Friday, 18 January 2013

Whisky Discovery #292

Balblair 1969 Vintage (41.4% abv)
Highland Single Malt Whisky
Circa £2,200.00 70cl
The recently released Balblair '69 Vintage
Towards the end of last year Balblair launched the 1969 Vintage, one of the oldest Balblair Vintages ever released. Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the launch party, but was able to get my hands on a sample to review. 

I've tasted a number of Balblair vintages on my journey to date, mostly at whisky festivals, but have owned my own bottle of 1989 Vintage since seeing it listed in Ian Buxton's 101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die I must admit, I've been impressed with everything I've tasted to date so had high expectations.

The 1969 Vintage is the successor to the acclaimed 1965 Vintage, named Single Malt of the Year (Single Cask) in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2013; it scored 96.5/100 and Murray observed “it is almost too beautiful for words.” 

This rare whisky was originally distilled on 7th February 1969, five whole months before Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the surface of the moon. In those days the spirit in the cask came from the old coal-fired stills, The barley was malted on site and there was a workforce of twenty-two men. All dedicated to the art of timing and perfection.

The 1969 Vintage is limited to 999 bottles and, as with every expression of Balblair, it is un-chill-filtered and naturally coloured. Bottled at its natural strength of 41.4%, this rare Vintage has matured for the last 43 years in American Oak, ex-bourbon remade hogshead casks.

Distillery Manager John MacDonald observes of his latest selection: “This extraordinary, venerable Vintage has spent several decades slowly maturing – it has taken enormous discipline to wait this long to bottle it. I’m confident whisky enthusiasts around the world will agree when I say it has been worth the wait.”

Balblair 1969 was launched in the USA at the end of last year at $3500, then will be released during 2013 in other focus markets including the UK, France, Russia and South East Asia.

So What Did We Think?

This has a fabulous lively nose with a great deal going on, and so much fruit both at the beginning and at the very end! I was immediately reminded of bananas, well ripened ones, green pears, lemons and limes and there was some linseed oil putty. The vanilla starts to come through after a little while in the glass, along with a new leather note, like a brand new leather belt. Once the vanilla come through, it evolves towards toffee and butterscotch, but later the fruit returns with cantaloup melons.
A treasured sample from Balblair distilled in 1969
With all of the fruit notes on the nose I was expecting it to be much sweeter on the palate, but was pleasantly surprised to find a citrus freshness to the fruity cantaloup melon, and spicy white pepper too. A truly delightful vintage from Balblair, but unless I have a lottery win is slightly above my budget.

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