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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Single Malt Report: Blair Athol 25 year old Van Wees cask 6918

Blair Athol!  Woo hoo!

Seriously, I'm excited to try this whisky.  It'll be my second Blair Athol in five days.  Before this weekend I had tried a grand total of zero Blair Athols.  I'm also a fan of the Dutch indie bottler, Van Wees.  They've released two casks of 1988 Blair Athol, both of which are beloved by the whiskybase community.  I think I just missed out on getting this one.  Luckily for me, My Annoying Opinions bought it and I was able to get a sample of it in return for an empty bottle of Duggan's Dew.  We'll be doing simultaneous reviews again today.  And here's the link to his review!

Distillery: Blair Athol
Independent Bottler: van Wees (The Ultimate)
Age: 25 years (October 21, 1988 - February 10, 2014)
Maturation: Refill sherry butt
Cask number6918
Limited bottling: 712
Region: Highlands (Central)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%

The color is a rosy dark gold.  The nose has some musty moldy sherry that reminds me of my '70s Johnnie Walker Black Label.  There's definitely something mossy in there too, though the distillery supposedly uses only unpeated Glen Ord malt.  There's some dry tobacco and hay.  Herbal notes range from rosemary to oregano to mint.  Something vegetal peeks up, something between green peppers and cucumber.  Maybe some smoked prunes and carob, too.  It's very intense considering the ABV.  The palate is toasty, earthy, and a little smoky.  Notes of toffee, black peppercorns, and apple juice arise as well.  Big sticky sherry and a wormwood-like bitterness grow with time.  The sweetness curls up at the end.  The long and vivid finish holds rich sherry, tobacco, black coffee, and milk chocolate.  The bitterness lessens slightly and some meyer lemon sweetness arises.

With just a few drops of water, the nose slips away, either tightening or closing or evaporating.  There's still some sherry in there.  Fresh basil and mint.  Maybe some floral notes.  The palate is still toasty and sherried.  Less sweet, more herbs.  Slightly soapy.  The finish is much shorter.  A slight sweetness meets a slighter bitterness.  Plenty of sherry.

This hit the spot.  I loved the busy nose and the bright & bitter palate is how I prefer sherried stuff.  Water did it no favors, so I recommend it neat.  I'm still convinced this was somehow lightly peated.  Maybe the refill cask spent its first Scottish life in Islay?  The quality of this whisky makes me wonder how many other good Blair Athol casks escaped Diageo's claws and are hiding inside independent warehouses?

Availability - Might be sold out
Pricing - was $90ish, ex-VAT, before shipping (not a bad price considering the age)
Rating - 89