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Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Balblair 26 year old 1990 Cadenhead Authentic Collection

I adore when Balblair goes all fruity on me. The bright, perky spirit can stand up to bourbon barrels and sherry casks, for decades, in well-managed warehouses. Underwhelmed by the official (and new to my brain, even though the whisky has existed for four years) 18-year-old after trying it recently in Japan, I've elected to go with a pair of independently bottled single casks this week. One 26 years old, the other 27. Both aged in ex-bourbon barrels. Yay?

The angels had their way with today's 26yo, spiriting away with 60-65% of the barrel's original contents. Cadenhead rescued the remaining 76 liters (108 bottles), with the resulting whisky registering at 44.4%abv.

Distillery: Balblair
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Northern Highlands
Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Authentic Collection
Age: 26 years (1990 - Oct 2016)
Maturation: bourbon barrel
Outturn: 108 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 44.4%
(thank you to My Annoying Opinions for the sample!)


The nose shows a well-balanced combination of spirit and cask. Baked apples, citrons, and lychee mix with gentle toasted oak spices. Key lime pie and cardamom pods arise after 30 minutes.

My handwritten notes for the palate begin with "custard, toffee, custard, toffee custard", but not really toffee custard though, instead it's a citrus and lychee custard. I dunno, it makes sense to me. Hints of salt, herbs, and earth offer some depth, as does a brightly tart pineapple note that builds with time.

Lovely tart limes and pineapple fill the finish, with earth and toasted oak cameos in the background.


Very very very very drinkable. A bottle of this would be a lot of trouble here. My Annoying Opinions seems to have survived the encounter, and his notes (and score) are very similar to mine, so you know we are correct. (And for you unbelievers, see Whiskybase.)

One more word about ABV before I depart...

Whenever I see cask strength releases with ABVs below 45%, I often ponder "WTF happened to the cask?", sometimes publicly. I also frequently complain about whiskies being bottled at 40%abv. Meanwhile, here I am, loving this single malt's 44.4% strength. Is this hypocritical? Would this whisky have been better a few years younger and slightly stronger? Maybe, maybe. But I attempt to comment about whiskies on a case-by-case basis. Here the ABV works, possibly because this Balblair wasn't watered down, and probably because the spirit stuck it out across 26 years. I'll try to keep an open mind about ABV, but companies that purposely water down whisky that's been aged for decades are doing everyone and everything (including their product and brand) a disservice, everything except for their bottom line. So it will continue. Long live Balbair and Cadenhead, though!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 89