I haven’t reviewed very many Blair Athols—it’s been almost a year since my last review in fact. That one was a single sherry cask, distilled in 1988 and bottled in 2014 or 2015 by Signatory. This one is not quite as old but is also from a single sherry cask. This is from the 1995 vintage and was bottled last year by First Editions, another of Hunter Laing’s lines. The arithmetic on this one is a little wonky though. The label says it’s a single sherry butt but also says only 234 bottles came from it. That seems about 50% too low for a sherry butt. Compounding the mystery is the fact that there was a Blair Athol 21, 1995 bottled in the same series in 2017 from a sherry butt with the exact same abv but that one apparently yielded 492 bottles and 492+234 is headed into Glendronach territory for a single sherry butt after 22 years. Now there’s also a First Editions release of Blair Athol 22, 1995 from 2017 with a slightly lower abv that’s listed as having yielded only 210 bottles. 210+234 is not an implausible number for a single sherry butt either. It’s also possible, of course, that the cask was split with a completely different bottler or that despite being listed on the label as a sherry butt it was actually a sherry hogshead. Either way, it’s obviously the case that independent bottlers can’t always be relied upon for very much more accuracy/transparency on labels than the distilleries themselves. If anyone has any light to shed on this please write in below.
Blair Athol 22, 1995 (57.7%; First Editions; sherry butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: Obviously sherried with raisins and a leafy note dominating. On the second sniff there’s some orange and also some oak. Gets brighter as it sits and there’s a metallic thing too now. With more time there’s more orange peel and also a maltier quality. The citrus expands with water and it’s brighter as a whole now.
Palate: Expectedly, big sherry here too; the leafy note from the nose turns to roasted malt and cocoa here (still earthy). Very approachable at full strength. Saltier as it sits and that malty note comes to the top and hangs on. Let’s see what water does. Well, it adds a beany/nutty quality to the malt and pulls out a bit more oak.
Finish: Medium-long. No new development; gets spicier as it goes with cinnamon and oak extract.
Comments: This is heavily sherried whisky but I wouldn’t call it a sherry bomb–it’s quite balanced in fact and I like that the malt comes clearly through the sherry. This is no cookie-cutter sherried whisky—that nutty/beany quality is one I’ve noted before with Blair Athol, by the way. That said, there’s no great complexity here for the age. Nice but nothing I would have wanted a full bottle of.
Rating: 87 points.