As noted in my report on a quick visit to Tomatin, we’d spent a few hours that day at Blair Castle. (There is, of course, a distillery near Blair Castle as well (Blair Atholl) but we did not go there.) As I’ve also noted, we really enjoyed Blair Castle. We didn’t really know what to expect as it doesn’t look like your classic grey, stone fortress. But it turned out to be a great first stop on a rainy day, with a nice woodland drive to it from the A9 as a bonus. The castle has a large number of rooms open to visitors and it’s particularly good with small children as they have a detailed activity sheet that keeps them occupied and interested during the self-guided tour. Alas, due to the rain we were not able to visit their gardens, which are apparently rather lovely. Blair Castle, as you may know, has a private army, the Atholl Highlanders. We missed their annual parade and gathering by about 10 days but didn’t miss this whisky which is said to be bottled “Exclusively for the Atholl Highlanders” but is also available to any and all civilians in the gift shop. It’s not expensive but I restricted myself to a mini, which, later that evening, became the first highland malt that I drank in the highlands. Unfortunately, it was not the best highland malt I had in the highlands…
Atholl Highlander, Blended Malt (43%; from a purchased mini)
Nose: Sour, yeasty—almost like sour Belgian beer. Keeps going in that direction: aspirin, cider. Mellows a little with some air and a touch of sweetness develops under the yeasty/bready notes. A big splash of water improves things a bit: the sourness moves towards lemon now.
Palate: Not as sour here but that’s about as far as the good news goes: there’s a grainy quality and then something plasticky. Decent mouthfeel. With time it gets a bit sweeter here too but that’s about it. Okay, let’s add water. Water pushes back the astringent notes but doesn’t bring anything positive to the party.
Finish: Medium-long. The oak pops out here—not tannic but spicy and peppery and a bit minty. Thankfully, the plastic from the palate subsides quickly. Water pushes the oak back too, bringing out something a bit milky.
Comments: This is not vile but it has nothing to recommend it. The finish was the best part, and that was partly because it finished. It’s not one to sip neat, no, but it’s also not very good with water. If I were an Atholl Highlander I might ask for a better whisky. (For a far more positive take see Serge’s review of what may or may not be the same whisky.)
Rating: 72 points.