Thursday, 5 December 2013

Balblair - New Vintages

On Thursday 5th December Balblair Whisky took to the world of Twitter to host a tweet tasting showcasing their new vintages.  The new vintages on show were the 2003, the 1990 and the 1983.

All three of the new vintages have been matured in American Bourbon oak casks, with the 1990 also spending some time in Spanish oak ex-Sherry butts.

Established in 1790 Balblair is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland and releases it's whiskies by vintage, distinguished by the year the whisky was laid down, rather by an age statement.

Balblair 2003 vintage - 46% - natural colour - non-chill filtered

Notes from the Balblair website: Balblair Vintage 2003 replaces Vintage 2002.  The American oak, ex-bourbon barrels used in maturation impart toffee, butterscotch and vanilla notes.

Nose - My first instant impression was of a tequila shot with all the elements of salt, tequila spirit and lemon present.  The spirit was light and fresh with hints of grass and spice coming through.  This then gave way to allow the traditional Balblair fruits to come to the fore with orange and lemon being the main protagonists.  With a touch of water the nose became softer and sweeter.

Palate - Fresh sweet malt developing into warm spices.  With time in the mouth the spice moved to the side to allow some fizzy citrus fruits to come through with the emphasis again on orange and lemon.  

Finish - Medium to short and smooth with warming spice, fresh clean zingy fruit and a pleasant final note of juicy peach.

Overall a clean fresh dram which highlights all the fresh characteristics that I've come to expect from Balblair. 

Balblair 1990 vintage - 46% - natural colour - non-chill filtered

Notes from the Balblair website: Matured in American oak ex-bourbon casks and Spanish oak ex-sherry butts Balblair Vintage 1990 2nd release is truly exceptional. Recently released to replace our award-winning 1989 Vintage, this incredible dram is sure to become a firm favourite amongst Balblair fans and whisky connoisseurs.

Nose - Rich ripe banana, almost similar to banana that's been crushed and spread onto toast.  Further tropical notes, specifically sweet pineapple, along with dried fruit and raisins (tropical mix?).  Gentle warm wood spice starts to appear with notes of cinnamon, cocoa, ginger cake and christmas cake.

Palate - Instant blast of juicy red fruit which develop into warm, prickly christmas spice which grows in the mouth before making way for dark chocolate and just the slightest waft of coffee granules.

Finish - Medium, warm and fruity with more dark chocolate, oak spice and sherried fruits.

Overall this is a lovely winter warmer.  A dram that has been aged and finished to perfection.  Neither the sherry or the spirit are dominant but more like they are walking hand in hand completely parallel.  Great to see the sherry working with the spirit rather than beating it into submission like some sherry monsters out there.

Balblair 1983 vintage - 46% - natural colour - non-chill filtered

Notes from the Balblair website: Matured in American oak ex-bourbon barrels, Balblair Vintage 1983 is a rich, warm dram, combining all core Balblair characteristics. Only just launched to replace the 2nd release of 1975 this stunning dram is sure to be just as popular as its predecessor.

Nose - More banana that was present on the 1990 but this time it's fresher. Light satsuma orange, wood resin, pineapple.  This is lighter and cleaner than the 1990 and on the nose doesn't appear to be a 30 year old whisky.  The nose continues with sour red apples (like jelly belly jellybeans), candied lemon and freshly cut melon.  The age is more on show via complex flavours rather than the old wood notes you get in some other old whiskies.

Palate - Here comes the age.  Old wood flavours accompanied by dusty citrus fruits namely lemons and oranges.  Spice arrives in the mouth as with the other vintages but with time this settles and moves over to allow the fruit to return but this time it's a touch less dusty and a touch more fresh with a return to the tropical.  This one goes down very smooth.

Finish - More warm spice clearing away to leave peaches and cream.

Overall the 1983 is mellow and smooth, which you would expect from 30 years in the cask, yet still it retains the lovely fresh fruits found in younger Balblair's.

All three vintages have the beautiful tropical and citrus Balblair fruits present throughout, yet each vintage has it's own personal character.  

In all honesty I think all three work really well but for me the 1990 just edged the others out to be my whisky of the night.  It was tropical yet sherried and never before have I seen sherry flavours being presented so subtly whilst allowing the original spirit to still shine through and have it's say.

As you can see from the pic at the start the 2001 vintage was present along with a sample of the 1997 vintage which was kindly brought along by a good friend who also was taking part in the tasting.  These were also both tried and tested and reviews shall be posted over the weekend.

Now all that's left is to say is a huge thank you to Balblair for providing the samples and hosting an excellent tweet tasting.  I can honestly say that all three vintages really impressed me and it appears that Balblair is only growing stronger and stronger.

Until next time,



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