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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Blair Athol 12 year old Flora & Fauna (bottled 2016)

I'm not sure if it's a comfort or just a curiosity that Diageo does not ladle on the e150a to make sure all of their whiskies have the same orange tint. Here are this week's three F&Fs:

First on the left, Auchroisk came from ex-bourbon casks, or at least the refill-est of refill casks. The second two each had a large percentage of sherry casks in the mix, so they are color-coded correctly.

Today I'm reviewing the item in the middle, a single malt from the other Pitlochry distillery, Blair Athol. Most famous as the main malt ingredient in Bell's blended whisky, Blair Athol has also gained some notice for how well the spirit takes to sherry casks, thanks to countless single casks from Signatory and the Laings. Since I cursed Monday's review with the way I ended its intro, I'll just say this 12 year old sounds like it has the potential to be a decent regular release.

Distillery: Blair Athol
Region: Highlands (Pitlochry)
Ownership: Diageo
Range: Flora and Fauna
Age: at least 12 years
Maturation: at least partially made up of sherry casks
Bottling date: 2016
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered? Yes
Caramel Colorant? Yes

The nose begins with nutty Oloroso, dry Marsala and a hint of flower blossoms. It gets nuttier with time and picks up bits of chocolate and prunes. The palate starts off savory and lightly sweet. Grilled or smoked peppers. Hints of grape jam and hops (not a bad combo actually). A soapy note appears at the beginning, dissipates, then returns in later sips. It all gets sweeter with time. Salt, pepper and smoked almonds in the finish. Hops (good) and cardboard (less than good).

With its classic sherried malt elements, this Blair Athol would mostly serve as a comfy, unchallenging 12-year-old whisky. Mostly. Two elements jostle it out of that category. So potent was the soap note that I changed glassware to make sure it wasn't a glencairn issue. But it wasn't the glass. As noted above, the soap character waxed and waned and waxed again. A nice crisp hoppy note pulls it the opposite direction, almost saving and elevating the whisky. It's too bad the finish flops, as it leaves us with something that is much better than the F&F Auchroisk but falls short of the Dailuaine.

Availability - Europe
Pricing - $50-$70 (ex VAT) in Europe
Rating - 78