Sunday, October 10, 2010

Whisky review: Balblair 1997

Balblair is one of few distilleries that bottles vintage whiskies, i.e. whiskies that don't have an explicit age statement but instead are delineated by the year in which they were produced. This means that, once a specific vintage is gone, there will never be any more of it. Ever. So, if you really like the Balblair 1997, for example, you might want to stock up. Or just wait for the next vintage and hope it's good too.

This also means there is no real "core" for the whisky's marketing - most whisky producers have a ten- or twelve-year-old expression that is their primary product. People grow to know the whisky and the distillery does its best to keep that product the same from year to year. They market it to new drinkers to try to get them interested in the distillery and its other products. But this can't happen with Balblair, because their product will forever be changing. To me, while this might seem like a good idea for intriguing the discerning whisky drinker, the average drinker will probably be confused when they enjoy a Balblair 1997 one night and then, a few months later, find out that the whisky is no longer sold.

In the case of the Balblair 1997, the distillery manager, John MacDonald, actually selected only some (I believe about 75%) of the casks in the warehouse that contained whisky from 1997; the rest were laid back to rest, to potentially be bottled at a later date. This means the whisky in the Balblair 1997 should be hand-selected for its superb qualities, and its price tag - around $55/bottle (and it's only 12 years old) - means it had better be.

Balblair 1997, 43% ABV
Single malt Highland Scotch whisky

Appearance: Light honey.

Nose: Apricots, light syrup (like the kind used in canned fruits), light wood, vanilla.

Palate: Toasty wood, peaches and green apples, almonds, raisins. Great mouthfeel, and the flavors just keep coming. Maraschino cherries?

Finish: More lively fruit. Like a whole basket of it.

Rating (of 100): 90. Fruit explosion! Got my daily serving. Some other stuff in there rounds it out very nicely. Worth the $55.

[Note after tasting: the display box mentions that there is a flavor of pineapple in this whisky. I definitely notice this now...along with the rest of the orchard.]

No comments:

Post a Comment