I’ve not had a very good showing with the two official Balblairs I’ve reviewed so far, but I have had a pretty good run with the A.D. Rattray bottles I’ve reviewed. So, what’s it going to be with this Rattray Balblair? Will the Rattray mojo prevail? Will the cask strength allow Balblair’s qualities to emerge more fully? Let’s take a look.
Balblair 20, 1991 (59.5%; A.D. Rattray, bourbon cask #3291; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Nice notes of biscuity malt come wafting up as I finish pouring and a little later some vanilla/butterscotch. Not much else; not surprising given the heat. Well, let’s give it some more air before adding water. Hmmm maybe some pine/wood spice and then some brown sugar. Much more sweetness on the nose after the first sip and the vanilla expands dramatically, picking some cream up as it goes. Water makes the vanilla even more intense if possible and there’s some aromatic lime peel in there too now plus definitely some pine.
Palate: Nice, thick mouthfeel. Oddly, not particularly hot on the palate, but the flavours do seem very compressed. Malty sweetness and vanilla are really the only things that really register and the sweetness gets quite musky. Let’s see if water releases some fruit. Yes, it does, but it’s not the apples and pears of the official bottles but lime and a hint of banana. Water also draws out some polished wood (probably related to the banana note). The lime gets a little more pronounced with time and there’s a little more pepperiness too now. The vanilla sweetness never goes away and, frankly, becomes a little too cloying for my palate.
Finish: Long’ish. Not terribly interesting, with nothing new showing up with water or without.
Comments: This is very nice, but I was hoping for a little more fruit. The fruitiness of the OBs I’ve reviewed are what I liked best about them and I guess I thought this cask strength version would present more intense fruitiness and more tropical fruit notes. However, if you like intensely malty/vanilla-creamy whiskies this one will make you very happy.
Rating: 86 points.
Thanks again to Alex S. for the sample!