This is a distillery-only Ballechin—which is to say it is/was only available at the Edradour distillery (whose peated malt is called Ballechin, as you doubtless know). No, I did not pick it up while driving through the highlands last June. We did go very near Edradour on our way to Blair Castle but Tomatin was the only distillery in that part of the country that we stopped at, and that only for a little while. No, this is a sample from a bottle that the redoubtable Michael K. purchased at the distillery in 2016. Me, I didn’t even know that Edradour had bottled any Ballechin of this age. All I’ve had are most of the various younger, wine cask releases of yesteryear and the 10 yo that was released in 2014. Michael said in his review last year that he liked this very much at the distillery but not as much later. As you will see below, I liked it quite a bit now. I did also like the Ballechin #3, Port Cask—there seems to be something about the marriage of their peated malt and port casks that works well. Anyway, here are my notes.
Ballechin 13, 2003 (58.6%; port cask #221; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: A lot of cereal to start (a good sign) and below that gasoline and mounting peat—phenolic and organic. Gets a bit sweeter on the second sniff but it’s like glazed meat, not an overload of red fruit. The fruit does show up with some air: red berries, orange peel, a bit of apricot; gets dustier with time too. Water emphasizes the fruit; the orange trumps the berries.
Palate: The peat leads here, phenolic and then ashy with an acidic bite. Nice mouthfeel—very drinkable at full strength. The fruit expands as I swallow. Gets saltier as it sits. With time this becomes essentially like the Ballechin #3 at cask strength. Water integrates it all nicely and gives it greater depth.
Finish: Long. The smoke expands but so does the fruit and it’s all about orange peel at first (almost Grand Marnier’ish in a way). The salt expands here too with time. Water makes it more intense, more acidic, and brings out more salt and more ash.
Comments: As I said, this is basically like the Ballechin #3 at cask strength. I wonder if they just held some of that spirit back in a single cask. When port and peat work well together they work really well together and they worked well together here for me. I believe this sample came from the latter part of Michael’s bottle and I’d hazard that air and time did much to soften the aspects of it he did not care for at this time of his review. Or maybe he just likes it less.
Rating: 87 points.
Thanks to Michael K. for the sample.