I reviewed the Balblair 2005, First Release in May and in that review I noted that I do not understand how Balblair’s vintage releases worked. That has not changed. And so I can tell you that this was distilled in 1990 and released in 2015 and that it was described as the “Second Release” even though there was another with the appellation released in 2014 and again in 2016. Just typing this made my head hurt and glad again that Balblair has now moved to regular age-stated whiskies (though given the jump in price the occasional headache may have been a good deal). This was matured in a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks but my understanding is that the sherry is more pronounced. On the one hand, the last sherried Balblair I had—this 10 yo—did not do very much for me. But on the other, the last Balblair 1990 I had was from a single sherry cask—this 21 yo—and I really liked that one. Let’s hope that the shared vintage and general age makes this more likely to be on the level of its sibling.
Balblair 1990-2015 (46%; US Release; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: A rich sherried nose with orange peel and toffee and sweet cereals mixed with oak and brine. On the second sniff the sweet citrus is stronger still and there’s a leafy note and some cocoa to go with it. As it sits there are darker notes of chocolate and pipe tobacco and some pepper as well. A few drops of water and the oak gets softer with butterscotch and some milky cocoa. With more time there’s a bit dose of apricot.
Palate: My first impression is that the texture is a bit too thin. My second impression is that the oak is a little too talkative and just a touch too tannic. All the stuff from the nose is here—with the darker notes trumping the citrus—but the oak is on top. Ah yes, much better balance with a few drops of water. The oak backs up and lets the sweeter notes emerge. After a minute it all comes together very nicely indeed: toffee, toasted oak, orange peel. apricot.
Finish: Long. Somewhat unusually, the oak actually subsides here, going from tannic to toasted and then letting the leafy note and the orange peel back out. As on the palate with water with the apricot and orange really coming on strong at the end.
Comments: Neat, I had this in the mid-80s. There was much I liked about it but the oak was out of balance on the palate and finish. Water fixed all that and turned this into a wonderfully balanced whisky. Not quite enough depth or development to make it into the next tier but I’d be very happy if I’d purchased a bottle of this at the time.
Rating: 88 points.
Thanks to Michael for the sample. See his review here.