Today’s dram is one that I haven’t enjoyed in quite a while, I had a bottle but sadly reached the bottom of it last year and didn’t get round to replacing it, but finally I have and my goodness I have no idea why it took me so long to do so! It’s another vintage release from my favourite distillery, it is the Balblair 99 (2nd release).
Ever since I first tried Balblair at an Inverhouse tasting, in the Royal Mile Whisky shop, I have always had at least one bottle on my shelf – usually more (I currently have 5 I believe!) – and I have yet to find a vintage that I didn’t enjoy. It pains me to say that despite Balblair being my favourite distillery I still haven’t been up to see the distillery itself, but I am making it my mission for 2017 that I will get up there! I reviewed the 05 vintage a few months ago which you can see here, where I also talk about the distillery, but let’s get straight into the good bit.
First released mid 2014 the 99 vintage replaced the 97, and uses a combination of both American and Spanish oak, unlike the 05 release which is solely American, and there is a huge difference coming through as a result. The bottle I am tasting here is the 2nd release of this vintage, the second batch to be bottled so it is slightly different to the first, bottled in 2016, so let’s see what we get.
Classic Balblair sweetness with butterscotch and apples upfront the on the nose, with a lot more alcohol than I remember, this subsides quite quickly though as the dram settles in the glass. There is quite a lot of citrus too, grapefruit rind and lemon oil. It’s quite light and youthful but there are heavier notes which give away its age with leather, cedar wood and a rich earthiness too, all of those notes that remind me of being in a dunnage warehouse. Sweetness begins to cut through the earthiness bringing manuka honey and again that butterscotch note forward as well as a hint of sherried fruits. Then at the last a delicate peppery spice which is joined by an array of summery smells with sweet malt, red berries, hay and a summers meadow (fresh and floral with lots of pollen, wild flowers and grass).
A big and powerful arrival, wow, there is just a big smack of flavour. Fizzy citrus dances along the edges of the tongue as cinder toffee, slightly burnt caramel and warming spice fill the mouth. Through the development the fizzy character dies off and there is just wave after wave of flavour, citrus, sherry, honey in an ever sweetening palate. It has a big cereal character too with sweet malt, toasted oats and freshly baked Rye bread. The rye spice is accompanied by black pepper and a mustard seed ‘hotness’, then a curl of wood smoke at the last which is intertwined with a hint if cinnamon. Delicious.
Rich, dark chocolate coated raisins and milky coffee start the finish. It is silky and smooth yet intensely flavourful. Sweet dried apple rings and an earthy sweetness just goes on and on for what seems like an age. The finish gets increasingly grassy and hay-like as time goes on, and is joined by a slight copper/metallic note.
I really don’t know why it took me so long to replace this bottle; it is a simply awesome dram and is incredible value for money, usually coming in at around the £55-60 mark. I think this is going to be my ‘summer dram’ this year. I feel that the 99 is a great middle ground for Balblair, not only pricewise but flavourwise within their range too. The 05 is fresh, light and youth, with lots of American oak sweetness, while the 90 is a sherried delight. What a well-balanced and elegant dram this is!