This is by some distance the oldest Balblair I have ever had, one that was distilled before I was born and which was bottled before I began to get seriously interested in single malt whisky. At the time that this whisky was bottled older malts were not yet hard to come by, and were available at prices that seem downright reasonable in comparison to today’s market. When I first ‘began to get serious about the hobby a few years later I had neither enough knowledge, money nor foresight to consider buying any of these whiskies. Thankfully, I was lucky to encounter a number of people on the WhiskyWhiskyWhisky forum whose far greater experience and knowledge of whisky was to be an invaluable guide. One of these excellent people, Nick Ramsey, once sent me a sample of his favourite Port Ellen, all the way from England, just because I was dithering over my first-ever Port Ellen purchase, wondering if the distillery’s reputation was warranted. And for good measure he threw this sample of a 38 yo Balblair into the box as well. The WhiskyWhiskyWhisky forums—like most forums on food and drink—are these days sadly moribund, and Nick hasn’t been sighted there much of late, but I want to take this opportunity to not just thank him for this sample but to toast the generosity of so many older whisky geeks who so happily helped MUCH MUCH YOUNGER people like myself into greater knowledge and experience.
Balblair 38, 1966 (44%; Spanish oak casks; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Just lovely. Orange, apricot, toffee, very sweet apple, with rosewood and a hint of mothballs in the background. Remarkably fresh and juicy. The honey expands as it sits. With a drop of water it gets a tiny bit creamy.
Palate: Leads with the oak here—everything else is here too though with lower intensity at first; but the intensity begins to build as I swallow. The texture is just a bit thin. With more time the citrus gets brighter and the richer notes from the finish begin to pop out earlier and somehow the texture seems to thicken as well. With a little bit of nervousness, I’m going to add a drop of water and see what happens. Well, water pulls out paraffin, brightens it up further and pushes the oak back here too.
Finish: Long. Gets richer and darker as it goes, with the long sherry aging most apparent here: figs, dates, brandied raisins. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This has a nose you could get lost in and the palate and finish catch up with it. Just wonderful whisky with perfect balance of fruit and sherry and oak. I doubt I’ll ever get to have another Balblair from this era again; so glad I could at least try this one—even if this could really be old sherried whisky from any one of many distilleries: in fact, it reminds me a lot of this excellent 38 yo Caperdonich (which I did purchase a couple of bottles of).
Rating: 91 points.
Thanks, once again, to Nick R. for his generosity!