Gordon & MacPhail used to release semi-official bottlings of Balblair until +/- 2000. Around that time, Inver House took over the distillery and introduced an official 10yo, 16yo and a NAS version called ‘Elements’ (all replaced by a vintage concept in February 2007). Note that to date G&M is still bottling a 10 year-old from this distillery.
Especially G&M is famous for this practice of “licensed semi-officials”, where they take over some of the storage, bottling and distribution logistics for distilleries that didn’t have their own single malt brand (like Ardmore, Glen Grant, Longmorn or Strathisla). Remember the concept of single malt whisky is still relatively young and some distilleries never fully developed it. In this case it’s technically an independent bottling but the distillery name on the label is the largest by far, contrary to recent practice (and SWA guidelines) where the bottler’s brand needs to be bigger in case of independent releases.
Balblair 10 yo
(40%, Gordon & MacPhail, late 1980’s)
Nose: quite full for 40%, fruity and nicely sherried. Apples with cinnamon. Apricot jam. Golden raisins. Toffee and maple syrup. Caramel. Chocolate notes and spices. Hints of mint and waxed furniture. Much better than expected.
Mouth: smooth and a bit on the soft side. Toffee and milk chocolate. Cinnamon. Nice gingerbread. Hints of vanilla pudding. Slightly drier towards the end.
Finish: medium long, with oranges and a boost of oak spices.
Nice drinking whisky, definitely above average when you consider the age and low strength. It’s because of bottlings like this that people say (standard) whisky was better in the auld days. In any case, it does feel more mature than a modern Balblair 2001 for instance.