Monday, 9 December 2013

Two more Balblairs

After a busy weekend socialising and rugby watching it's time to get the head down and push on further with the Whisky journey.

As mentioned last week, as a warm up and a finish to the Balbalir tweet tasting, I took part in on Thursday, I sampled a couple of other drams to complement the new vintages that were on show.  

One of these was the '97 vintage which was a sample kindly supplied by a good friend and the other was the '01 vintage which I picked up on my last visit to Scotland.

First up was the 1997 vintage - 46% - natural colour - non-chill filtered - (second release):

Notes from the Balblair website: This exceptionally well balanced dram has been maturing  in first fill American oak, ex bourbon barrels since 1997. The 2nd release of 1997 is on track to secure just as many recognitions and awards as the first release. 

Nose - Light, fragrant, fresh cut grass.  Opening up to reveal lemon, fresh orange, light ginger spice and a little touch of nail varnish, but in a nice way.

Palate - Great mouth feel.  Sweet malt into extreme fresh lemons and oranges.  Warm christmas spices and a light oak note.  Very smooth.

Finish - Very smooth with warm spice.  Prickly heat that drys the mouth.  This settles to leave an intense peach flavour with hints of cream.  The peach finish is something I'm finding very familiar in Balblair and in a wider context quite a familiar in quite a few light Highland malts.

Balblair 2001 vintage - 46% - natural colour - non-chill filtered:

Notes from the Balblair website: This full bodied malt displays unmistakable Balblair characteristics: floral notes and aromas of fresh fruits such as oranges, apples and lemons. Released in November 2011, this Vintage replaces Balblair 2000.

Nose - Buttered grass, fresh clean spirit note, zingy green herbal notes, warm spices almost like freshly chopped green chilli.

Palate - Butter arrives back in the guise of toast with lashings of butter.  Sugary sweet malt moves back into the green grassy notes.  The characteristic spice arrives and then dissipates to reveal warm stewed oranges with extra lemon citrus.

Finish - Bags of fresh citrus with emphasis again on orange and lemon.  Sweet sugar with warm cinnamon and clove.

As I finished the night off and examined each set of tasting notes you can really get a feel for the style and character of the Balblair stills.  Fresh fruit and warm spice dominates the younger vintages with huge tropical notes making their presence felt the older you go.  All in all this is a great, light Highland malt and what I feel the distillery are achieving by releasing vintages, rather than age statements, is a portfolio of truly individual malts that are able to constantly display the true distillery style whilst each having their own little quirks and qualities.  

Whilst the results are this good, and taking into consideration how much I enjoyed the 1990, I still think that the distillery should continue along this line and not mess about too much with weird and unusual finishes which seem to be the ever increasing norm…if it ain't broke, don't and fix it!!

Well, that was a big bag of Balblair fun.  Think it's now time for me to race through my collection and get some of my thoughts down on paper.  It seems I've fallen into a trap of buying more than I can get through so will definitely have to redress the balance.  This shall start this week as I quickly review my two basic blends but don't let this put you off, whilst they might not cost much or have the same standing as a single malt they are both belters.

Until next time,



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