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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Birthday Malt Report: Balblair 1978, Round 2!

As stated in last year's post about this bottle, I am only drinking it on my birthday.  And half birthday.  And other times.  Anyway, it was still more than 60% full this year and I wanted to see how/if it changes in the bottle.  Plus it's a clean, honeyed, fruity malt so it suits the late summer.  So it became (or has become) the house malt for my birthday (week).

Also, in last year's post, I moderately bemoaned the fact that my '78 Balblair was the 2008 version, not the 2010 version (the version with the rare Murray/Valentin accolades).  It turns out, had I examined the bottle code, I would have seen that the stuff was bottled in 2010.  I'm sharp.  And now a year older.

Distillery: Balblair
Ownership: Inver House Distillers Limited
Age: minimum 32 years (1978-2010)
Maturation: American oak ex-bourbon barrels
Region: Northern Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? No
Caramel Coloring? No

Two quick things:
1.) This was drunk neatly after a 30 minute wait.
2.) I did not read my notes from last year's tasting before composing these notes for this year:

Color - Light gold

Nose - Very aggressive fruits right from the start: tart mango, lemon peel, peach skin, and fresh apples.  But mostly pineapple, and LOTS of it.  A lot of caramel syrup too.  With time, there are more grain and yeast notes, even a teeny bit of barrel char.  Additionally, one may find some hints of whole grain bread, along with pineapple turnovers, and a fruit tart.

Palate - A lot of caramel and vanilla. It's more tart than I'd remembered, as in tart fruits (not fruit tarts).  Okay, also fruit tarts.  Big thick note of salted caramel gelato -- which I also enjoyed this past weekend.  With time, the whisky gets sweeter in the glass.  Orange peel meets watermelon Jolly Ranchers.

Finish - Much longer than the Glen Grant. Sweet without being cloying. Butterscotch, lemon candy, caramel sauce, and (singing the loudest) the watermelon Jolly Rancher candies.

Now I'm looking at last year's notes...

I'll be danged.  Aside from the citrus, there's very little in common.  The vanilla seems to have moved from the nose to the palate.  I didn't get the honey notes this time, instead I found caramel.  But it's clear that the massive fruit notes moved in this year.  I have to say I actually like it more.  I had some struggles last year sorting through the drink, so either it opened up in the bottle or I was on my game.

One final thought on my Balblair 1978.  This '78 set the ceiling for what I'm willing to spend on a single liquor bottle.  If I do let it stay in its original bottle until the next birthday, I may have to end the bottle/oxygen experiment at that point and decant the whisky into a smaller glass receptacle.  While I enjoy this experiment, I also want to make sure I can continue to enjoy the whisky for which I'd shelled out big bucks rather than allowing its nose and palate to perish slowly in an oxidized slumber on my watch.  But then again, will there be any left in a year?  Or even at the end of this week...?

Availability - A few European retailers
Pricing - $200-$220 (w/shipping, w/o VAT) via UK retailers, otherwise $300+
Rating - 93