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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

January 8, 2014


Interesting Balblair, including a white 1960

I've heard raving comments and reviews of the new official Balblairs, while I'll always remember the amazing fruitiness that was to be found in the versions that were distilled in the 1960s. Will it be back one day? Having said that, that could well have come from perfect ageing, and not from the original distillate. Well, the only way to find out is to try this...

Balblair 1960/1960 (62%, OB, new make)
Balblair in the early 1960s

Balblair 1960/1960 (62%, OB, new make) Four stars and a halfThat's right, Balblair that was distilled in 1960 (my year, by the way) and that's been kept ever since at the distillery. Hey, it's even older than the famous sample of Malt Mill's new make! And it's a perfect way of checking whether ageing in glass works or not. Mind you, this is white whisky that was kept for more than 60 years in glass! Colour: plain white.

Nose: it's actually smoky, ashy and only a tad feinty, with little fruitiness thus far, we're rather having an unexpectedly phenolic and grassy style. It has got something to do with good mezcal, I also find notes of linoleum and damp chalk. With water: more mezcal, really. Superb mezcal, just a notch less briny. Great smoke. Mouth (neat): oh this is good. No wonder the distillery workers used to have their share of new make every day in the old days, that may have killed a few but it was worth it. Sort of. What's striking is that it's not newmaky as such, and not kirschy either. Good barley sweetness, soot, ashes and, indeed, touches of pineapples. With water: there, fruits! Amazing, salted peaches, pineapples, apples, passion fruits, blood oranges... So indeed, that was there in the first place, or it came from glass maturation. Finish: long, fruity and smoky, with an earthiness, good fruits, a great freshness, and no feinty/yeasty notes whatsoever. Comments: much, much less raw and brutal than I had thought. I'm dead sure bottle ageing helped. After all, this is the way may eau-de-vie makers mature their spirits and we've got quite a few very old 'fruit new makes' in Alsace that became a smooth as peach skin. SGP:653 - no score but we would be approaching the 90-mark.

And now the new 1989 but first, the older version since we've never tried it.

Balblair 1989/2010 (43%, OB)

Balblair 1989/2010 (43%, OB) Four stars Well spotted, this is the older version, still at 43% vol. Colour: pale gold. Nose: one word, elegance. There's a little of many aromas, such as apple skins, linseed oil, fresh walnuts, clay, iris, dandelion, watermelon, tangerines, then more herbal touches, verbena, lime-blossom, chamomile... It's certainly not big, and maybe it's even a notch weakish, but I don't know of many whiskies that are this subtle and elegant. Mouth: lovely indeed, and not weakish. Starts with some chocolate and oranges, an unexpected saltiness and maybe hints of peat, some apple juice, tiny hints of bananas and pineapples that do remind me of the 1960s indeed, then more light honey, acacia-style. Cinnamon as well. Too bad it tends to lose steam, that's the lowish strength. Finish: a little short, but I find a little sweet mustard in the aftertaste. A little salt as well. Comments: great arrivals on both the nose and the palate, but it tends to drop a bit. On the other hand, it's a very easy dram. SGP:541 - 85 points.

Balblair 1989/2013 (46%, OB)

Balblair 1989/2013 (46%, OB) Four stars Up 3% vol.! Colour: pale gold. Nose: another world. I don't know if the composition (kinds of casks and such) is similar to that of the older bottling but this is fruitier and, I have to say, rather less subtle. A little less subtle. There's more vanilla for sure, as well as more apples and peaches. More oranges as well, more spices... Could be a more active wood, or just the higher strength. Let's see what happens on the palate... Mouth: sure, this is simpler again, a little narrower than the older version, with more vanilla... But it's also more satisfying, more immediate, more 'modern'. Apple juice, green apples, white pepper, oranges, mead and cinnamon. Plus the trademark hints of bananas. Finish: pretty long, clean, maltier. Marmalade on toasted brioche. Comments: more American oak. That offers advantages and disadvantages, but the whisky's certainly fuller - and simpler at the same time. Hence the same score in my book. SGP:541 - 85 points.

(with thanks to Angus and gang)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Balblair I've tasted so far


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback







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