Friday, 12 December 2014

A Trio of Balblair,
The Dauntless
Northern Highlander

Almost two weeks without a single post, looks like I've returned to my bad habits,  though in my defense I've been quite busy with work.
If I don't find the time to properly enjoy a dram or two and write some notes down, I'll usually just go for an easy sipper like Dalmore 12, Jura Prophecy, Glenfarclas 105 or my old and trusty companion the Lagavulin 16.
Therefore many bottles/samples remained unopened: stashed away for future enjoyment.

So I still got a few exciting posts coming up: some rare, some lost and some low profile distilleries will get their chance in the spotlight.

Though I may already have confessed my love for Balblair here before, I owe it to the good people of Balblair, who provided me with these samples for a twitter tasting, that I add my tasting notes to this blog.

There is something about Northern Highlanders, just think about it: Dalmore, Old Pulteney, Clynelish, Brora, Glenmorangie and Balblair (sorry, I haven't had the opportunity yet to try Glen Ord and Teaninich) all powerhouses by their own right.

And yet, even though it has been getting quite some buzz over the last few years, Balblair is still the lesser known. Which is, if you think about it,  quite a relieve for the fans, as this distillery still offers its vintages at acceptable prices.

Vintages you say? Time to get nostalgic with Balblair!

Balblair 2003 Vintage

The year of the US invasion of Iraq, the last flight of the Concord & a failed Matrix sequel

The Whisky

Nose: creamy on the nose with notes of soft butter, fruity elements of gooseberries, white fruits, and peach and pineapple. Underlying a slightly more floral layer, maybe a tad soapy with a whiff of blackboard chalk.
(with water added: brings out the citrus in the nose: straight lemon juice, not just lemonade or lemon flavoured water. A strange thing that I've never witnessed before in a full-bodied whisky)

Mouth: waxy and full bodied, both spicy and bitter on the palate. With elements of lemon peel, cereal, a touch of banana, spiced up with white pepper and oak
(with water added: the palate is pretty much ruined, only light citrus and vanilla notes remain,  the loss of spicyness brings out the oak flavours)

Finish: lemon bitter in the finish with a touch of ginger in the tail

The Verdict

Very young whisky, but powerful in taste. A true testimony to youthful single malt whiskies.
Something must be said about the addition of water as it improves the nose, but spoils the palate (at least in my opinion). My advice? Start by drinking this neat, you can still experiment with the leftovers.
Take notes ladies and gentlemen, for as little as €37, this bottle could be yours.



Balblair 1990 Vintage 2nd Release

The year of the US invasion of Panama, German reunification & the birth year of the author 

The Whisky

Nose: like a snowed in log cabin, a warm nose filled with notes of wood polish, demerara sugar (raw brown sugar), raisins,  an various spices: nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves.

Mouth: with a syrupy and waxy body and a slightly bitter palate come notes of coffee beans, molten toffee,  a spicy edge of rough grind black pepper,  a nudge of nutmeg and a whiff of dark chocolate

Finish: medium long, with notes of pomander (orange with nutmeg) and dark wood

The Verdict

This whisky comes with that cosy warm feeling that you will need to get through the winter months. Old, bold, rich and a tad dusty, who wouldn't sign up for that?
Drink this one neat, water ads nothing to the palate, though feel free to experiment.
I can only approve of this fellow 1990 Vintage.



Balblair 1983 vintage

The year of the US Invasion of Grenada, Michael Jackson's moonwalk & McDonald's McNugget

The Whisky

Nose: this elegant nose opens with a touch of lemon, and vanilla, tropical fruits like  mango and banana in the second act and for the grand finale, a variety of herbal essences and oak.

Mouth: Rich and smooth body with a palate of summer fruits, citrussy notes, some butterscotch, seasoned with cloves and cinnamon.

Finish: long and a bit sour with a creamy touch of butter and a spicy edge in the tail

The Verdict

Refined and elegant, much more in line with the 2003. This one has bourbon cask written all over it. 
A dash of water increases the flavour profile of the whisky, though no additional notes are created (feel free to experiment).
Is it better than the 1990 vintage ?, only slightly I would say. It is much more refined and elegant.
Personally I would pick the 1990 (even tough I might be a bit biased) over the 1983, though I'll give the latter one a higher score due to the complexity of the dram. (always reward craftsmanship)
Maybe this metaphor might help: the 2003 is a dagger, the 1990 a broadsword and the 1983 is a rapier. 


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