This Blair Athol 25 is the last of three whiskies being simul-reviewed this month with Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls. We agreed on our notes and score for the Bruichladdich Organic, and diverged a fair bit on the Caol Ila 12, 1999 from G&M. How will we fare here? (The link to Michael’s review will be posted here later in the morning. And here it is.)
Blair Athol is a relatively obscure distillery and Van Wees is known for their budget-friendly bottlings. This might seem like a bad combination on paper, but I’ve actually had pretty good luck with the Van Wees bottles I’ve tried. And, indeed, the lower recognition/reputation of the names of distilleries such as Blair Athol probably allows better iterations of their malts to be bottled for relatively less money by the non-boutique indies. At any rate, more casks of 1988 Blair Athol seem to be coming on the market—Signatory also has a sibling cask in their CS series.
Blair Athol 25, 1988 (46%; Van Wees; refill sherry butt 6918; from my own bottle)
Nose: Sulphured raisins and apricots with dried orange peel. Some polished oak comes out from under all that along with some peach jam and ginger. A little more gunpowdery as it sits and saltier too. With a drop of water the fruit expands dramatically, getting more tropical/fermented.
Palate: Spicier on the palate with a rich sherried fruitiness that expands right below the initial oaky bite. The fruit has a little more of a tropical accent here: a bit of mango, a bit of tinned pineapple. Very nice mouthfeel at 46%. More orange and orange peel on the second and third sip along with some clove and more tannic wood which adds a nice bitter counterpoint. Water thins out the texture and adds a sharper edge to the fruit and spice.
Finish: Long. The spicy wood and dried orange peel hang on for a long while and with time the bitterness expands into the finish as well.
Comments: Not sure why they didn’t bottle it at cask strength but it’s rather nice as it is (I preferred the nose with water and the palate and finish without). I wonder what Michael will make of the sulphur in this one. To my mind it melds nicely with the fruit. Have to keep a look out for more Blair Athol.
Rating: 88 points.