Taste Review # 15 – Balblair 05
And from one extreme to another – we move from the Lowlands to the Highlands as I try to move around the Scottish whisky regions to keep things fresh. I like to keep you guessing on which malt I’ll be going for, as you’ve a one in 5 chance of getting the right region! There’s where the ‘Which’ in the main title comes from!
The Balblair distillery is one of the furthest north on the Scottish mainland, with only Dornoch, Clynelish, Old Pulteney and Wolfburn being further north. It’s location in the region of Easter Ross is just outside the village of Edderton. It’s also amongst one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, having been established in 1790 on the site of Balblair Farm. This continued until 1895, when the distillery moved to be closer to the newly constructed Inverness – Thurso Railway line. However, they continued to use the Allt Dearg (Red Burn), shunning a closer water source.
What’s also good about this whisky is that it is naturally presented – no colouring and not chill filtered, so we’ll be getting all the lovely goodness from the cask.
This 2005 edition has an age of 12 years.
Plenty of oak and vanilla going on there. Without doing any research whatsoever, I can tell you this has definitely been in an American Oak Bourbon cask. I think I can detect the slightest hint of smoke. After leaving it to sit for 30 mins, I could smell chocolate malt, similar to the roasted malt used in stout. Lovely sweet notes. Vanilla and toffee balance out nicely with a splash of water.
Sharp initial arrival, but not overwhelming. Citrus, dusty leather and toffee sweetness. Vanilla is more defined with a bit of water added. Quite a light whisky, with a medium body.
Spicy, almost gingery long finish with more sweetness in the departure.
Yet another malt I have to give the thumbs up to. Not one I have tasted before, and I would consider this as a candidate for a full size purchase – if one is available, as I have only just discovered that Balblair have discontinued their vintage bottlings in favour of age statements. It was a bit light for me, I prefer meatier whiskies but still intriguing enough to drink more.
I really think that being naturally presented has helped this whisky, although I don’t think it would be helpful having this any stronger in alcohol level – 46% is just right. Adding water to my glass certainly opened it up.
My sample was a miniature purchased from the Whisky Shop in Dufftown for £7.75. A 70CL bottle can be purchased for around £55. Bit expensive for a 12 year old whisky, but worth it. I’d recommend if you see it, buy it, as being recently discontinued means prices will rise.
Trivia about Balblair
Balblair was used as a location in the 2012 Ken Loach film ‘The Angel’s Share’, along with Deanston and Glengoyne. It’s a gritty comedy, and your understanding of the Scottish accent needs to be good. I’ve got a Glengoyne sample to review, so that will complete a reviewing hat-trick of the three distilleries in the movie.
Balblair is owned by Inver House Distillers, whose parent company is InBev. They also own Speyburn, Balmenach, Old Pulteney and Knockdhu distillery. Only Balmenach is not currently released as an original bottling.
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