Last night I had a chance to try three cask samples from Balblair distillery in an online Twitter tasting. Three single casks filled at the start of the Millennium.
One of them was a classic ex-bourbon barrel (#1350), a second one #0191 was a bourbon cask as well, but one that had been used to mature peated whisky before. The last one was a first-fill sherry butt #1345, a sister cask of #1343 that was bottled exclusively for The Whisky Exchange about a month ago. Balblair doesn’t fill much sherry casks – the official Balblair 2000 vintage was entirely matured in first fill American oak for example.
As it turns out, they were simply cask samples and “you may see one of them bottled in a not so distant future”. Given the fact that TWE’s cask sold out so fast, releasing #1345 would make a lot of sense, but personally I think both number 1 and 3 deserve to be bottled.
Balblair 2000 (53%, OB 2014, second fill barrel #1350)
Nose: really fresh – this kind of estery bourbon maturation is what Balblair does best. Some banana and pear, after a while also pineapple and tangerine. Floral notes and lots of peaches. Quite some lactic notes, like creamy coconut and horchata milk. Subtle hints of vanilla and mint. Mouth: really punchy, almost fizzy, with lots of vanilla and coconut and a firm spicy, oaky side. Reminds me of grain whisky in a way. Apples. Lemon sherbet and marzipan on a second level. Pepper and ginger. Better with water in a way, although it also makes it slightly fragrant (say orange oil). Finish: long, oaky, with aniseed and ginger.
Great nose on this one, an überclassic example of Balblair’s profile. The palate brought the final score down quite a bit. It needs water to take away the graininess and make the nicer notes stand out more.
Balblair 2000 (52,4%, OB 2014, second fill peated cask #0191)
Nose: the total opposite. Much drier, less freshness and less fruity pleasure. Not much peat as such, but some earthy notes, a bit dirty. Wet leaves. Buttery popcorn and pencil shavings. Dusty apples. Mouth: oily texture, much more peaty hints now, alongside liquorice, pepper and ginger. Hints of buttered toast. verall rather earthy. Finish: medium long, dry, slightly ashy with a slight grapefruit note and cinnamon powder.
Well, this is not for me. Using a peated cask is an experiment that Balblair did before with much better results (Balblair 1990 cask #1463).
Balblair 2000 (53,1%, OB 2014, first-fill European oak Oloroso butt #1345)
Nose: like a double-fortified Oloroso sherry actually. Very nice dry Oloroso profile, figs and dates. Juicy sherry, with blackberry jam and stewed prunes. Nice gingerbread. Black cherries. Cinnamon syrup – a lot. Dark chocolate. A great nose, not dry in any way, with nice touches of waxed furniture. Mouth: sherry galore again, with a good balance between fruity notes and spices. Mexican chocolate. Rancio. Leathery notes, cinnamon powder, hints of walnut cake. And bags of brambles. Finish: long, with the bramble keeping strong, some clove and surprisingly little plain oak.
This is a style rarely seen from Balblair, but the fruity spirit works very well with a quality sherry cask and still manages to have its say.