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Monday, September 11, 2017

Balblair 2005 First Release (2015)

I like Balblair. There's a general lack of baloney in Balblair's regular releases. All but two of the bottlings I've had were 100% ex-bourbon cask, and the spirit always takes the lead. And even though they provide vintages without age statements, it's easy to quickly figure out the bottling date and then use maffs to deduce the age.

DISCLOSURE TIME: Amy from Ten27 Communications sent me this bottle of Balblair several months ago. Thank you, Amy!

So now you know its source. Feel free to turn back if you're afeared or distrusting of my intent...



Still here?

Okay. Here's the review.

Distillery: Balblair
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Northern Highlands
Maturation: "American oak ex-bourbon barrels"
Vintage: 2005
Bottled: 2015
Bottle code: L15/8968
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? No

Its color is light amber. Some mellow barrels, perhaps? The nose leads with barley, lemon and an big note of unaged brandy. This is followed by shortbread cookies, hay and Irish cream butter. The palate has a very creamy mouthfeel. Toasted barley, sweet white fruits (pears and apples) and candy canes. It finishes similarly with barley and the white fruits. Grass and simple syrup.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
The nose leads with hay and hard toffee. It keeps the unaged brandy note, and picks up wort. Hints of lemon and apricot. That great mouthfeel remains. The palate is mostly sugars, cereals and kirschwasser. A soft peppery thing peeks out here and there. A floral new make note. The finish is short but still very clean. Floral tea, barley, mild sweetness, mild acidity and mild bitterness.

There are two great things about this whisky.

1.) Despite being about 10 years old it reads much younger, like the sort of extra-young-style whisky that only independent bottlers are releasing right now. Other official bottlers out there are releasing very young whisky but are applying all sorts of oak technology to hide the youth and age statement, and then charge more for the vanillin. What's also unique is there's no peat here to mask any potential flaws. That takes some confidence. And, you know, there was nothing to hide.

2.) This takes to water gracefully. The whisky keeps its excellent mouthfeel, while releasing some new notes. I had no idea what to expect when applying water to unpeated 46%abv baby whisky, and all was well.

I'm not going to tell you that this whisky will change your life or bring you to tears. What it does it does well, and that's that. What it does shouldn't be the exception for official bottlers, but it is.

Availability - 

Pricing - Japan: $30-$40, Europe: $45-$55, USA $60-$70 (of course)
Rating - 84