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Monday, August 29, 2022

Balmenach-Glenlivet 14 year old Extra Special, Sesante, bottled 1980s

What the hell is a Balmenach anyway? Other than the occasional Signatory cask, Balmenach single malt rarely finds its way to retailer shelves or blog posts. Its current owner, Inver House, refuses to produce official bottlings because the malt is so desired by blenders, which is bummer because the rest of owner's distillery portfolio is frequently interesting (like Balblair, Old Pulteney, Speyburn and AnCnoc). But Hanky ain't gonna Bannister itself.

Balmenach was one of the rare distilleries that United Distillers chose to sell instead of destroy. Inver House scooped up the facility in 1997 after it had been mothballed for four years. According to both the Malt Whisky Yearbook and scotchwhisky.com, Balmenach currently produces an old school, hefty, meaty whisky.....and also gin.

But I'm not going to review anything distilled by Inver House this week. Instead, each of this week's three Balmenachs came from the United Distillers period post-floor malting (>1964), but pre-closure (<1993), all bottled by independent companies.

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Sesante's 14 year old Extra Special Balmenach came in three formats: 43%abv, 57.5%abv, and a crystal decanter with 40%abv fluid within. It was a short lived set that may have been distilled in the early 1970s. I'm grateful to have had an opportunity to take part in a bottle split of the 43%abv edition.

Distillery: Balmenach
Ownership at time of distillation: United Distillers (proto-Diageo)
Region: Speyside (Moray)
Bottler: Sesante
Age: at least 14 years old
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
(from a bottle split)


A hardy combination of barley, apple cider and sooty garage appears first in the nose, followed by quieter notes of lemon, lox, metal and apple cake. It gets yeastier with time.

The palate starts off very malty, with a little bit of brown sugar and Campari-esque bitterness in the midground. It gains lemon, raw bitter nuts and slightly more brown sugar after a while.

In early sips, it finishes with a warm bitterness and something beer-like. Later on, it concludes slightly sweeter with tart oranges and raw walnuts in the background.


It's a fairly naked whisky but not in the same way that contemporary baby malts are produced. The barley rides way up front, framed by an unromantic bitterness. The palate's citrus gives it a nice twist, as does the nose's industrial side. I wouldn't call it a super whisky, but it would be nice to have something like this available today. Maybe a vatting of Benromach, Tobermory and Loch Lomond? Anyone?

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - no, don't look
Rating - 85