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Friday, October 15, 2021

Three sherry cask Blair Athols over 20 years old

There's a Blair Athol scarcity on these pages as well, so I decided to pack THREE into one post. Sort of a Lighting Round, but Diving for Pearls style, which means TL;DR. Let's fire it up!

Blair Athol 20 year old 1995 Old Malt Cask
Sherry butt HL12149, 50%abv

The nose beings with an almost phenolic intense burst of raw nuts, followed by orange peels and a dingy industrial note. Grapefruit and mango fill the background. It gets maltier once diluted to 46%abv, and picks up little bits of fudge and ocean. The orange peel and mango remains.

Sweet citrus and pink peppercorns start the palate. Raw almonds and black walnuts arrive next, followed by grapefruits and limes. The nose's industrial note shows up once the whisky is reduced to 46%abv. It also has a great mix of sweet and tart with grapefruits, dates and orange pixy stix.

Plums, grapefruit and Rainier cherries in the finish! At 46%, the finish matches the palate.

I enjoyed this Blair Athol so much more than I'd expected. The fruits and nuts were near perfect, and there was neither heavy oak nor generic dried fruit notes. It's a charmer with or without water. This is a bottle I wish I had bought five years ago.

Rating - 90

Blair Athol 26 year old 1988 Signatory for K&L Wine Merchants
Refill sherry butt 6844, 54.3%abv

The nose has two sides that meet well. Rye seeds, eucalyptus, gooey toffee and very old wood. And guava juice, figs, grapefruit and fern leaves. Reduced to 46%abv, it moves towards antiques and fabrics. Then stones, minerals and grapefruit.

The palate matches the nose well. There are grapefruits, figs, black walnuts, oranges and black raisins. It gets sweeter with time, while also picking up an oaky zing. At 46%abv, golden raisins and black raisins take the foreground, with eucalyptus and toasted oak in the background.

Oranges, figs, carob and a hint of drying tannins make up the finish. At 46%abv, it's mostly raisins and pepper with a bit of tannin.

Though the oak is much more present here than on the 20yo, I like the whisky quite a bit. The nose is fantastic diluted or not. I prefer the palate and finish at full strength because the oak seems more in check. Beware, My Annoying Opinions and I both like this K&L single cask. And it's way too late for us to get in on the old price.

Rating - 89

Blair Athol 25 year old 1988 Signatory
Wine-treated butt 6789, 59.0%abv

(Okay, it's not officially a sherry cask. It's possible that this cask was seasoned with a fortified wine, like sherry, rather than having that stuff mature in the cask before dumping. So it's more descriptive, yet more vague than "Sherry Butt".)

Once braving the nose's alcohol burn, one can find toasted walnuts, toasted pine nuts and LOTS of gunpowder. There's leather, dusty upholstery, fig and vanilla extract further back. Diluting to 46%abv pushes the sulphur even further forward. Beef stock, cherry soda, fig and vanilla fill out the rest.

The palate has less sulphur than the nose. It's more of a gunpowder and pepper seasoning. It has has some sweetness from dried cherries and dried cranberries; then some old bourbony oak, rubber and leather. It gets more metallic at 46%abv, while also developing tart citrus notes. Grains and paper linger in the background.

Cherry syrup, salt and rubber in the finish. It finishes sweet, peppery, tannic and tangy at 46%abv.

While this may have been a serviceable whisky on its own (for non-sulphurphobes), this Blair Athol got its ass handed to it firmly by the previous two. The aggressive "wine-treated" vessel kept everything from merging well. But I did enjoy the nose very much even with the gunpowder.

Rating - 81

Those results were the opposite of what I'd expected: 123 rather than 321. And I didn't anticipate handing out an 89 or 90. So the tasting was a win! And as exciting as the thought of Signatory keeping its 1988 Blair Athols aging for more than 30 years may be, I think 25 is already pushing things a bit. Of course that depends on the cask. More refills please!

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