Friday, 24 May 2013

Balblair Tweet Tasting

I was really excited to receive an invitation to this tweet tasting featuring three Balblair vintages including an exclusive single cask only available through Master of Malt. I have tasted a number of Balblair vintages at various whisky shows and have been a bit of a fan, but my blog posts for individual expressions have been lacking and I'm hoping to change that soon.

I wasn't immediately sure what we would be receiving through the post, but arriving in good time were three vintages, two of which I had come across before and one new Whisky Discovery. I had originally planned to be at the office for the day of the tweet tasting, but right at the last minute received a text from my boss asking me to stand in for him at a Trade Show in Earls Court. Not knowing what time I would be getting home from London, I went armed complete with the three samples and nosing tasting glasses so I could attend and join in wherever I was.
Just managed to get home in time for the start
I managed to get home in time for the eight o'clock start, but unfortunately my home Internet decided it would drop out halfway through the first dram, having only posted my first few notes. OK, so I could have carried on using my phone on 3G, and in hindsight could have created a hotspot on the phone, but I'd just spent three days commuting in and out of London running our stand at the Railtex trade show, was really tired and so carried on tasting the three drams in my own time while writing my notes down on paper - the old fashioned way. 

We started with the 2nd Release from the 1997 Vintage:

Balblair 1997 Vintage, 2nd release (46% abv, bottled 2012)
Highland Single Malt
Circa £53.00 70cl
Following the success of the initial release, the 1997 Vintage returned in 2012 with more maturity. From first refill American oak ex-bourbon casks, bottled at 46% abv, non chill-filtered and natural colour this has a lovely golden amber colour. I first tasted this at The Birmingham Whisky Club Show last December, though wrote only the briefest of notes at the time.

So What Did I Think?

Nose: Lots of fruit here, a touch tropical with pineapple for sure, some classic Balblair banana notes too. There's creamy vanilla, peach or nectarine, coconut, and apples. With a little air the coconut is really coming out and I know coconuts - our house is full of them! The nose evolves after a little time into rich creamy toffee notes.

Palate: Quite sweet yet malty to begin with then turning more cheesecake like, creamy and sweet with a little ginger spice. Oily and mouth coating feels very rich and smooth before some spicy pepper builds.

Finish: It finishes with some light chili heat (well, light for me as we eat a lot of chillies at home) there was some woody notes and it was quite a dry finish. 

Verdict: Looking back through my scribbled notes from the Birmingham, I noted that I liked this more than the very delicious 2002 vintage, and found pears and small finger bananas on the nose. Great to re-visit this and it would appear that it was just as good as the first time around!

So what did the others think?
@yoavgel: Nose: creamy, light lovely vanilla aromas hiding beneath a river of fruits - pears and apples comes to mind. sweet honey too
@Whiskylassie: My first thought on the nose for 1997: fresh cut hay after harvest, very clean and green
@ansgarspeller: Smelling a lot of fruits in there, dwelling through the grocery right now.
@TIA568B: Palate. opal fruits and a little white pepper, but mainly opal fruits, which were rebranded a year after this was distilled
@HMcnee: Taste sweet, light with a bit of spice and i don't mean old spice. Nice clean, refreshing though quick finish
@rodbodtoo: Palate: really bright tangy lemon (lemon sauce? Lemon meringue? Lemon sorbet? And smooth and warming
@saint_jimmy: Finish: Gentle and silky finish. Soy milk, butter and dates

Whisky Discovery #419

Balblair 1990 Vintage, Cask 1466 (50.4% abv, bottled 2013)
Highland Single Malt
Circa £125.00 70cl (only available from Master of Malt)
This 1990 Vintage is a Balblair with a difference, whether by accident or design this unpeated spirit was aged in an American oak barrel which previously held a maturing Islay malt. (I believe the peated Penderyn was originally accidental, although the peated cask Balvenie was by design.)

So this Single Cask vintage has acquired its smoky flavour through non-traditional methods, and so warm, peaty flavours have been introduced to the spirit through the wood. It's a highly unusual expression of Balblair, the residual peaty character of the Islay-seasoned wood had a significant influence on the maturing Balblair spirit over the 23 years of ageing, but not so much as to hide the distinctly fruity and spicy house style. This single cask bottling is available exclusively from Master of Malt (

So What Did I Think?

Nose: I found this to be a little chalky upon pouring, but then as it settles in the glass the gentle peat reek started to emanate, building gradually with a sweet fragrant smoke. There were hints of toffee apple and an orange note, I started picking up those old fashioned aniseed balls too.

Palate: The peat seems more prominent on the palate, although comes across as quite sweet. A rich malty fruit cake came to mind as I scribbled my notes. Plenty of warming spices too with cracked black peppercorns.

Finish: Quite a long finish with a sweet fragrant smoke, gentle pepper spice and even a light salty note

Verdict: An interesting peat infused version of a classic Balblair.

So what did the others think?
@ansgarspeller: Nose; citrus, salty, pepper, coriander, ginger, slightly smoke far away, orange, floral, butterscotch and red apple?
@mynameisgone: Nose, very lightly smoked pear drops with a hint of smouldering hay
@bumpythechemist: More smoke than peat, melon apple and pear on the nose
@sjoerd972: Palate has pepper, light peat, a bit more wood with apple and pear, and a touch of salt.
@Whiskyblogg: Lovely tannins on the palate, like that thin peel on almonds and butterscotch of course. I get a wee bit of ginger in this one too
@Quintsharktours: Wow the taste of the 1990 is immense oily wood smoke leading to spices and citrus, cracked black pepper slight taste of treacle
@yoavgel: Palate: oh my... gentle peat and brine. oily and chewable. then the fruits comes up.apples, Chinese fried banana desert

Whisky Discovery #152

Balblair 1975 Vintage, 2nd release (46% abv, bottled 2012)
Highland Single Malt
Circa £220.00 70cl 
I'd first tasted this in an earlier tweet tasting and it was fantastic then, so it was good to be able to revisit this second release of this 1975 Vintage bottled last year. For some reason I didn't write a post back then, I think I was unable to attend the actual tweet tasting as had been sent off somewhere for work at the last minute. It was registered as Whisky Discovery #152 in the liquid log and I started a draft post, but never completed it.

This Balblair, now at least thirty six years old was matured in American oak ex-sherry (Fino) casks, and bottled at the usual 46% abv, non chill-filtered, and natural colour, of course.

So What Did I Think?

Nose: For me this opened up with the classic Balblair banana notes, and it was the first thing I wrote down in my book. Not fresh green bananas, but very ripe, perhaps over-ripe this time, There is a wonderful rich spiciness to the nose too, which slowly reveals itself with a little time, cinnamon and licorice  Fruits start to come forward, dark and dried fruits Cherry, prunes, rich dark orange marmalade  dates. Wood and leather notes develop too; old polished oak and musty leather, perhaps even a little pipe tobacco - fabulous nose

Palate: The banana note comes through on the palate for me too on this rich and mouth coating dram, Wood tannins and tobacco notes more prominent than on the nose along with raisins and nuts, becoming quite dry towards the end.

Finish: Long warming and finishing quite dry

Verdict: I expected this to be a little lighter in profile coming from a Fino cask, but it comes across as a rich luxurious whisky with a fabulous nose. I certainly consider myself to be very lucky to get the opportunity to re-visit this outstanding vintage. £220 is a considerable wedge of money to spend on a bottle of whisky, but this is really quite special.

So what did the others think?
@LaCaveDeCobalt: This has a thickness, even on the nose, with a toffeeness moving to a light peatiness, evolving into an oaky loveliness.
@galg: Nose: used bookshop up front. , some peat , yes peat, prunes too , wooden shelves
@rodbodtoo: Nose: relaxed, mellow. Old wood, a mineral note, but still there's some citric fruit 
@ifotou: Nose grassy floral almost grain/lowland like, some honey & vanilla in there a touch of green leaves with some twinings green tea
@Whiskylassie: I love the way this one envelops your nasal passages and takes you back in time, old leather, books, a bit of dust...
@DH17slijterij: A great example of an amazing -older- sherried whisky. Not to much, just perfect. Leather, prunes, cacao, a little bit of tobacco

I didn't have a full list of Tweet Tasters taking part, and I think some of the participants did not receive their samples in time for this event. As per previous Tweet Tastings there was a great deal of tweeting going on and to see what happened search on the #Balblair hashtag on twitter for the full story.

Yet another great experience and another highlight of our whisky journey, with just the single new discovery, but it was great to re-visit the other two, and finally get some notes posted!

A massive THANK YOU to Lukasz Dynowiak from Alembic Communications Ltd (@alembic_tweets) to the team at Balblair, (@Balblairwhisky) and of course the tweet tasters.

For more information see: and

No comments: