Balblair, Briefly

Balblair was my third distillery stop on the day of my visit. The day had begin with a tour of Aberlour. Then on the way out of the Speyside we stopped briefly at Glenfarclas. A couple of hours later we were at Balblair. If you’re ever planning a trip in this part of Scotland and wondering about distillery visits, you should know that it’s very easy to get to Balblair. It’s less than an hour from Inverness and mostly on a nice big highway. It’s very easy to combine it with a visit to the Loch Ness area. And if you so chose, you could stop at Dalmore and Glenmorangie along the way. We did not stop and arrived at Balblair about an hour and a half before closing time.  Continue reading

Balblair 2003, First US Release

So few Balblairs reviewed on this blog. It’s almost as though I have something against Balblair. But I assure you that this is not true. I am pro-Balblair; while I could not say that some of my best friends are Balblairs (I barely even know any people named Blair), I am certainly Balblair-positive. Which is not to say that I have been infected by Balblair, merely that I am positively inclined towards Balblair. Why is this? you ask. Well, I cannot say. It’s not the case that I’ve had any Balblairs that have made me want to rhapsodize (though I do have a sample of one from the mid-1960s that might fit that description). But their whiskies are always solid and they put vintages and age markers on them, and generally don’t engage in much marketing malarkey. I am hoping to stop at the distillery on our planned trip to Scotland in June, and may even attempt to convey my appreciation of these qualities to a befuddled distillery employee. But enough folly! What Balblair is this? It is a 11 or 12 yo from the 2003 vintage. The first US release, says the label from the industrious Michael K.—which leads me to believe that there may have been another twelve or seventeen releases since. Well, I don’t know if any of those have been any good but I will soon be able to tell you what I think of this one.  Continue reading

Balblair 1997-2009, 1st US Release, Take 2

Balblair 1997-2009
Michael K. recently offered me a sample of this and I took him up on it saying I’d finished my own bottle well before the blog. That statement is true but, as with the Redbreast 12 CS, it turns out I had already reviewed it in the summer of 2013, when the blog was relatively new, and had just completely forgotten. Now I’ve got no shortage of never-reviewed whiskies (samples and bottles) on my shelves but it was sort of interesting to re-review that Redbreast and also this Ben Nevis recently, and so I decided I’d give this another go as well. I have not looked at my previous notes or exact score again before this second go-around. Let’s see if I come up with much variance.

(You can read Michael’s own review here, which as it happens was also posted in late-2013—I’ve avoided looking at his notes as well.)  Continue reading

Balblair 20, 1991 (A.D. Rattray)

Balblair 20, Rattray
I’ve not had a very good showing with the two official Balblairs I’ve reviewed so far, but I have had a pretty good run with the A.D. Rattray bottles I’ve reviewed. So, what’s it going to be with this Rattray Balblair? Will the Rattray mojo prevail? Will the cask strength allow Balblair’s qualities to emerge more fully? Let’s take a look.

Balblair 20, 1991 (59.5%; A.D. Rattray, bourbon cask #3291; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Nice notes of biscuity malt come wafting up as I finish pouring and a little later some vanilla/butterscotch. Not much else; not surprising given the heat. Well, let’s give it some more air before adding water. Hmmm maybe some pine/wood spice and then some brown sugar. Much more sweetness on the nose after the first sip and the vanilla expands dramatically, picking some cream up as it goes. Water makes the vanilla even more intense if possible and there’s some aromatic lime peel in there too now plus definitely some pine.  Continue reading

Balblair 1989-2010, 2nd Ed.

Balblair 1989-2010
I reviewed the Balblair 1997-2009 some weeks ago and here now is the second edition of the 1989-2010 release. This got a fair bit of love when it was released; I liked it fine but it didn’t really rock my world. It’s got the northern Highland apples/pears/malt thing going on but turns out rather anonymous–which is not something that you want from an official release that’s at least 20 years old.

Balblair 1989-2010, 2nd. Ed. (43%; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)

Nose: Gooseberries, apples, some honey, some vanilla and a fair bit of malt. The sweet-sour malty note comes to the fore and there’s more salt too after a bit, and maybe some sliced over-ripe pears. Not a whole lot else happening. A touch of water brings out a faint hint of milk chocolate.  Continue reading

Balblair 1997-2009

Balblair is a distillery in the northern Highlands, up there in the general vicinity of Glenmorangie, Glen Ord, Clynelish, Dalmore etc.. I don’t think it’s ever been a particularly storied distillery. They used to make a solid 16 yo but no one seems to have ever got too excited about Balblair. As of a few years ago the distillery seems to have decided to try and change that. The bottles got a redesign–flatter bottles in great big square boxes–and the entire range got refurbished as well. Out went the 16 yo and age statements and in came vintage releases (borrowing a page from the Glenrothes playbook perhaps) of a range of ages. Of the initial lot, at least the ones that came to the US, this 1997 was the youngest and cheapest. It has since been succeeded by a 2000 and then a 2001 and most recently, I believe, a 2002–though I don’t think all came to these shores.
Continue reading