunity to work with the amazingly talented team. I can’t wait to get out and about and start spreading the Glenfiddich love.”

Haig Club

Haig
Haig Club was released with much fanfare after the collaboration with footballer David Beckham and British entrepreneur Simon Fuller, with many taking it as a swipe to ‘outsiders’ who attach their name to a brand to make quick cash, whilst others looked at it as a great opportunity to shed light on a brand and category that has some elements that need a 21st Century update to its customer audience.

It’s with this that I take a closer look and see if the hype is worth its name.

The House of Haig itself is built on nearly 400 years of distilling heritage and can trace its whisky producing roots back to the seventeenth century in Scotland. In 1824, John Haig established Scotland’s oldest grain distillery, Cameronbridge, and is said to have perfected the art of producing Grain Whisky in continuous Coffey and Stein stills.

Haig Whisky quickly rose to become one of the most successful and popular Scotch whiskies in the world before falling into decline some 30 years ago as it left the Haig family ownership and was passed through a series of multinational drinks companies. In 2014, Diageo launched a new Haig whisky to add to the existing old guard whisky stable of Haig Gold Label, Haig Dimple and Haig Pinch blended scotch whiskies; Haig Club, an expression utilising a unique process that combines grain whisky from three different cask types.

But how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Haig Club – 40%

Light butterscotch and fudge on the nose, with a slight hint of tropical flesh fruits coming through. Subtle notes of vanilla, butter and toasted oak on the palate, with a hint of coconut and tropical fruit provide a long, slightly dry finish.

A great flavour profile to enjoy on its own, or indeed within its signature serve;

Haig CLub - New Old FashionedNew Old-Fashioned

Glass – 

Rocks

Ingredients – 

60 ml Haig Club
10 ml Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters

Method – 

Build by adding cubed or hand cracked ice in an Old Fashioned glass or tumbler. Add Haig Club and pour in 10 ml of sweet Vermouth. Drop in 2 dashes of orange bitters and garnish with a lemon twist and cherry and serve with a glass stirrer for the drinker to dilute.

The inspiration for the name Haig Club can be found in archive materials dating back to the 1920’s, in which Haig Whisky was advertised as “The Clubman’s Whisky”. Last year also saw the release of the Haig Club Clubman, the different in it being matured exclusively in American ex-bourbon casks. Either one a good call for your drinks cabinet, and its versatility means you can create a decent drink, whether cocktail or mixer. To be fair, I’d enjoy it on its own, it works!

© 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.

Chivas Regal Raises A Toast To Atsushi Suzuki

Atsushi suzuki
Chivas Regal, the world’s first luxury whisky, has crowned Atsushi Suzuki from the Sober
Company in Shanghai, China, the 2017 Chivas Masters Global Champion. Over a challenging five-day finale in Tokyo, Japan, Atsushi overcame strong competition from 14 of the world’s most skilled bartenders and led the winning Chivas Masters Collective team to victory, before being declared the overall champion.

The fourth Chivas Masters Global Final required the 15 national winners to showcase the
Chivas Regal values of brotherhood, collaboration and generosity. Atsushi impressed the expert panel of judges by expressing these core principles as he proved the outstanding contestant in what was a highly captivating and memorable final, culminating in the awards ceremony at the MIXX Bar & Lounge at the ANA InterContinental Tokyo.

A Japanese native himself, Atsushi fully embraced the traditions of Japanese bartending culture throughout a week of individual and team challenges, which included four individual drinks-making rounds. Atsushi’s winning team drinks ritual was The Double Talk, which was made using Chivas Regal 12, and presented with a focus on Japanese craftsmanship, kind service and attention to detail. Inspired by the way in which great drinks can bring people together and cross language barriers, he collaborated with his Mexican and Hong Kong team-mates, and was mentored by hospitality industry pioneer and team sensei Iain Griffiths, to devise a ritual which ensured the drink was designed to be shared, and allowed the drink to be adapted and personalised for different countries around the world.

As the newly crowned 2017 Chivas Masters Global Champion, Atsushi has won an all-access, all-expenses-paid trip to Tales of The Cocktail 2017 in New Orleans. The winning Chivas Masters Collective team led by Atsushi – comprising Mexico’s Haydée Barron Flores and Ryan Nightingale from Hong Kong – walked away with the pinnacle of the range, Chivas Regal The Icon, presented in a bespoke decanter with customised Japanese glassware.

Upon being crowned champion, Atsushi commented: “Wow. It is such an honour to receive this – and in my home town too. I feel like it’s a win for Japan as well as for China. And of course it’s not just for me, but for my awesome team of Haydée and Ryan, and my sensei, Iain. I’ve found friends for the rest of my life through the Chivas Masters – and I’ve learnt how to be a better bartender too.”

Max Warner, Global Brand Ambassador for Chivas Regal, commented from Tokyo: “The Chivas Masters Global Final has again shown the world the wonderful values and principles that great bartending can harness. Atsushi fully took the Chivas Regal spirit of generosity and collaboration with him into the final, which was the eventual point of difference in a very tough field – alongside, of course, some spectacular bartending skills.

“Beyond the serve itself, teamwork and collaboration are just as crucial to the craft of drinks-making, and we have witnessed that here today, and throughout the entire contest. That is why we are also delighted to honour the entire winning Chivas Masters Collective, who helped lead our champion to victory and demonstrated that success really does taste better shared.”

The 2017 Chivas Masters Global Final was host to a distinguished panel of internationally
acclaimed judges: Iain Griffiths, hospitality industry pioneer and co-founder of Mr Lyan Ltd;
Micah Melton, beverage director at the Alinea Group and renowned ‘ice chef’; Chris Lowder, ‘New York’s Rising Star Bartender’ in 2015; Dré Masso, ex-director of bars for the Potato Head Group in Bali, Jakarta, Singapore and Hong Kong; and Rogerio Igarashi Vaz, owner of Tokyo’s Tram & Trench. Each not only scored the finalists, but also shared their insights and expertise through a series of inspirational masterclasses over the course of the week.

The evening also saw the first ever Chivas Masters Global Champion, Masa Urushido,
honoured as a Grand Master, in his native Japan.

THE DOUBLE TALK

40ml Chivas Regal 12
20ml Campari
20ml Bianco Vermouth

Garnished with Matcha Tea Salt – or customised to your country

Stirred and served over block ice in a rocks glass, with a side serve for sharing

 

The Chivas Masters Collective teams:

Team leader: Atsushi Suzuki, China

Team member: Haydée Barron Flores, Mexico

Team member: Ryan Nightingale, Hong Kong

 

Team leader: Hyacinthe Lescoët, France

Team member: Daniel Huggins, Germany

Team member: Patryk Biadacz, Poland

 

Team leader: Masato Sakurai, Japan

Team member: Sandra Šalatová, Czech Republic

Team member: Aloisek Rodríguez Martínez, Cuba

 

Team leader: Roger Grüter, Switzerland

Team member: Abner Barrientos, Puerto Rico

Team member: Wouter Bosch, The Netherlands

 

Team leader: Adam Schmidt, USA

Team member: Benjamin Boyce, United Arab Emirates

Team member: Rhys Wilson, United Kingdom

Special Release Launched For Glen Moray’s 120th Anniversary

Glen Moray
Recognising the work of his predecessors, Graham Coull, Glen Moray’s Master Distiller, selected five different vintages of Glen Moray to create MASTERY, the ultimate ‘blend’.

The result is a whisky of incredible depth and character that encapsulates the very essence of Glen Moray, steeped in the proud traditions of Speyside, released on 1st July 2017.

Three of the five vintages used were laid down by Graham’s Glen Moray forefathers, Robert Brown (manager from 1959-1987) and Edwin Dodson (manager from 1987-2005). Two of Graham’s own vintages are in there too, as well as evidence of techniques first employed by Glen Moray’s original pioneers, James Haddow (manager from 1913-1927) and his son, Alexander Haddow (manager from 1927 -1959).

With great skill and finesse, Graham experimented to find the ultimate composition, using whisky matured in different fortified wine casks (sherry, madeira and port) to form the backbone of the 120th Anniversary release.

By using the sweetness of port to bring out the best in the heavier flavours emanating from the sherry and Madeira, Graham has added his own ‘twist’ to the Glen Moray classic taste profile, bringing sublime smoothness and balance to the masterpiece.

‘The 120th Anniversary Release celebrates the traditional craftsmanship of Glen Moray while raising a glass to the innovation of maturing in wine casks. Mastery is smooth, sleek and sophisticated.’

Graham Coull says: ‘The Madeira casks that we’ve chosen to form the heart of the whisky relate back to the genuine traditions of Glen Moray experimenting with different, innovative techniques in maturation. It’s me putting a twist on the spirit that was made by previous generations of master distillers.’

‘I wanted to bring in something from 1978, some of the oldest whisky in the warehouses, that represented whisky made by Robert Brown, the 3rd generation of Master Distiller, who was at the helm of Glen Moray from 1959 until 1987 as well as casks filled in the 80’s and 90’s by my predecessor, Ed Dodson. We’ve intertwined these with whisky that has spent its full term in first-fill sherry casks and also a proportion that has been finished in port, to develop the layers of complexity in the overall bottling. The port finished whisky brings a little lightness, which we felt perfectly balances the more robust flavours of the sherry and madeira casks in the blend.’

Kingsbarn Distillery Releases Two Years Old Spirit

Bottle (2 years)

Kingsbarns Distillery is proud to reveal that a 2 Year Old Spirit Drink has been bottled and is available to purchase exclusively at the Kingsbarns Distillery and Visitor Centre.

Kingsbarns 2 Year Old Spirit Drink is the first release from Kingsbarns to be matured in oak casks however it cannot be called Scotch whisky as it has not been matured for over 3 years. The release, available in a 200ml bottling is a combination of 2 casks that have matured single malt spirit, for over 2 years, in 1st fill ex-bourbon barrels. It has been bottled non chill-filtered and at the natural cask strength of 62.8%abv.

Having previously released in August 2015 Kingsbarns Spirit Drink in a 200ml bottle at the ‘filling strength’ of 63.5% the aim remains to bottle the very first Kingsbarns single malt Scotch whisky as a ‘Founders’ Reserve’ exclusively for the Founders’ Club in 2018. Kingsbarns Founders’ Club membership is still available and can be bought at the Visitor Centre or online at http://www.kingsbarnsdistillery.com

Distillery Manager Peter Holroyd gave his first impressions of the new bottling at a Kingsbarns Founders’ Club members tour and tasting on Friday July 23rd “We are delighted to announce the limited release of our 2yr old spirit which can be purchased exclusively here at the distillery. It has a sweet, floral nose and on the palate I get ginger biscuits with a slightly dry finish. Its very exciting to see how our spirit is progressing so far, and with only one more year to go until we can call what we produce Scotch whisky, the team here at Kingsbarns are all looking forward to releasing our first malt in 2018”

William Wemyss on behalf of the family stated “When establishing Kingsbarns distillery great effort was dedicated to acquiring the finest casks for maturing our precious spirit and it is fantastic to see how in just 2 years, the spirit had developed and transformed. Expectation and demand for this exclusive one off bottling will be intense given the continuing popularity of the Kingsbarns new make spirit and the whisky enthusiast’s ever thirsty curiosity regarding the progress of this new Lowland malt.”

The release is limited to just 1,800 200ml bottles and is available for purchase, 1 bottle per person, exclusively at the Kingsbarns Visitor Centre although telephone order will be available to Founders’ Club members in the UK and Europe.

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.