Inver House Distillers owns a number of respectable malt distilleries. There are the more familiar stars from the North Highlands: Old Pulteney and Balblair. There's the rising star, AnCnoc. And there's Speyburn, a distillery which produces the best value 10 year old single malt in Speyside.
But then there's Balmenach, a distillery whose malt is used almost entirely for blends, including Hankey Bannister (*frowny emoji*). Originally owned by DCL (proto-Diageo), it had a pair of Flora & Fauna releases about twenty years ago. Inver House purchased the mothballed distillery in 1997, and an official single malt under the Balmenach name hasn't been seen since. Curiously Inver House does sell some casks to a company called Aberko who then uses it for their 18 year old "Deerstalker" brand......except of course for the times they use Allt-a-Bhainne. And, just to confuse things further, Aberko uses Braeval's single malt for their 10 year old Deerstalkers. So, still, there isn't very much Balmenach to be found.
Thus we go to the independent bottlers once again to find out what Balmenach tastes like. As I mentioned yesterday, Signatory's 1988 single casks of Balmenach have been receiving very positive word of mouth. I was able to obtain samples of three of these single casks and did a blind tasting of the bunch. Yesterday, I reviewed cask 2819 (sold in Europe). Today it's a cask that was sold exclusively through K&L Wine Merchants in the US. Thank you to Brett for the sample!
Ownership: Thai Beverages plc (via Inver House Distillers)
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Age: 25 years (October 25, 1988 - April 25, 2014)
Bottle count: 148
Alcohol by Volume: 56%
Caramel Colorant? No
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
The nose is more floral (jasmine and roses) than cask 2819's candy blitzkrieg, though there is a slight sugary candy shop note. There's the lemon bar note and some lemon juice, but also some lemon bathroom cleaner. Salty beach meets dusty dry soil. A little bit of green grass. The only time the oak shows up is in a small caramel note. White peaches, caramel, and slight tart bite start off the palate. Those are followed by cayenne pepper, rosewater syrup, and limes. A bit of a Grand Marnier thing appears after 30 minutes. The light finish is lightly floral and creamy. Some vanilla, limes, and lemons show up as well.
WITH WATER (~47%abv)
Lemons, limes, roses, cherry candy, and roasted barley in the nose. The palate is still quite aromatic, though also tangier and bitterer. There are lemons and limes and very little sweetness. Still a decent oomph to it. It finishes with salt and sour lemon candy.
No big flaws to this one. It had my second favorite palate of the three, but the finish was on the short simple side. Its nose is good, but the sniffers on the other two casks were damn good so regular "good" equals third place. Even though it finishes third out of three overall, it's still an impressive whisky for a distillery that has historically gotten no love from anoraks. I'm glad K&L took a chance with this cask. The risk paid off for them as it sold out pretty quickly.
Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $150
Rating - 86