In the second half of April I went on a long run of reviews of whiskies from sherry casks. Let’s reset the balance a bit in May with a run of reviews of whiskies from bourbon casks. First up is a Balblair 2005. This is the first release. I don’t actually know what that means. I think you have to enroll in special seminars to understand how Balblair’s vintage releases work. Me, I am a simple man and do not dare aspire to such understanding. Now you may be thinking that even I cannot be so simple as to not understand that this must simply be the first release of Balblair’s 2005 vintage. But before you judge me keep in mind that different editions of the first and second releases of Balblair 1999 were released in the same years and that it is entirely possible—nay, likely—that different editions of the same releases were of different ages. Whose head’s hurting now? Let’s agree to not talk about this anymore. At least with changes with Balblair’s lineup this confusion is no longer an issue: they scrapped the vintage releases last year and moved to regular age-stated releases. On the other hand, most of Balblair’s lineup is now unaffordable. Isn’t the world of whisky so fun and not at all alienating?
Balblair 2005, First Release (46%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Malty and slightly yeasty with some tart apple in there too. More yeast on the second sniff but more fruity notes begin to pop out from under it (sweeter apple, tart cherry, lemon zest). More bready than yeasty as it sits. With time some salt begins to pop out. With a few drops of water the yeasty/bready notes get pushed back and the fruit—muskier now—expands.
Palate: Pretty much as advertised by the nose, with some toasted oak joining the party and the malt a bit more pronounced. Nice texture at 46% and a good drinking strength. As on the nose it gets saltier here too as it sits. With more time the oak is a little pricklier (but not tannic or bitter) and there’s more sweet apple. Okay, let’s add some water. Water pushes the oak and salt back and pulls out more acid.
Finish: Medium. No new development as such but no drop-off either. The salt intensifies here too with time. As on the palate with water with some sweetness peeking out again at the end.
Comments: This is uncomplicated and uncomplicatedly good. A good session malt for the summer months.
Rating: 84 points.
Thanks to Michael K. for the sample. See his review here.