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Monday, November 20, 2017

Balblair 2003, First US Release (2015)

Balblair has three 2003 vintage releases, bottled in 2013, 2014 and 2015, all marked on their boxes as the "1st Release". Either they kept the release/batch sitting in a steel tank for two years or someone at the packing company was just replicating copy. The 2015 bottling was, I believe, the first US release of the 2003 vintage. Due to the aforementioned issue, I don't know if the whisky is ~10, ~11 or ~12 years old. If it's ~10, that would make it the same age as the 2005 vintage I reviewed two months ago.

In any case, to get some extra perspective for this review I tried the 2003 and 2005 vintage side by side......and then threw in a third(!) Balblair that I'll be reviewing on Wednesday.

My take on the 2005 remains the same as before, so here are my notes on the 2003 vintage:

Distillery: Balblair
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Northern Highlands
Maturation: "American oak, ex-bourbon barrels", probably a good quantity of refills
Vintage: 2003
Bottled: 2015
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? No
DISCLOSURE: Amy from Ten27 Communications sent me this bottle of Balblair. Thank you, Amy!

The nose is aggressively green and full of barley. Cardamom, anise and pecans. Lemon-scented cleaner. It's less immediately expressive than the 2005. A blueberry muffin note shows up after 10 minutes, and expands to brighten the profile with time.

A rare example of a palate being richer and bolder than the nose. Butterscotch, vanilla fudge and simple syrup. Chiles and a slight green bitterness. Orange creamsicles and a hint of apples.

The finish has a newmake edge to it, unseen until now. Ethyl, citrus, floral and sugary things. It mellows with time, picking up the chile pepper note, as well as more citrus and caramel.

Like the 2005 vintage, the 2003 comes across younger than ten years old. The nose and finish read very very youthful, but the palate feels round and thick, and is where the American oak shows the most. The 2003 is not really for nosing, but makes for a good drink, which is probably the point of whisky. The oak isn't too loud and there's plenty of spirit flashing through, so it should appeal more to those who want more whisky in their whisky.

Availability - 
The 2003 was released worldwide, though this batch is in the US

Pricing - $55 to $85
Rating - 82

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