Balblair is a distillery in the northern Highlands, up there in the general vicinity of Glenmorangie, Glen Ord, Clynelish, Dalmore etc.. I don’t think it’s ever been a particularly storied distillery. They used to make a solid 16 yo but no one seems to have ever got too excited about Balblair. As of a few years ago the distillery seems to have decided to try and change that. The bottles got a redesign–flatter bottles in great big square boxes–and the entire range got refurbished as well. Out went the 16 yo and age statements and in came vintage releases (borrowing a page from the Glenrothes playbook perhaps) of a range of ages. Of the initial lot, at least the ones that came to the US, this 1997 was the youngest and cheapest. It has since been succeeded by a 2000 and then a 2001 and most recently, I believe, a 2002–though I don’t think all came to these shores.
Balblair 1997-2009 (43%; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)
Nose: Very bright and acidic. A lot of citrus (lemon) with a malty base. A sweeter note emerges as well. With a lot more time and air the malty note intensifies and there’s now some more fruit of a muskier nature, though it’s a little hard to pick apart–melon? peach? With a lot more time–say, if you were to forget that you still had an ounce or so left in your glass and came back to it 30 minutes later (but who would be so foolish as to do such a thing?)–the fruit gets quite tropical.
Palate: Sweet, tart and malty–in that order. Then there’s some peppery-tart mixed fruit juice of some kind and a hit of banana vinegar. Something else vaguely tropical as well–pineapple? The palate gets more malty rather than fruity with a lot of time.
Finish: That indistinct fruit and a pepperiness from the wood.
Comments: This starts out slow, seems like it’s going to be dull, but then wins you over with the fruity development. It doesn’t become any sort of fruit bomb at any point though, but it goes from being somewhat dull to being a very pleasant summer sipper; and it’s summer now.
Rating: 83 points.