A visit to Balblair
(plus a review of the 1990 vintage)
This was originally written in 2015, and I totally forgot to post it! It was based on a visit a few years ago, but I’ve been back twice since then…
If any of you reading this have followed my trips over the years up to Scotland then you might know that Inverness is one of my favourite places, it feels like a home from home to me – there’s some definite similarities to where I live in the South West. As luck would happen to have it, I also love the whisky produced around this area… it’s not overly far to get down to Speyside, but also when heading north you’ll find some great distilleries producing fine products.
Balblair 05 & 99 vintages
Back in Feb 2016 I visited Balblair distillery, and two of the drams – 05 and 99 vintages – were some of the ones we tasted as part of the tour. Because I was driving, Julie the distillery visitor centre manager, kindly popped the samples into 3cl bottles for me to take home. What a great idea and very responsible, especially in the light of lower drink drive limits in Scotland… well done to Balblair for offering this service!
Let’s take a look at the two vintages now…
During this week I found myself in London for work, and as happy coincidence would have it in the evening there was a Blablair tasting hosted at Milroys by the distillery’s manager John MacDonald. He’s a top gent and very interesting to talk to, if you get the chance then you should spend some time in his company, be that at a tasting somewhere, or if you manage to visit the distillery and he’s around.
We spent a couple of hours chatting about loads of things, and going through some of the current range… most of which I’ve reviewed before, but it’s always nice to make some new notes which you can find below.
Balblair 1969 (OB) – 41.4%
One of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, Balblair was founded in 1790 by John Ross.
The 1969 was bottled in 2012 after spending 43 years in ex-bourbon remade hogsheads, 999 bottles of this extraordinary whisky were produced. This spirit was distilled at a time when the distillery malted its own barley on site and the stills were still directly coal-fired.
Tonight we’ve taken a look at three new vintages from Balblair: 2003 1st Release, 1990 2nd Release & 1983 1st Release.
Here’s the blurb… The latest vintages from Balblair are being launched in the brand’s new premium front-opening gift boxes. Balblair recently changed its 2003 Vintage packaging to a premium front opening box, replacing the regular top opening carton. All bottles (70cl) of Balblair whisky are now available in this style.
The new range of Balblair vintage Highland single malt whiskies (46%abv natural colour non chill-filtered) comprises: Balblair 1990 second release RRP £84.99; Balblair 2003 first release RRP £40.99; and Balblair 1983 first release RRP £200.
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.
On to a quick review of the three…
Balblair 1990/23yo Islay Cask MoM Exclusive Cask 1466 – 50.40%
Light gold in colour, looks naturally presented to me. Initial nose is creamy smooth malt with peppery peat smoke notes which get stronger over time, and vanillay bourbon notes come through. A very enjoyable experience.
A oily mouth covering beauty, smooth at its abv but certainly some spices and pepper there, and lashings of smoke intertwining with the light sweet malty Balblair character. It’s Balblair for sure, but you know it’s made great friends with a drop of Islay in the cask.