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Monday, October 4, 2021

Balblair 38 year old 1966

My brother and his wife just welcomed their second child, and first daughter, to this world. They're in a for a treat! Of course, my bias towards daughters began seven years and five months ago.

I tried to arrange the whisky schedule so that I could review this 38 year old sherry cask whisky as close as possible to my niece's birth. So here we are!

Balblair distillery's penchant for single malt vintages predates the recent squat bottles familiar to many of us. They released this 1966a 1970 and 1979 in 2004-2005, but also offered up about a half dozen 1970s vintages at the millenium's turn. This 1966 whisky was distilled during Robert "Bertie" Cumming's ownership. Mothballed in 1911, the distillery remained silent (aside from military usage during World War Two) for 37 years until Cumming bought and reopened it. Cumming sold Balblair to Hiram Walker in 1970, and corporate mergers and acquisitions have taken place ever since.

But more importantly, it's time to drink some old whisky.

Distillery: Balblair
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Northern Highlands
Age: 38 years old (1966 - September 2004)
Maturation: 2nd Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks
Outturn: 2,400 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 44%
(from a bottle split)


Black walnuts start off in the nose's background, then slowly roll forward until they take top billing about 40 minutes in. Subtle coastal and dunnage notes frame marzipan, Luxardo cherries and fresh thyme. As the hour passes, toffee, grapefruits, and finally guavas appear.

Earth and herbs meet mango, dried cranberries and Cara Cara oranges in the early palate. It gets zestier with time, and a little sweeter. Two different leafy notes appear as well: first a chlorophyll/green character, then tobacco. The fruits recede to the edges.

Nectarines and dried apricots join the oranges in the finish. It evolves from fruity honey sweetness to a sharp tartness, then the wood starts to edge in.


Over the past few years I've become a sucker for the black walnut note. But black walnut + dunnage + guava?! This whisky's nose is, as I wrote down, "an all-timer". The palate's fruits are very good, and not surprising to this old Balblair fan. But the earthiness was a bit of a shock, a welcome shock at first. Perhaps that character came from the oak, because the beams started showing in the finish. And the finish is truth. Had everything matched the nose, my goodness...

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - $,$$$
Rating - 90 (but the nose tho)

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