Balblair Distillery

Balblair 2008 #717 and 2006 Single Cask #77

We’re back to the Highland and more specifically back to Balblair. This time, it’s another proof of how friends can influence your spendings, especially when you’re weak regarding a specific distillery. You just need to tell some of my friends “new Ben Nevis something” and bam!, they throw money at their computer (not like they’re wrong when it’s for a Ben Nevis). Me… it works with a few distilleries in the same way, including Balblair… So we’ll review today a Balblair 2006 single cask bottled for La Maison Du Whisky, highly recommended by a friend who even offered to buy it back, should I dislike it. That’s how in love with that bottle he is. And we’ll review at the same time another single cask, a Balblair 2008 hand filled at the distillery in 2019.


Balblair Distillery. Photo stol… courtesy of their Instagram.

Balblair 2008 Handfill Single Cask #717 Review

When I went to Scotland for the first time in 2019, Balblair was the first distillery I visited with the friends who came with me for the Spirit of Speyside. We toured this beautiful distillery, tasted the new 12, 15 and 18 years old range (the 25-year-old was not yet available unfortunately), and I had the chance to get the last bottle hand filled from the cask available in the visitor centre, an ex-bourbon cask #717 filled in 2018, and that I finished emptying on the 29th of April 2019 if my memory serves me well. Then, I might have drunk the very last few drops straight from the pump connected to the cask, one good mouthful ! I paid the equivalent of €110 at the time (about £95).

Colour:

Burnished.

Nose:

Neat: Intense, the high ABV is immediately noticeable. Lots of fruits, apricot, mango, pineapple, ripe bananas, then orange peels and soft spices.

With water, the intensity due to the ABV tones down, and reveals sesame oil, prune, Bounty chocolate bar and cinnamon.

Palate:

Neat: Thick, warm and viscous mouthfeel, thick liquid caramel, milk truffle chocolate, a bit of ginger, and hints of vanilla, apricot and orange.

After reduction, barley sugar, coconut shavings, a bit of honey and in the back, pineapple and the faintest note of eucalyptus.

Adding more water, it gets surprisingly drying on the gums, unlocking tannins from the wood, as well as spicier on the tip of the tongue. The vanilla moves to custard cream.

Finish:

Long finish. Caramel for the longest time, truffle chocolate again and spices.

Comments:

This ex-bourbon single cask is surprisingly intense on the nose and thick on the palate, and not as clear as the ‘old’ but same age official bottlings with a vintage, like my dear 2005 bottled in 2016. The level on my bottle hasn’t dropped much in three years and that’s both a shame and a relief at the same time. A shame because it’s delicious, intense, and leaves lots of room for playing with water. And a relief, because that means I have still a lot of this Balblair, and thank the whisky gods for that. Adding to that the experience of filling the bottle and then, since it was the last one from the cask, drinking the last drops straight from the casks make for an unforgettable experience that shouldn’t have an impact on the rating, so… okay, it won’t. For me only, it’s two points higher because of these memories. For other people, it will be…

Rating: 88/100


Balblair 2006 Single Cask #77 for LMDW Review

This Balblair has been distilled in 2006 and matured for about fourteen years in first-fill sherry butt #77. It was selected by La Maison Du Whisky, and bottled in 2020. 573 bottles were released at the cask strength of 56.3% ABV, without chill filtration nor colouring. I was going to rant about the price, as I paid €185 for a bottle, but if I am honest with myself, I might have spent the same kind of money on a twice younger Irish single-pot-still recently, so… I’ll keep the rant in for once. Anyway. Not many French off-licences have this bottle still in stock, but Cave Conseil Le Gus’t and Diogène Atmosphère have some for an even steeper price, about €220. It’s unfortunately not available outside France. Quick remark by the way, I was happily surprised to see they used the old bottle shape and box for this single cask, and not the current ones. That doesn’t change the taste, but I definitely prefer the old bottles shape, and the two-door box with its magnets to ease the closure.

Balblair 2006 Single Cask #77 for LMDW

Colour:

Mahogany.

Nose:

Neat: huge rancio immediately, the nose is intense but in a different less alcoholic way than the 2008 from above. Noble woods, wood and shoe polishes, old leather. Then herbal notes, moving to mushrooms and wet saltpetre on cobblestone walls in the basement. Dried figs, light liquorice notes. Floral ones as well, lavender, cornflower. Quite vinous as well.

With water: a box of cigars, even the whole humidor, wet tobacco leaves, and hints of rubber inflatable balloons, the one the kids love to play with (and explode when they don’t pay attention).

Palate:

Neat: herbal arrival, it makes me think of a 1960s Glendronach 12 I had in December, really old style. The mouthfeel is creamy, thinner than the 2008 reviewed above but thick nonetheless. Dark fruits, figs, dates, and now on the second sip some dryness appears on the top gum. Nutty notes, and hints of rhubarb, redcurrant and quince.

After reduction: oooh it gets sweeter as well as slightly drier. More red fruits, blood orange juice, cigar, a little incense, and caraway (love that, I buy sometimes some gouda cheese with caraway seeds, it’s so good.)

Finish:

Looooong. Slightly dry, vinous, as well as breakfast cocoa powder, dried figs and gunpowder.

Comments:

At first, to be honest, I was disappointed with this whisky, I found it too herbal for my taste. The friend who recommended that bottle to me offered again to buy it, but I declined, wanting to give it more time over… time. With a bit of air in the bottle, more encounters with it, more time in the glass… and more thinking, I began to understand this whisky. In the end it’s strangely for me like an old recent one. Or a recent old one? I said in my notes, it makes me think of a 1960s Glendronach 12, so let’s say this Balblair feels like a recent old ‘young-ish’ one. Seems clear, right? Anyway, what I mean is that now I’m happy to have bought this bottle, because each time I pour myself a dram and take time with it, I discover new things, I learn more about it, and each time I love it more than the previous one. I’m sure there’s a limit to that reasoning, or else in 10 drams down the road I would rate it 105 over 100. But for now, I think this will be a justified…

Rating: 90/100

Glen Moray Mastery 120th Anniversary

Glen Moray Mastery 120th Anniversary (2017)

We’re back in Scotland, and for this two hundredth whisky I review here, I wanted to get something special. But this time, no closed distillery (soon, I have several ready for review in my tasting notes book), nor a 40-year-old whisky. I’m going to Elgin, to Glen Moray, one of my favourites distilleries. So let’s consider that number, and then we’ll see how the Glen Moray Mastery 120th Anniversary does.

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The Whisky Cellar Series 004 Tweet Tasting

The Whisky Cellar Series 004 Tweet Tasting

The Whisky Cellar is back with its fourth series of Private Cellars Selection bottlings, but not only. Keith Bonnington, The Whisky Cellar‘s founder and ex-Edrington employee, bought, a few months ago, from his former employer, the Brig O’Perth blend brand. One of his other projects, Scalasaig, also is not only an island whiskies blend, but also now a bottler, with, I imagine, single malts coming from all the distilleries making up the Scalasaig blend. So for this fourth Whisky Cellar Tweet Tasting, we’ll try the Brig O’Perth, a Tobermory bottled under the Scalasaig brand, and three single malts and one single grain part of the Whisky Cellar Private Cellars Selection Series 4. We enjoyed a lot Keith’s selection during the first three Tweet Tastings, so I think we can have high hopes for this Whisky Cellar Fourth Tweet Tasting.

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Deanston Virgin Oak, and Two 12-year-old

Deanston Virgin Oak, and Two 12-year-old

Quite a number of my friends have a sweet spot for Distell-owned distilleries, including the Southern-Highland based Deanston Distillery. The Deanston 12 years old is regarded as one of their favourites for affordable single malts. It was even one of the nominated at the OSWA, the Online Scotch Whisky Awards, in the Best Entry-Level Single Malt category. The OSWA are online awards delivered by a group of whisky YouTubers, and were created by Roy ‘AqvaVitae’ and Ralfy from Ralfydotcom, two famous whisky-dedicated YouTube channels. While it didn’t win the category, Deanston 12 years old still finished in an honourable third place. If you want to know which whisky won, I invite you to check the OSWA’s website. But right now, let’s check this Deanston 12, and compare it to an older version and the Virgin Oak NAS.

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Timorous Beastie 40-year-old was part of a great flight of whiskies.

Timorous Beastie 40 year old

Two hundred. This whisky marks the two hundredth whisky reviewed on those electronic pages. And I’m feeling quite happy we (with Julien, with whom I created More Drams Less Drama, and Mac who contributed two reviews as a guest) have reached this humble milestone. Humble, sure, some fantastic writers I read every morning deliver 200 reviews a year and more, and of a high quality to top it all. This is a level acquired with talent and experience, and a level I hope to reach one day. But for now, it took us two and a half years to reach two hundred whiskies reviewed, that’s our small milestone, but we are happy to have reached it. Out of tiny acorns mighty oaks grow, as they say. And that mighty oak will become a beautiful cask to mature fantastic whisky, right? The casks that were used to make this Timorous Beastie 40-year-old were made from oak that came one day, long ago, from tiny acorns.

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Compass Box Orchard House

Compass Box Orchard House

There are several ways a whisky grabs your interest. It might be because it’s a new release from your favourite distillery, blender or independent bottler. You might really like the bottle or the label. There might be a finish you like or you want to try. It may have been reviewed by a whisky blogger you trust or in a whisky magazine or website and it got a good review. Maybe it was on offer at your off-licence or online shop, and you’re feeling adventurous. It might be because you’re getting bored with this introduction that still doesn’t get to the point. Or because friends recommended this bottle, giving it high praise. And in Compass Box Orchard House’s case, it was the latter. I didn’t have time to go taste it at Whisky Live Paris in 2021 as I was there as an exhibitor, but people I met there, owning a great pub in Rennes, and friends from the Whisky Circus, highly recommended this blended malt. It was cheap, too. And I like Compass Box. And the label was beautiful. So I decided to trust them and buy a bottle. For at least the three first reasons, but the fourth was the cherry on top.

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Caperdonich distillery

Caperdonich 18 years old peated

Caperdonich is a lost distillery that was built across the road from Glen Grant. It was called Glen Grant 2 for a time, before being renamed, as two distilleries cannot have the same name. Caperdonich was in fact the first of the ‘extension’ distilleries, a new distillery built next to an existing one in order to answer the rising demand at that time. Though it’s a lost distillery, you can still find, at a decent price, releases from Caperdonich, and we’ll try today a Caperdonich 18 years old Peated.

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Three Glenburgie in their twenties

Sixty-eight years of Glenburgie

Glenburgie is one of those distilleries with a severe lack of love from their owner company for the brand as a single malt. Glenburgie is currently owned by Chivas Brothers (Pernod-Ricard) and has been for a long time one of the main components of the world’s second best-selling Blended Scotch whisky, Ballantine’s. They don’t have a dedicated website for the distillery, nor a visitor centre at the distillery. The only current official bottlings are branded with the blend name: two Glenburgie 15 and 18 years old from the Ballantine’s Signature Malt range, also having two of its other main components, also owned by Chivas: Miltonduff and Glentauchers. But they’re bottled at 40%. It seems cheap but very hard to find, the only shops I could find for this being in Greece and Germany. So, it means that Glenburgie fans must turn to independent bottlers, as luckily, they don’t seem to run out of good Glenburgie casks to bottle, allowing us to have a ‘burgie fix. And let’s have our fix today, with three independent bottling of Glenburgie, all in their twenties.

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Caol Ila 2010 Signatory Vintage in front of the distillery.

Caol Ila 2010 Signatory Vintage

Caol Ila, located on the world’s home of peated whisky, the Scottish island of Islay, is this island’s number one distillery in terms of capacity. Though its peated malt is one of the components of Johnnie Walker, the distillery features a full core range of single malts. But that wasn’t always the case, as until 2002, Caol Ila’s single malt would appear only in the Flora & Fauna and the Rare Malts range. But from 2002, the regular 12-and-18-year-old as well as a Cask Strength version (about 10yo) appeared, joined the next year by the 25-years-old. Since then, Moch – without an age statement – and the Distiller’s Edition, with a moscatel finish, joined the core range. But Caol Ila’s single malt is not just available on the distillery’s official bottlings, it’s also highly available to independent bottlers. Gordon & Macphail, Elixir Distillers, or like today, Signatory Vintage, have bottled dozens and dozens of casks from the distillery located in Port Askaig. And that’s what we’re going to try today, with a Caol Ila 2010 Signatory Vintage.

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Isle of Jura 1998 Hidden Spirits

Isle of Jura 1998 Hidden Spirits

Isle of Jura is a distillery that I don’t understand. Their official bottlings, at least the ones I’ve tried, are a mess, especially the Seven Wood. But thanks to The Whisky Cellar, I’ve been able to try a good indy one recently, and I tried another one, more than okay, bottled by SMWS at the absolutely marvellous Dornoch Castle Whisky bar in 2019, a 1983 called Islands Hopping. But apart from those two indies, nope, no good one. However, I often hear good things from friends about other indy Juras. So let’s keep an open mind and see if the Italian independent bottler that never disappointed me until now got it right with this Isle of Jura 1998 Hidden Spirits.

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