A trio of Vintage Balblairs!

The sometimes overlooked Balblair can be excellent, so let’s try three official bottlings.

balblair02Balblair 2002 First Release (46%, OB, c.2013)
Colour: white wine Nose: spirity at first, giving way to apple, cream, vanilla and fresh grass Mouth: citrus arrival, turning to butter cream, oily in the mouth Finish: surprisingly long, dark chocolate and a touch of licorice, very enjoyable! Comments: Great quality whisky. Not massively complex but well made, very clean, clear and refreshing. 88 points

balblair1997Balblair 1997 Second Release (46%, OB, c.2013)
Colour: pale straw Nose: really nice, complex, salted butter, apple, custard, red berries Mouth: sweet arrival again, but then something earthy and almost savory in the development, followed by cream  Finish: black pepper and oak  Comments: So interesting to see the extra cask engagement, though I’m not sure the oak influence is adding to this one. I prefer the younger version. 86 points

balblair 1989Balblair 1989 Third Release (46%, OB, c.2013)
Colour: pale gold Nose: the spice and oak is starting to get going now, cinnamon, clove, and some grapefruit rind Mouth: surprisingly simple, white pepper, orange, apple Finish: marmalade and some bitter oak Comments: feels simpler than the younger expressions 85 points

 

Proof that sometimes a younger, simpler expression can be the most pleasing. Always an education to do a vertical like this, especially with the help of the stated vintages – a touch which I really like!

EU Referendram

On the day of the UK’s EU referendum I took a tour of some European malt whiskies including a new Ardbeg.

moissonsDomaine des Hautes Glaces ‘Les Moissons’ (42%, OB, c.2016)
This is an organic single malt made in the alpine region of France and is matured in a combination of virgin oak, Cognac, and white wine casks. Colour: white wine Nose: it’s all cask to start with white wine vapors, then getting sweeter notes of almond and cherry. Very reminiscent of an aged grappa, but not a high quality one Mouth: more almond, pastry (almond croissant?), with growing lemon citrus Finish: Short, apricot and dark chocolate Comments: I really wanted this to be good, but it just didn’t live up to expectations. I enjoyed the grappa notes but it wasn’t as good as a decent grappa, certainly not a decent whisky. 75 points

mackmyraMackmyra Iskristall (46.1%, OB, c.2016)
This one features Mackmyra’s signature spirit with an added finish in Pedro Ximénez casks. Colour: deep copper Nose: noticeably young, chocolate raisins. The sherry is prominent and they seem to be using good casks. Mouth: sweet arrival with toffee and almond with a spicy finish. With water it becomes spicier and more bitter on the finish. Comments: I find this to be an average spirit in a pretty good sherry jacket. I’d be very interested to see Mackmyra after longer maturation.  82 points

slyrsSlyrs Bavarian Single Malt Whisky (43 %, OB, c. 2016)
This German single malt isn’t easy to get hold of in the UK but it’s been winning wards and we’ve got some to try now. Colour: deep gold Nose: ok, I’m seriously getting sauerkraut. Really, its quite pronounced. Also some vegetable stock and sherry. Weird. To begin with the sweet and savory of this nose doesn’t work at all but over time it’s appeal does start to grow. Mouth: completely different to the nose with lots of dry citrus, melon and lime juice. I really like this! Comments: It’s like a sauerkraut margarita. The nose will put you off but the taste will make you want to keep drinking it. Confusing! I wonder what would happen if you decanted it a few times? 84 points

hammerheadHammerhead 23YO 1989 (40.7%, OB, c. 2016)
This Czech single malt, we are told, was distilled jut before the iron curtain fell and has been matured in Czech oak casks. Colour: burnished Nose: melon, dry sherry, some leather notes developing Mouth: stewed apple, creme brulee, licorice Finish: drying Comments: this one needs time. it is a pleasing, rather complex malt which deserves your attention. Also very good value for money. 86 points

millstoneZuidam Millstone 100 Rye Whisky (50%, OB, c.2016)
I’ve heard good things about this Dutch rye. It’s 100 proof, 100% pot still and was matured for 100 months (8 years, 4 months). Colour: mahogany Nose: wood spice, clove, cinnamon Mouth: big, oak, plum, tannin. With water it gets sweet and fruitier.Conclusion: a simple but very enjoyable rye. This is good quality stuff. 85 points

dark cove

Ardbeg Dark Cove (46.5%, OB, c.2016)
To finish off we have the new limited edition release from Ardbeg, matured in ex-bourbon and ‘dark’ sherry casks. Colour: deep copper Nose: sweet, raisin, bbq, savoury Mouth: wow, there are very dstinct waves of sweet caramel, bbq meats, coffee, tobacco, ginger fruit cake Finish: excellent, long licorice, menthol Comments: It’s a lot like Uigeadail but with extra char and a but less sherry. Wowsers.  91 points

Quite an odd combination of malts in hindsight and despite ending with an outstanding Ardbeg I keep thinking about that Slyrs with its very odd nose!

 

An Arran Mini Vertical

The reputation of Isle of Arran Distillery is growing all the time. Not only is the quality consistently good but the value for money is excellent. Lets try a few teenagers.

arran cs3Arran 12 yo Cask Strength Batch 3 (53.9%, OB)
Colour: Amber. Nose: Pineapple, lemons, lots of fresh fruit. With water it really gets going with more of the above plus grpefruit rind. Mouth: Sweet fruit arrival turning sherbet sour. Mouth coating and very complex for a 12 year old whisky. Finish: chocolate and with water some lemon oil. Comments: a hugely enjoyable cask strength fruit bomb. A really good one to water down over time and observe the changes. 88 points.

arran14Arran 14 y0, (46%, OB, c. 2015)
Colour: Deep gold. It looks like this has more sherry contents than the 12 cs, but we will see. Nose: Yes, much more sherry in here than the 12. Toffee,sweet pastry. With water it starts to get leathery. Mouth: Big bold arrival, apricot, caramel, and chocolate brioche. Finish: Malty, turning bitter. Comments: This a really well matured spirit. Its a decadent malt at a very reasonable price. 89 points.

arran17Arran 17 y0, (46%, OB, c. 2014)
Colour: Deep copper. This one was a limited edition released in 2014. It was matured exclusively in sherry hogsheads so lets see whats in this! Nose: Very rich and complex, sherry and spice. With water its sweeter with butter andn nutmeg. Mouth: Sweet arrival, more spice, chocolate, oranges. Finish: The sherry takes over with spice plus a small amount of smoke. 89 points

Two Independent Mortlachs

mortlach 7165Mortlach 17 yo 1997/2014 (46%, Signatory, casks 7165+7166)
Colour: straw. Nose: a contradiction. sweet and savoury, minerals and fresh fruit, ginger biscuits. Mouth: Oily, greasy sherbert, lime, grapefruit, lemon Finish: medium, lemon .Comments: Challenging but enjoyably so. 87 points

 

mortlach 6079Mortlach 24 yo 1990/2015 (56.5%, Signatory, cask #6079)
Colour: straw. Nose: toast, complex green fruits, smoke .Mouth: Huge. another oily greaser. Salty, savoury, becoming sweeter with water Finish: smoky and bitter.Comments: another demanding malt, but it’s really something. I’m glad I tasted them this way round. The 97 was a good preparation for this massive 1990. 89 points

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