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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Balblair 1999, 2nd Release (bottled 2016)

As with the 2003 first edition, Balblair's 1999 second edition has had three releases: in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Then consider that the 1999 1st edition was also released during those same years, as well as in 2017. So that means one round of the first edition was released after the second edition but at the same time as the first release of the third edition. Transparent shell, chewy opaque center?

The good news is that all those second editions seem to have been produced from a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Could it have been one big batch blended in 2014, with a one-third then being bottled and the rest put in steel? Or is the 2016 release two years older than the 2014?

DISCLOSURE: Amy from Ten27 Communications sent me this bottle, along with the 2003 and 2005 that I've already reviewed. (Thank you, Amy!) The 2003 somehow read younger and rawer than the 2005. They were both very decent whiskies, but since the 2005 felt more complete or fully formed, I preferred it over the elder bottling. Those two were entirely from American oak. The 1999 has some Spanish action going on...

Distillery: Balblair
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Northern Highlands
Maturation: "American oak, ex-bourbon barrels"+ "Spanish oak, sherry butts"
Vintage: 1999
Bottled: 2016
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? No

A bit of sharpness to the nose, some brute youth still in there. Nothing grapey or winey about this whisky. It's all mineral, lime, ocean air, barley and Cara cara orange peels. Those limes and oranges show up in the palate, and are met with tart berries. Then malt, molasses, honey and almonds. A little bit of heat too, which carries into the simple but long finish. Just honey, citrus and malt.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv or <1tsp water per 30mL whisky
Lots of barley in the nose. An unoaked mineral white wine with hints of lemons and peaches. A milk chocolate moment. The palate is sweeter, creamier. Darker. Tarter citrus, berry syrup, roasted barley and a sprinkling of soil. The finish has (good, homemade) limoncello with fresh ginger and a little bit of barley.

"Straightforward" is the keyword about this whisky. It's neither subtle or loud, plain or complex. No gimmicks, no oak syrup. Just whisky, man. Consequently it's also difficult to rave over such a thing. But it's impossible to hate. It's a swimmer. And it *gasp* works on the rocks, especially on a muggy night such as this.

Plenty of refill casks are in the mix. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if the batch was in fact made in 2014 because the whisky reads like it's in the early part of its second decade. That's not really a knock, since hints of old Balblair fruity charm are just starting to peek through. 20+ years with this maturation though...

Availability - some specialty retailers in Europe and the US
Pricing - $80-$100 (US), $65-$85 (Europe, w/o VAT or shipping)
Rating - 85