BenRiach 16yo

In my last review, of the Balblair 99 Vintage, I said that that was going to be my ‘summer dram’ for 2017, but this is certainly a contender for the top spot! I will be reviewing a delightful little dram from Speyside this time, from the BenRiach Distillery, the 16yo.

th (2)

BenRiach is a Speyside distillery, located just south of Elgin, and was founded like so many in the 1890’s with the whisky boom at that time. Sadly though BenRiach has had somewhat of a sad past, only 2 years after it was completed it was mothballed, the result of the Pattison crash. When the whisky industry collapsed so did the fortunes of many whisky companies and distilleries and BenRiach was one of that number. It would remain closed for the next 65 years. Most distilleries in this situation would have been demolished but fortunately BenRiach’s sister distillery and neighbour, Longmorn, had a hungry requirement for malt, and so BenRiach was saved as a result of its malting floor! It has changed hands several times since it recommenced production, including a very successful spell under Billy Walker’s stewardship, and is now owned by Brown Foreman. Hopefully this means this distillery will remain open from now on, and going by the quality of what it is producing that is almost a certainty! Anyway, let’s get on with the tasting. Today we are having a look at the BenRiach 16yo, presented at 43% it comes in at around £55 per 70cl bottle generally, which is pretty reasonable. I couldn’t find much in the way of maturation information, if anyone knows then please do let me know, but I would have to guess a combination of refill casks, manly bourbon barrels but with a few refill sherry butts thrown in for good measure. Let’s see what we get.

Nose

To me on the nose this represents what I would consider to be a classic Speyside; sweet, floral and fruity. Upfront there are apples, red apple peel and sticky apple sauce, bruised conference pears and a suggestion of stewed fruits in the background. Toffee, honey and powdered sugar begin moving the fruitiness of the nose to more earthy and rich notes of dunnage warehousing with aged oak, a slight dusty/pencil shaving/sawdust type aroma and that smell of the angels share you get when you are in the bonded warehouse, and a slightly peppermint-like menthol aroma too. It’s quite sharp on the nose with the alcohol showing itself, not too overpowering, but it’s definitely there, and is joined by notes of pear drops and cumin.

Palate

This has a fizzy and sweet arrival with again apples, and a good amount of citrus, orange peel, and maybe a touch of green banana. Sweet malt with a wisp of smoke leads the development through an array of spices with vanilla and a touch of nutmeg, and some alcohol prickle. Toffee apple and Scottish tablet keep the sweetness rolling as more woodiness takes hold making the palate more drying and astringent. All backed up by an earthy undertone with leather and tobacco leaf.

Finish

Quite a woody and spicy start to the finish with cumin again and a delicate clove-like spice. Drying malt and tannic woodiness dominate here with flashes of dried orange peels and raisins every now and again and a subtle lick of smoke at the last.

This is a big old toffee apple of a dram and I love it…well…a toffee apple that has been dropped in the dirt, but in a good way, the earthy, dunnage-like sense that comes with this adds a huge amount of depth and complexity, lifting it above a lot of similarly placed whiskies. If you haven’t tried this dram then I would highly recommend it, BenRiach is a whisky which maintains a consistently high level of standard and this is certainly no exception. Especially for £55.

Sláinte

Gary

Balblair 99 Vintage (2nd Release)

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).

BB99-2ndR-Mock-e1409239628364

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.

Nose

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).

Palate

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.

Finish

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!

Sláinte

Gary

Aberfeldy Distillery Exclusive – Cask 21426

For my next review I will be taking a look at a whisky from a distillery very close to my heart, the Aberfeldy Distillery. I was born and raised in Aberfeldy, in highland Perthshire, and the distillery plays a big part in the local community. From being the largest employer in the area to sponsoring countless local events it is an ever present feature in the community. I remember going on walks with my family in the woods behind the distillery when i was younger, the smell of the fermentation drifting through the trees. I absolutely hated it – believe it or not I wasn’t a big whisky drinker aged 6! – but the distillery was a part of growing up in the town. It’s nice that a distillery, even when owned by one of the largest companies in the drinks industry (Bacardi), is so involved in a small rural community.

Aberfeldy is owned by John Dewar & Sons, part of the Bacardi group, and is the only distillery to be built by the Dewars family. When John and Tommy Dewar’s took over the business from their father in the 1880’s their sales were on the rise. They took a lease at the nearby Tullymet distillery in order to meet fillings for theirs blends but within time the demand outstripped it’s capacity. So in 1886 the brother enlisted the famed architect Charles Doig to design their distillery, purpose built for creating their blends, half a mile outside of Aberfeldy. The first spirit ran off of the stills 2 years later, in 1898, and ever since the malt has been used as the heart malt of all of the Dewar’s blends. Only relatively recently has this whisky been available as a single malt, and in my opinion the best are the distillery exclusive single cask bottlings which are always of a high standard. Today we will be tasting the latest of these exclusives, a 2001 vintage (so a 15/16yo depending on distillation date) single cask Aberfeldy bottled at 56.95% ABV from an ex Bourbon barrel. This particular cask is cask number 21426 and is a refill barrel. Let’s get to it.

Picture1

Nose

Plenty of sweetness upfront on the nose, and a heavy, fatty note of almonds or almond butter. There is a strong, bitter note too of tannic wood and a fresh sap-like aroma. Muskier notes mingle with the wood, reminiscent of being in a dunnage warehouse, with earth, oak, tobacco leaf and an ashy, dying bonfire, note. It has a nice floral acidity to the nose with wild broom, gorse, pine needle tea, grape fruit rind and hay. Icing sugar/powdered sugar brings more sweetness through the slightly acidic and sappy aromas, and is backed up with white chocolate and vanilla ice cream. It’s also really hot and spicy on the nose with fiery ginger, green chilli, and black pepper. The spice, wood and alcohol give this whisky quite a closed off nose but water dramatically lifts this. With a splash of water a lot more citrus fruits come through with more sweetness but the usual honeyed characteristic that you get with Aberfeldy seems to be absent. There also is a sweet carrot-like note which, with the spice, gives an impression of carrot cake mix.

Palate

This has a huge arrival, and the strength of the whisky comes across a lot more than it did on the nose. On the palate there is plenty of sweetness and citric fruits upfront. The sweetness of caramelised demerara sugar and sugar syrup mix with notes of Seville oranges and candied mixed peel. This is a thick and viscous dram, which has a very luxurious mouthfeel. Through the development it becomes almost fizzy, as well as being quite bitter and acidic with lemon sherbet and rich oak tannins. This fizzy oak character dominates the palate but as with on the nose a drop of water has a huge effect. More sweetness comes across with a slight dilution with an earthy honeyed sweetness, dark chocolate liqueurs and a curl of wood smoke at the last.

Finish

On the finish the sweetness builds from the palate with a real hit of dried orange rings and cinder toffee. The oak is ever present with this whisky, and it is joined by an ashy/wood smoke note that I always get with aged Aberfeldy. The Finish is medium in length with a nice sweetness, which helps to balance the intense spice and wood.

Another very good distillery exclusive from Aberfeldy. They always have 2 different options at the distillery, one which has been matured in a refill barrel and the second is some form of Sherry matured Aberfeldy, be it finished or fully matured in ex Sherry Butts. This bottle of cask 21426 costs £90, which for a 16yo official single cask bottling is actually really well priced. If you are ever in the area I would definitely recommend popping in for a visit as it is a gorgeous distillery, even if just to check out what exclusives they have on offer at the time.

Sláinte

Gary

Dallas Dhu 34yo – Gordon & MacPhail

I have recently returned from more whisky based adventures, this time at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival – I would recommend everyone attend next year as it is a fabulous experience – and while up there I got the chance to try something very special indeed while sat in the Quaich bar. It is the sort of whisky that you will never forget, no matter how many whiskies you try in the future. It was a 34yo Dallas Dhu, bottled by Gordon and MacPhail.

Picture1

On our last night at the festival we attended a night of music, tall tales and whisky infused ramblings at the Quaich bar, in the Craigellachie Hotel. The night was hosted by Dave Broom and Lomond ‘Ziggy’ Campbell. It was very relaxed and casual event with banter, great music and of course…whisky! It was the perfect night to end our festival, but when one of my friends offers to buy us a round of Dallas Dhu, 34 years old, how could I possibly say no? It was an incredible dram, so full of flavour and character, and in that place, at that time, with those people around me; it was the best whisky I have ever tried. So good I decided I had to write about it, so that’s enough of this cheesy background story, let’s get into the review!

dallas dhu 34yo

Dallas Dhu is a legend of Speyside which, sadly, is no longer with us. It was terminally closed in 1983 by DCL and sold 3 years later to historic Scotland – Dallas Dhu is now a museum which you can visit, all the equipment is still in place but unfortunately nothing runs off the stills. It was built in 1898 as ‘Dallasmore’ by the then well-known Glasgow based blenders Wright & Greig Ltd. on land granted by the unsung hero of whisky Alexander Edwards. The distillery changed hands several times over the next 30 years or so before being acquired by DCL in 1929. They closed it the following year and remained closed for most of the 30’s, the stillhouse was destroyed by a fire in 1939 and it remained closed through World War 2. It eventually reopened in 1947 and during the 50’s and 60’s a lot of work was done to the distillery in order to modernise it and increase efficiency. When the whisky industry collapsed in the 1980’s this was one of the unfortunates on DCL’s hit list, sadly never to open again. Luckily though there are still a few casks hidden away and bottles on the market, they are just very expensive and few and far between. I’m going to enjoy this, a true part of Scotch whisky history.

Nose

This has got a hugely interesting nose for how old it is, it’s very fresh and vibrant and floral and nowhere near as oaky as you might expect. A grass/hay-like note appears first which is quickly accompanied by fresh herbal notes of oregano, rosemary and slight menthol note of spearmint leaves. Gentle tropical aromas push through the herbs with pineapple, over ripe banana, pineapple, yellow plum, did I say pineapple? With time sweeter biscuit-like characters start to appear with buttery digestive biscuits, shortbread and a dusty butterscotch smell – I do love some dusty butterscotch. Some milk chocolate mixes with the butterscotch and shortbread giving a note not dissimilar to millionaire shortbread. The chocolate is joined by some delicate spice in the form of ginger, anise and sweet cracked pink pepper. This has such an interesting nose and is one of the most floral and tropical drams I’ve had, pineapple syrup galore! This is a dram of cakes and puddings on the nose with pineapple upside-down cake, millionaire shortbread and banana bread. Wow!

Palate

Slightly sour and bitter initially on the palate but the sweetness comes through in a big way after a few seconds with apples, sweet malt and candied citrus peel. Millionaire shortbread again comes through – if you don’t know what this is it’s shortbread with caramel/toffee sauce and a layer of milk chocolate on top, another healthy Scottish delicacy! The millionaire shortbread is joined by desiccated coconut, stewed fruits (raisins and currants) and sultana loaf. It’s quite odd because it feels old, very old, but at the same time it is incredibly light and delicate. More floral, summer meadow-like flavours develop towards the back of the palate as does a greater sense of woody oak. At the last a subtle hint of sherry begins to come through.

Finish

Sweet oak and a light sweetness lead the charge with rich tannins, runny honey and icing sugar in the finish. That sherry note comes through too with more dried fruits, gentle spice and dark chocolate. The finish is super floral and green again, with hay, fresh cut grass, and pears and apples. At the back of the finish a slightly acidic note of over ripe grapes develops, to the point of being almost winey as it gently fades away in what is a fairly lengthy finish for being bottled at 43%.

Well there we have it, my scrawled thoughts on an incredible dram on a night of whisky, music and fun. This is my first ever taste of Dallas Dhu, and I hope it won’t be my last. It is sad to think that in the next few years this whisky will be gone forever once the last casks have been bottled. I’m glad I got to try this at least once, a dram of sweet and floral tropical goodness. I have no idea how much this bottle costs, if it is still available, but I’m not even going to look it up. I will keep the memory as it is, a perfect dram on a perfect night, with great company and music. Who knows, maybe one day smoke will rise again from the chimneys at Dallas Dhu and spirit may once again pour from the stills.

Sláinte

Gary

Craigellachie 31yo

craig 31

Today I will be reviewing something a little bit special. It comes from one of my personal favourite distilleries, and has recently won a rather prestigious award. The world’s best single malt whisky! It is the Craigellachie 31yo!

Craigellachie distillery was founded in 1891 by a consortium of whisky blenders, led by Alexander Edwards, the then owner of Benrinnes distillery and later to build Aultmore, and Peter Mackie of White Horse distillers. Craigellachie was designed by the famous, and prolific, distillery architect Charles Doig, though little now remains of the original buildings. It was substantially rebuilt in the mid 1960’s to increase production, and like so many of the DCL’s expansion/rebuilds it was done so in their ‘Waterloo Street’ style, meaning that the distillery lost much of its character in exchange for output and efficiency. I have been lucky enough to see round the distillery, which isn’t open to the public, and there is still plenty of character to go round though. Craigellachie is a very unique tasting malt, resulting in large from its unique process. They use Barley which has been dried in a kiln using oil instead of hot air and peat. As well as this they have short and fat (very fat) stills, and use worm tub condensers. The dram we are trying from this great distillery is the Craigellachie 31yo, which recently claimed one of the highest awards that a whisky can get – the world best single malt whisky for the year of 2017. This is a competition hosted by the whisky magazine and is judged blind by a panel of industry insiders, so if they think it’s good then it really has to be! Let’s give it a try!

Natural colour, non-chillfiltered and presented at a cask strength of 52.2% ABV. Nose

Holy bejesus, it’s won the world’s best whisky and it is obvious as to why! As soon as you put it near your nose you can tell that it is a whisky with a good age behind it. Rich woody oak sweetness, rolled tobacco leaf and mature leather. It has a surprising amount of sweetness and fruitiness for such an old whisky. After a point most drams are overly cask dominated and woody. Sweet honey is the main sweetness, as well as black treacle and pineapple syrup (the syrup you get in a tin of pineapple rings). While on these tropical fruit notes the nose is a plethora of dried exotic fruits, with papaya standing out, as well as dried mango, citrus peel, pineapple chunks and coconut shavings. A touch of coffee and liqueur chocolates lead into a development of spices with vanilla standing the boldest with softer hints of cumin, garam masala and anise in the background. Then, at the last, there is a curl of wood smoke and a whiff of sulphur. Palate

The alcohol shows more on the palate though it is still remarkably gentle for its strength. The palate starts with the earthier, heavier notes from the nose. The sulphurous character from the worm tubs and short stills mixes with well-aged oak, creating a very drying and mouth drawing start to the palate. Old leather, furniture polish, sweet oak tannins and pine needle tea are the initial flavour profiles that come forward. A mouth-watering sweetness cuts through the drying oak which reintroduces the honey and caramel notes into the palate. The fruits again come through in a big way; this is a very tropical dram. Apricots come over first before being accompanied by papaya, guava and cantaloupe melon. There is also a note that is almost kiwi-like but not quite, I can’t quite place it. A prickle of alcohol and savoury spice develops mid-way through the development with fiery chilli on the sides of the tongue, cracked black pepper and more garam masala. It’s a hugely impressive and busy palate. Finish

Gentle savoury spice carries through from the palate; it’s almost a spiced meat note. Softer fruits appear in the finish, the apricots from the palate show, as does ripe white peach and nectarine. Earthy Manuka honey and melted white chocolate balance out the drying oak which would otherwise kill off the finish and a long lasting note of pine needle tea join all of the above in what is a long lasting and fairly acidic finish. Well, there we have it, a dram of the world’s best single malt whisky thoroughly enjoyed! I find this dram very impressive considering its age. Everyone loves an old whisky, obviously, but what I tend to find is that after a point whisky can become a bit one dimensional with the cask having had a bit too much influence, resulting in a bitter and astringent product. The Craigellachie 31 has an amazing balance, for me, of distillery character, maturation and oxidisation, likely the result of using some very good quality refill casks to manage the influence over time. This is a real ‘sipper’ of a dram. Sit back, relax and take your time to explore this as every time you go back for another sip or smell you will find something new. I only wish I had more to enjoy. I hope everyone gets the chance to try this spectacular malt!

Sláinte

Gary

Smögen 3 Year Old – Sherry Project 1:1

smogen-3-year-old-2011-sherry-project-11-whiskyWell today we have something that is rather different, and which I may never have tried had I not decided to purchase one of Drinks by the Drams tasting sets (The Sherry Monsters Set). This is a whisky that has come from Sweden, from the Smögen distillery, and is a very interesting for being only 3 years old!

Smögen distillery was founded only recently, in 2009 and began production the following year in 2010. This small distillery, has a capacity of only around 35,000 litres per year, and is equipped with 2 stills – 1 wash still of around 900 litres and 1 spirit still of around 600 litres – which, like most of the process, was designed largely by Pär Caldenby, the founder. This small output means that great care is taken over the process, with quality being key. Maturation takes place in mainly virgin and first fill casks as the fresher casks mean a shorter maturation period, this also means that bolder flavours are drawn from the wood which are able to stand up to the heavily peated spirit, at around 45ppm. What we are enjoying today is the first release of Smögen’s ‘Sherry Project’. In which their spirit is finished in a sherry cask, for an ever increasing period of time depending on the release. For this release, 1.1, the first bottling of this project, the spirit has been matured initially in virgin European oak quarter casks before being finished for a final 4 months in a Sherry Butt. This spirit ran off of Smögen’s stills back in June 2011 and was bottled in September 2014, a 3 year old whisky, and limited to only 932 bottles (50cl). You would be very lucky if you found a bottle of this today as it was snapped up quickly when released at a price of around £90, it would cost you significantly more now. Let’s try it! (51.8% ABV).

Nose

This has got to be the busiest 3 year old whisky I have ever smelled. The first thing that comes across when you stick your nose even near the glass is smoke. This is a fairly heavily peated spirit, but it is not like the smoke you associate with say an Islay whisky, it’s a really spicy and interesting smoke. Savoury roasted nuts and cured meats mix with the smoke at first, with sweet-savoury spice, kind of like a jerk spice dry rub, with plenty of sweet paprika. It’s like barbecuing meats in a Jamaican market. As the smoke clears the sherry begins to come through, in a big way, accompanied by a big whack of alcohol. Clove studded oranges, all spice and baked apples bring those classic ‘Christmas’ feelings to mind. Right at the back of the nose some nuttiness comes through with a touch of sultana and floral lemon grass.

Palate

It has a sweet arrive, very sweet, and an almost fizzy feeling on the palate. It starts really softly too, it almost doesn’t feel alcoholic at first. Loads of raisins, dried summer berries and citrus peel. Then the smoke and the alcohol return after a few moments and with vengeance too! Wow! Burnt fruit loaf, served up with clotted cream comes through the smoke as well as rich muscovado sugar. It is quite acidic, really acidic actually, with bitter lemon rind and very strong pine needle tea. As well as the acidity it is drying and cloying on the palate with rich oak and bitter sherried tannins. The smoke is dominant on the palate but the sweetness from the sherry and the acidity make for a lively and changeable dram.

Finish

The finish continues on in a same theme as the palate, deep and spicy smoke, fresh acidity and sweet autumnal fruits. There is an earthiness which develops in the mouth of the finish that is reminiscent of drinking peaty water – it’s not smoky, just earthy. Sweet sugar comes back into play on the finish but it really is a continuation of the palate. After a few moments the fruit and sweetness drops off and that rich smoke just keeps going.

Well, this is the third whisky I have tried so far from Sweden and I must say they have all been fantastic. Japan, and now Australia, have built a strong name for themselves in recent years and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is Sweden’s turn next! This whisky goes a long way to showing what 3 years of maturation can do. Yes, this is young, but by God it has done a lot on those 3 years. The power from the virgin quarter casks, the intense spicy smoke and the fruits and nuts from the sherry cask make for a very busy dram. Would I buy this? For a 50cl bottle of 3 year old whisky I doubt I would pay £90 for it (if you could still buy a bottle of this). The fact that it is the first bottling in the series, 1.1, would give it some collectability and it is a very limited release but for me whisky is for drinking first and foremost. I just wish I had some more of this as my 3cl Drinks by the Dram sample is unfortunately finished.

Sláinte

Gary

Balblair 05 Vintage

As some of you may know, especially if you follow me on twitter, I absolutely love Balblair, the story and history of the distillery, the way they present their bottling’s, and of course, the whisky itself! There are very few distilleries which I would say that I don’t like, I like to think that every whisky has a time or place to be enjoyed, but Balblair has always had a special place in my heart since I first tried an Indie bottling of it a few years back and since then I have always had at least one bottle open to enjoy. The Balblair that I have been enjoying lately is their spritely 05 vintage, and this is what we will be looking at today.

balblair-05

Balblair is one of the oldest, and in my opinion prettiest, of the working distilleries in Scotland today. It was founded back in 1790 by John Ross – a long lost relation of mine perhaps… – just outside of Edderton, north of Inverness. Strangely enough though the current distillery that you can visit is not the original from 1790. In order to take advantage of a newly built railway line the distillery was relocated a short distance north in 1895, all of around half a mile, so that it was easier to get coal and barley delivered in. Only a few years later however the distillery went through a turbulent spell, the result of financial downturn, and was mothballed in 1911. And it didn’t get much better from there, the result of tough times and World War’s the distillery remained closed until it was bought by Robert James Cumming in 1948. Luckily though, it is back up and running and is still producing today. This was a malt unknown to many, except for the locals, until Inver House Distillers released their Vintages series a few years ago, and since then it has come on leaps and bounds. At Balblair they don’t use age statements; they use Vintages, a bottling of whiskies laid down in a certain year. They don’t fill the bottle at an age, they bottle it when John MacDonald, the current distillery manager, feels it is ready, and as they put it ‘Timed to Perfection’. A lot of people tend to prefer the older vintages from Balblair, especially the sherry cask matured vintages like the 90 – I won’t lie, that is definitely a favourite of mine too – but they tend to avoid the younger, bourbon matured, expressions which, in my opinion, are just terrific. The younger expressions like this one or the previous 03 have a much fresher and more youthful style, and convey more of the distillery character.

Nose

Upfront on the nose there are all the classic haul marks of Balblair. There is a fresh and crisp green apple aroma on the nose, as well as a floral, hay-like smell, these I always associate with this distillery. This is backed up by a considerable amount of sweetness, in the form of rich butterscotch and Highland toffee bars. It’s a light and delicate style of whisky but at the same time has so much to offer. There is a buttery sweet popcorn note which runs through the nose as well as a slight meaty character. A gentle spice comes from the casks with vanilla and a slight cardamom note. Towards the back of the nose a gentle waxyness begins to appear which is accompanied by an earthy honey aroma, and accompanied soft cinnamon spice.

Palate

On the palate there is a soft and sweet arrival with runny honey and toasted malt. Much more of the cask character comes through here than on the nose. Bitter-sweet oak tannins mix in with notes of citrus peel and nutmeg as well as vanilla extract. With time on the palate it seems to get older feeling with more musky notes of leather and a dunnage-type feel – or what I assume dunnage would taste like… – appearing. The apple from the nose again comes through but it isn’t a fresh as before, it’s older and sweeter, coming through more like an apple sauce or stewed apples.

Finish

The ‘old’ character is what leads the charge into the finish with again leather and a musky dunnage-type taste. This is joined by heavily toasted malt, with a gentle wisp of smoke, and as before an intense sweetness, coming through as honey once more. As the sweetness fades a floral grassy taste takes over which accompanied by sweet oak and green tea.

Well. There we have it. I have finally got round to doing a review of a Balblair, I have no idea why it has taken me this long but it is well overdue. The nose on this dram is a real triumph, it is so rewarding and busy. It has an ever changing sweetness which, accompanied by its fresh youthfulness, makes it very enjoyable indeed. I have tried to be as unbiased as I can but everyone has a favourite! My only comment would be that the finish could be a bit longer, though for a 10yo whisky that would be asking a lot. This is another great addition to the vintages range and for around £40-45 you can’t go wrong. Keep the vintages rolling Balblair, and I’ll keep enjoying them!

Sláinte

Gary