...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Birthday Malt Report: Balblair 1978 (2008 Release)

Distillery: Balblair
Ownership: Inver House Distillers Limited
Age: minimum 30 years (1978-2008)
Maturation: American oak ex-bourbon barrels
Region: The Highlands (North)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? No.
Caramel Coloring? No.

On New Years' Day, I placed an order with Royal Mile Whiskies for my birthday whisky.  It was significantly more expensive than any other liquor I've purchased, so I decided that it would only be enjoyed on August Twenty-fourths.

Of course, that's before I really understood the challenges of whiskies falling apart when they sit in a bottle for years and years and years.  But as I learned more about whisky, and as the bottle was torching a hole in the back of the Whisky Closet, I figured out a way to avoid the bottle aging issue.  I would drink the entire bottle in one sitting.

Just kidding.

Or am I?

Much research went into this purchase, as with all of my purchases in general.  Somehow both Jim Murray and Serge Valentin agreed on the high quality of the Balblair 1978 vintage.  How often do those guys agree?  I haven't quantified it, but I'll guess the answer is......not often?

It wasn't until this month that I realized they were talking about the 2010 bottling and not the 2008 bottling that I had bought.

But I have no regrets.  This whisky is one big glass of honey, just like its owner.

The color is of a late harvest sauvignon blanc or moscatel.  The nose starts with big candied American oak notes, later moving into the spirit's character.  Vanilla beans and vanilla pudding.  Coconut cream.  Fresh apricot?  Fruit cocktail juice.  There's something in the delicious blurry zone between dusty black pepper and wood smoke.  Citrus (but not lemon nor sweet orange).  White pepper.  After an hour in the glass, vanilla and spices take over.  The palate is very very very smooth; pain-in-the-ass smooth for a reviewer trying to suss out separate notes.  It did indeed require a second pour.  It's a glass of molasses and honey.  Then tart orange, pepper, lots of vanilla sugar, and a tiny note of mild cheese.  It finishes sweet and sturdy.  There's citrus, molasses, ground black pepper, and a moment of lychee.

Kristen, aside from documenting the event, gave it a few tastes.  I think she had a similar challenge as I do in divining individual elements within silky smooth whisky: she said, "It tastes like whisky."  Yes, yes it does.  The perfect palate note for a birthday beverage.  It tastes like whisky.

Availability - UK only
Pricing - the 2010 edition is a little more pricey at $200-$220 (w/shipping, w/o VAT)
Rating - 93