Ballechin 10, 2010 (Signatory)

This week of reviews of peated whiskies began on Monday with an indie Port Charlotte that is said to have some sherry involvement. It continued on Wednesday with the 2018 release of the official Ledaig 10 that may or may not have sherry casks in the vatting. Here to close out the week is another indie that is unambiguously sherried. Indeed it’s from a single sherry butt and a first-fill butt at that. It’s a 10 yo Ballechin—or peated Edradour—from Signatory, who’ve bottled a number of sherried Ballechins of this general age in the last few years. I’ve liked the ones I’ve tried and so have high hopes for this one. Let’s see if they’re borne out.

It just struck me, by the way, that this week ended up having a secondary theme: not only were these all peated whiskies but they’re all the heavily peated variants from distilleries that are at least nominally known for unpeated/lightly peated malt. Continue reading


Ballechin 15, 2005, Second-Fill Sherry (WhiskySponge)

Three Ballechins bottled by Whisky Sponge to start the month and year, I said. On Monday I reviewed a 17 yo distilled in 2004 and matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel. On Wednesday another 17 yo from 2004, this time matured in a refill fino butt. Here now to close the week is another sherry cask but this one was distilled a year later and is two years younger. It’s from a second-fill sherry hogshead—what kind of sherry does not appear to have been specified in this case.

As I said on Monday, I only recently learned that Angus MacRaild (the Whisky Sponge) was bottling whisky. I don’t know what reputation his releases have at this point or where they fall price-wise in the market. I will say that I liked the other two fine but did not find them to be anything particularly extraordinary. Will this one be a departure in either direction? Let’s see. Continue reading

Ballechin 17, 2004, Refill Fino (WhiskySponge)

Here is the second of three reviews of single casks of Ballechin—or peated Edradour—released recently by Whisky Sponge. See here for a review of the first cask (a first-fill bourbon barrel) and read the comments on that post for some discussion of the ethical issues that these releases raise. If you have any thoughts about any of that please add them to the comments on that first review so it all stays in one place.

Ballechin 17, 2004 (55.5%; WhiskySponge; Edition 36B; Refill Fino Sherry Butt; from a bottle split)

Nose: Dry, farmy peat with some sweet notes around the edges of the smoke. Gets more organic and vegetal as it sits—definitely something rotting in the undergrowth in the middle distance, the aroma being wafted over on a briny, sea breeze (yes, I know where Edradour is located). Water softens the whole up: the farmy peat abates and there’s a touch of vanilla now. The salt expands again with time. Continue reading

Ballechin 17, 2004, First-Fill Bourbon (WhiskySponge)

Back in the middle of 2020 I posted reviews of a trio of whiskies from Edradour. Let’s begin 2021 with reviews of a trio that bear the name Ballechin, aka peated Edradour. Until that trio of Edradours in mid-2020 I had actually only ever reviewed Ballechins from the distillery. And with only one exception—this Signatory release—I had only reviewed official releases, including a number of the cask variations (port, oloroso, marsala, madeira) released during the spirit’s initial march to the first 10 yo release. Since then a number of older Ballechins have hit the market from various indie bottlers. Which leads us to this trio which represents the oldest Ballechins I have yet tried. This trio, furthermore, has been bottled by WhiskySponge, the outfit that bears the nickname of its proprietor, Angus MacRaild. The Whisky Sponge first became known to the general populace via the excellent eponymous blog that lampooned the excesses of the industry—and occasionally published more serious commentary as well. Somewhere along the line Angus M. seems to have become an indie bottler himself—more evidence that I really am out of touch with malt whisky developments is that I only noted this relatively recently. He also became a contributing writer on Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun a few years ago. Now Angus seems to be an upstanding type but I have to confess I find a little messy the situation of one independent bottler regularly reviewing releases from his competition on what is undoubtedly the most influential whisky buying guide around—especially for indie releases. Continue reading

Ballechin 12, 2005 (Signatory for the Whisky Barrel)

Back again to the combo of big sherry and big peat. This Ballechin was/is an exclusive for the Whisky Barrel. It was bottled by Signatory and as Signatory owns Edradour—whose peated malt Ballechin is—it seemed a pretty good bet that this would be a good cask. Also relevant: I quite liked the old limited edition Ballechin 4 which was from oloroso casks (or finished in oloroso casks, I can’t remember). I got this sample as part of a bottle split and indeed liked it so much (spoiler alert) that I purchased a couple of bottles. I was surprised to see later that Serge didn’t rate it very highly. This may explain why this is still available from the Whisky Barrel. I think it’s one that requires some time and then water to reveal all its charms. Anyway, I do recommend it highly, especially if you like that combo of big sherry and big peat.

Continue reading

Ballechin 13, 2003

This is a distillery-only Ballechin—which is to say it is/was only available at the Edradour distillery (whose peated malt is called Ballechin, as you doubtless know). No, I did not pick it up while driving through the highlands last June. We did go very near Edradour on our way to Blair Castle but Tomatin was the only distillery in that part of the country that we stopped at, and that only for a little while. No, this is a sample from a bottle that the redoubtable Michael K. purchased at the distillery in 2016. Me, I didn’t even know that Edradour had bottled any Ballechin of this age. All I’ve had are most of the various younger, wine cask releases of yesteryear and the 10 yo that was released in 2014. Michael said in his review last year that he liked this very much at the distillery but not as much later. As you will see below, I liked it quite a bit now. I did also like the Ballechin #3, Port Cask—there seems to be something about the marriage of their peated malt and port casks that works well. Anyway, here are my notes.  Continue reading

Ballechin #2, Madeira

Ballechin 2

After a week of 20+ yo whiskies and a week of 10 yo whiskies, might as well give this week a theme too: wine cask whiskies. Yesterday I had the Springbank 12, Claret Wood, and here now is Edradour’s second release of their limited edition peated line, matured in Madeira casks (I’ve previously reviewed #3, #4 and #5 and last week reviewed the brand new regular release 10 yo).

I think the only other Madeira cask whiskies I’ve had have been from Springbank and I liked both of those a fair bit (see here for the 14 yo K&L put out a couple of years ago; I guess I never got around to reviewing the 11 yo that I liked even more; hmmm I think I might have a large’ish sample saved from that one). And I’ve also liked all of these Ballechins. A good omen? Let’s see.

This sample, like that of the Ballechin 10, came from Florin (the junior senator from Indiana). I introduced Florin to the Ballechin series via a sample swap a while ago and now he’s like some goddamned evangelist for the line, won’t shut up about it. That said, I can’t recall what he thinks of this one. Continue reading

Ballechin 10

Ballechin 10
Ballechin is the name Edradour give their peated malt, which they’ve been making and maturing for a bit over a decade now. There have been a number of “limited” releases of this aging spirit along the way, from a range of cask types. I’ve reviewed #3 (port), #4 (oloroso) and #5 (marsala). I liked them all, the oloroso cask most of all. As such, I’ve been looking forward to trying their regular release 10 yo ever since it was first released last year (I think).

I got a chance to taste it when I visited Florin (small forward for the Sacramento Kings) in San Diego at the end of December, and was not overly impressed with the small taste of it I had then (small taste because if you have large tastes of everything Florin insists you drink when you visit him you will die within 30 minutes). He prevailed on me to carry a larger sample home for more careful review and here I am. Continue reading

Ballechin #5, Marsala

Ballechin 5

This is the fifth release of Edradour’s limited peated line under the Ballechin name. I’ve previously reviewed #3 from port casks, and #4 from oloroso sherry casks. This is from marsala hogsheads, as per the back label which also informs us that only 6000 bottles were released. This was opened not too long ago for one of our local tastings and went down to the halfway mark right away. I’ve been drinking it fairly regularly since then (after reserving a reference sample) and have had a fairly up and down response to it. I initially took notes about three weeks after the bottle had been opened and didn’t like it as much as when it had just been opened–the palate seemed to have flattened. I thought this was odd and so waited on publishing the notes. Sure enough, that impression went away the next few times I tasted it. It may be that something changed in the bottle; more likely, something was off with my palate when I first took notes. I jettisoned those notes, and these are from later when the bottle was approaching the end. I should stress that from opening to finishing the bottle took only about 1.5 months. Continue reading

Ballechin #4, Oloroso

Ballechin 4, Oloroso
I’ve previously reviewed the port cask-matured third edition in Edradour’s Ballechin series
of young peated whisky. Tonight I am tasting the fourth edition which was matured in oloroso sherry casks. The bottle itself was finished quite some time ago but, as usual, I have a large reference sample reserved. I’ve liked this one very much in the past; let’s see how it holds up tonight.

Ballechin 4, Oloroso (46%; oloroso sherry matured; from a reference sample from my own bottle)

Nose: Peat and carbolic smoke which turns somewhat organic and farmy pretty quickly. Some of the vegetal/bell peppery quality not unusual in sherried peaters. The dark sherry aromas are evident–the usual suspects (raisins, hint of orange liqueur)–but the primary notes are of the peat. With time there’s a slightly nutty quality and it also gets somewhat coastal (sea air, sea shells). After yet more time the smoke is dry and leafy. Twenty minutes and a few sips later the raisins are a lot more pronounced and joined by some caramel. Water does not do anything interesting. Continue reading

Ballechin #3, Port Cask

Ballechin 3
Ballechin is the name under which the Edradour distillery puts out its peated whisky. Edradour, which has a variable reputation, is one of the smaller distilleries in Scotland, and one of a number that lays claim to being the smallest distillery in Scotland–though what virtue there is in this title, I am not entirely sure. The distillery is owned by the independent bottler, Signatory and does a fair amount of experimentation with cask maturation, especially with the Ballechin line. Each release of Ballechin so far has been matured entirely in a different type of cask; in order: burgundy, madeira, port, oloroso sherry, marsala, bourbon and bordeaux. I have previously emptied a bottle of #4, which I quite enjoyed, and I have a bottle of #5 in reserve.

Today, however, we have #3. Will it be as good as #4 or as weird as a single sherry cask Edradour I had a couple of years ago?
Continue reading