I filled this bottle at Balblair during my brief visit in June 2018. We stopped at the distillery on the way to Dornoch from the Speyside. We got there too late in the day for a tour to be possible; a pity as I rather liked the feel of the place, dour as it is. (You can see my brief account of the stop here.) They had one cask on the go and having been foiled at Aberlour, where I had hoped to fill a bottle from their usual bourbon cask only to find they had no casks of any kind available to bottle, I was hoping Balblair’s would be a good one. Truth be told, it’s a bit dangerous pondering these casks at the distilleries. You’re gone a long way to get there, and if you like the feel of the place you’re very primed to take a bottle away as a keepsake. And, of course, the theatre of filling the bottle yourself, writing your name and the bottle details in the register, and applying the label yourself is appealing too. Nonetheless, I had resisted the charms of a number of distilleries’ offerings in the Speyside; but I was beginning to worry that I might not have the opportunity to fill bottles from any distilleries on this trip. And so I was probably pretty primed to like Balblair’s cask. And indeed I did. Will I like it as much more than a year later? Let’s see.
Balblair 2006-2018 (58.2%; bottle 226 hand filled from cask#711; from my own bottle)
Nose: Rich fruit (apricot, orange peel), caramel, honey, and malt. On the second sniff there’s polished oak and as it sits some rye-like spicy notes. The fruit expands as well as it sits (jammy rather than fresh). A few drops of water push the oak back and pull out some red fruit,
Palate: Oakier start here but it’s not overbearing or tannic. Very drinkable at full strength but water should help. On the second and third sips more of the fruit from the nose emerges here as well but the oak is still in the lead. Okay, time for a bit of water. Yes, water pushes the oak back here too, making it more balanced.
Finish: Long. The oak and spice are the main story here though the fruit is there in the rear as well (plum). As on the nose and palate with water.
Comments: The nose alone was enough to convince me to bottle this cask when I was at the distillery and this pour bears that out. The palate was softer and less oaky then but I filled from the bottom of the cask. I guess that means I can look forward to this softening as well over time. In its current state it’s very much a bourbon drinker’s single malt—oaky and spice-forward on the palate. I still like it a lot.
Rating: 87 points.