Here is the last of the recent’ish Binny’s exclusives that I split with a bunch of other whisky geeks. I’ve previously reviewed a Glenlivet 19, a Laphroaig 17, a Linkwood 16, and a Clynelish 7 (all from Signatory); an Ardmore 16 and a Ledaig 13 (both from G&M); and a OB Glen Garioch 16. This Signatory Balmenach is the oldest of the lot (I mention this in case you are really bad at counting); it is, however, a year younger than mentioned on Binny’s website—there it is listed as a 27 yo but, in fact, it is a 26 yo (the correct age is on the label along with the distilling and bottling dates). I”d been planning to review this one a while ago, and I’m not really sure why I never got around to it. As a result, however, I am reviewing this after the bottle has been near the halfway mark for a bit over two months (nearly half the bottle went into the splits as soon as I received it). And so this review is not going to be representative of a freshly opened bottle.
There have been a lot of Balmenachs from 1988 released recently, many of them by Signatory. This, I am pretty sure, is nothing more than the usual run of chance by which an indie bottler comes into a big stash of casks from a particular year; I am also pretty sure that if it hasn’t already this will lead to the usual run of bogus theories about magical years of distillation. Well, I’ve previously reviewed another of these 1988s, a 25 yo also bottled by Signatory for Binny’s, and if this is as good I’ll be happy.
Balmenach 26, 1988 (51.6%; Signatory for Binny’s; hogshead #2805; from a bottle split)
Nose: Spicy oak (hints of anise and rye), some banana; sweeter fruit below all that but it’s a bit indistinct and closed. Gets a bit dusty as it sits. The sweetness takes a turn towards what I can only describe as vanilla cupcake frosting with sprinkles. Far less woody with water and the spicy notes and the sweeter fruit are joined by the lime peel from the palate.
Palate: Starts out sweeter but there’s a fair bit of wood here too. Hotter than you might expect at 51.6%. On the second sip there’s some lemon below the sweet and woody notes. Not much else though. This might need water to fully express itself—but let’s give it a bit more time first. Well, as it sits that citrus note turns to bitter lime zest and the wood recedes but there’s still a vaguely grainy, slightly astringent note. Hmmm I was expecting water to bring out more fruit but it doesn’t; it does bring out some pepper and more oak extract.
Finish: Medium. No improvement or development here I’m afraid. The finish does get longer with time. No change to speak of with water.
Comments: Well, I’m sorry I didn’t taste this right after I opened the bottle as I am now unable to tell you if my experience tonight is an artifact of this bottle having sat at the half-full mark for two months or if this is just what this cask is like. At any rate, though it did come on with time, in its current state it’s nowhere near the league of Binny’s previous Signatory Balmenach and I don’t think I could recommend it at even a much lower price than is being asked for it now. I will keep at the rest of the bottle though and will report back if it changes/improves. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from others who’ve tasted this one. Am I out here by myself on this one?
Rating: 80 points.